Dear White Racists, Apology Not Accepted!
Frat boy Levi Pettit isn't sorry. Neither is the Bloomsburg U's baseball player who called 13-year-old Little League phenom Mo'Ne Davis a "slut." So why are we expected to forgive them?
By Stacey Patton
And by fast-forwarding the whole situation back to the comfort zone of the status quo, where racism is the unacknowledged norm, we deny everyone the opportunity to evolve and do better. Nobody acknowledges the real, ongoing damage. And we keep going back to square one where everyone is playing a role designed to prevent progress because it’s too uncomfortable and frightening to even consider disrupting the pattern, no matter how harmful and backwards it proves to be.
There is an almost religious, or Evangelical rush to “forgive,” to absolve the perp ASAP. But this forgiving doesn’t free anybody—not the perp, not the victim, not those who observe the dynamics at play. It just feeds the status quo, and bolsters the public agreement to ignore the truths, trivialize the trauma and minimize the realities of racism, thus ensuring more of the same.
Sometimes I think that Black people should be more like Jewish people, who don’t even pretend to turn the other cheek, and who, when attacked publicly, never talk about forgiveness or absolution of anti-Semites. They have schooled us all to be crystal clear: When they say “never again,” they mean it, without exception, and they would never consider shouldering either the blame or the responsibility for the anti-Semitism aimed their way. That’s something I can understand and respect. But of course if Black people embraced that kind of love and self-preservation, even as we stand at risk for extermination, we’d be called reverse racists.
Instead, Black people too often fall into the role of soothing hurts, smoothing jagged edges, healing everyone’s pain but our own. When we embrace the type of response from Mo’Ne Davis, we are praised for “taking the high road,” “being the bigger person,” showing class, and grace, and moral superiority.
But we are never supported, defended, protected or perceived to have a personhood worthy of upholding.
And the racists who attack us—why do they always claim they had no idea that their language of choice and symbols (watermelons, monkeys, nooses, or calling Black children “cunts” and “sluts”) could possibly be construed as problematic?
When they’re caught, they play dumb, they deny any possibility of ill intent or awareness. And their apologies routinely contain the ultimate caveat: “I’m sorry if you found it offensive.”