This whole Imus controversy has got me thinking about apologies. Of course Imus’ remark was sexist, racist, and offensive. I still can’t help but feel sorry for the man. He’s turned into a slur scapegoat and I have a suspicion that the people clamoring loudest for retribution are the ones telling Pollock jokes around the water cooler. I feel sorry for Imus because while he gets dragged through the media mud, the driver on Flatbush who slowed down alongside my bike and yelled “Suck it! Suck it!” did so untelevised and without repercussions. Unless a suitable repercussion was my yelling back “It’s too small to suck, asshole!”
Let’s move on from Imus and focus on the people who don’t apologize, the people who intentionally hate, like the members of the white supremacist girl band Prussian Blue.
I believe in honoring apology. Avenue Q said it best:
When is an apology not enough? Back in February, inexperienced blogger that I am, I wrote a Valentine’s rant in which I used my ex-boyfriend Bo’s full name. Keep in mind that Bo was very important to me, that even though I spent a good month self-medicating with NyQuil after our break-up, I am no longer angry. I just wasn’t thinking. I caught “You Oughta Know” fever. I was being funny at the expense of tact. Bo and I hadn’t spoken in five years, so imagine his surprise when he googled his name and found my blog, and imagine my surprise when he wrote me about it. I apologized. I have since removed the hostile content, but removing it doesn’t change the fact that I let one tasteless paragraph forever color our time together.
I’ll ask it again: When is an apology not enough?
Saturday in Orlando, a gunman robbing a convenience store stopped and apologized mid-heist to the clerk behind the counter. She claimed she was having a heart attack. The gunman pulled up a stool for her. (This is better treatment than I get on most dates.) He allowed her to call 911 on her cellphone. Before you go thinking this guy is all puppies and rainbows, he did force a customer into the cooler. The Associated Press transcript of his conversation with the clerk reads like some of the worst flash fiction handed in to me when I taught Intro to Creative Writing:
I have heart trouble. Help me,” Parker said.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the gunman replied.
“I have heart trouble,” Parker told him.
“Ma’am, it’s going to be all right,” the gunman said.
“I’m probably going to have a heart attack,” Parker said.
“Oh my, ma’am, please do not have a heart attack. Please do not have a heart attack. Please don’t, ma’am,” he said.
He then grabbed his loot and apologized again.
“You have a good day. I’m sorry this had to happen. I’m sorry. God!” he moaned. He then went out the door.
This man bought a gun and planned a route. Imus mispoke in an instant. Both men apologized. Who do you forgive?
Take out a piece of paper. Think of one racist thing you’ve said in your life—because you have. Write it down. Tear it up. Forgive yourself.