Let’s say, hypothetically, that you and I are sitting at adjacent tables in a nice restaurant in Philly or Charlotte or Dallas any city of your choosing. In the scenario, I have on a cute dress and, most importantly, killer stilettos (because I always strive to be reasonably stylish, even in my imaginary set-ups). Even though there are plenty of people around us in various stages of their dining experience, it’s not especially crowded or busy, and there’s plenty of room to move freely. As I get up from my table to head to the ladies’ room, I breeze easily past you, smile hello, and then, for no clear or easily explicable reason, hoist my foot into the air and very quickly, very intentionally drill it down onto the top of your foot. In my killer stilettos.
As you writhe around in pain and more than likely call me everything but a sweet princess or a child of God, I cover my mouth, aghast at my own actions and eek out, “I am soooo sorry. No seriously. I didn’t mean to do that.” You would think the men in little white coats would need to come outfit me and my crazy tail with a straight jacket, no? Well, you would probably be right. I mean, who does something that requires a malicious state of mind to do, then feigns a sincere apology immediately thereafter to smooth it over? It stands to reason that if you’re angry enough to assault someone, you’re probably not going to be regretful enough to say you’re sorry within nanoseconds. At least when you’re sane.
If that’s so crazy, then why oh why are we always demanding apologies from people who are handing out these egregious cultural faux pas? You can’t be conscious enough to do something that flies in the face of political correctness—say, for example, dress up in black face and imitate a man of a completely different ethnicity or race (cough, cough Ashton Kutcher and Billy Crystal, so on and so on)—and then backpeddle the week, day or hour after you do it like you didn’t know the mess was wrong in the first place.
Journalists have time to read their work, comedians have time to develop their jokes, actors have time to study their lines, and in the midst of all of that preparation, that little ding ding that indicates when something crosses the line between being edgy or offensive, racy or downright racist, should go off. And I believe it does. But folk just don’t care—until the backlash, of course, when their publicist is scrambling around all frazzled or their representative is issuing a statement and the guilty person at the heart of all the brouhaha is center stage at some press conference issuing a tearful or impassioned retraction of their comments. Yawn. I wonder where all of that conscientiousness was when they were planning whatever it was that caused the fury in the first place.
Take Satoshi Kanazawa, for example, the Japanese psychologist who shocked and appalled with his convoluted, and according to him, objective theory that Black women are less attractive than women in any other racial group. The firestorm brewed hot and heavy under him thereafter, and under the gun to recant his stupidity—at least for making that crap public—he did what any self-respecting corporation/person/celebrity/politician/expert dancing in the limelight of wrongdoing does. He apologized. So did Ashton Kutcher for mimicking an Indian man in his recent Pop Chips ad. So did Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner when he criticized Michelle Obama’s “big posterior.” So did Anthony Federico, the mastermind behind the now-infamous ESPN headline “Chink in the Armor,” who insisted he meant no slight to his story’s subject, Jeremy Lin, but still lost his job in the fallout.
It seems like these types of incidents are picking up in both velocity and viciousness. Off-the-record comments, on-the-record comments, red velvet cakes fashioned in the likeness of African women, whatever. Cultural insensitivity isn’t getting better. It’s spiraling out of control. It smacks of a total disregard for decorum and basic respect, even as we’re supposed to be building this multi-culti, “We Are the World” super society. Just a couple weeks ago, everyone was all up in a massive tizzy about Phil Mushnick’s comments about Jay-Z and how the Brooklyn Nets should be called the Brooklyn Niggers, and they’re spitting verbal venom at the man for refusing to back down from his remarks. Some were calling for Mushnick to issue the ever-so-soothing public statement of regret.
But gasp! He didn't and he won’t. He’s stood by what he said, even deflected blame to the Black men who toss around the N-word with abandon. (How dare he blame the victim? But he is kind of right.) But outraged readers of all races rallied en masse to squeeze a lame “I’m sorry” from this man when, in actuality, that would've been like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Pardon the pun. I’m much more appreciative of people who don’t apologize when we all know they’re not really sorry in the first place. Fake “I’m sorry’s” don’t heal, at least not in most of these public situations, so we might as well stop asking for them. They aren't helping a thing. And they certainly aren’t preventing future mishaps from unfolding. One’s in the works right now, I can guarantee it.
We, as a society and as a people, are too quick to demand apologies and not seeing the bigger picture for what it is—a continued acceptability that allows people to say these things in the first place, even in our own community. Our politically incorrect slip is showing, but I’d rather see it and know what I’m dealing with than have someone tuck it up under a fancy dress until, of course, it comes falling down at a party where a chicken and watermelon joke is just too obviously good to pass up.