Apologies are simple. We acknowledge we have done something wrong. We acknowledge we have harmed someone. We promise not to do it again.
We’ve made apologies complicated. We suggest we may have done something wrong but that the person we may have harmed may carry a burden of emotional trauma (“I’m sorry you’re hurt”). We offer that we may have done something wrong but we have an acceptable, to us, reason for doing it (“I didn’t know any better”). We wonder if we really have harmed anyone (“If I did something that hurt you, then I’m sorry”). We hope that we won’t do it again.
Jesus told a story of a man who apologised for messing up his boss’s accounts and borrowing more than he could repay. He begged forgiveness. He received it and promptly went to one of his debtors and had him thrown in prison even though the man, who owed him much less, begged for forgiveness. When the first apology proved to ring untrue the boss had the one who initially received mercy thrown in prison. The story ends with both men in prison.
We listened to a big apology this past week.
It was offered by a teacher who acknowledged that he had acted out of his unconscious racism. He apologised to a larger constituency who have the power to decide whether or not he keeps his job.
It could have been a better apology.
Racialised persons face something called shadeism every day. It’s the unconscious communication that attributes positive character traits to persons with lighter skin. Children, in a Toronto District School Board study, proved to be particularly susceptible to this communication, discovering that teachers treated them differently depending on their proximate whiteness.
Imagine a teacher who can change his skin colour then go back to being a more positive shade.
A better apology might be for the teacher to arrange to return to the school where he taught and meet with the staff and students and alumni of that school and apologise to the persons of colour who were his students and peers. And promise not to perpetuate the myth that the whiter you are the better you are.
Comments? Questions? email Cameron, email@example.com