Op/Ed By Michael Vaughn
In the past few weeks, there has been a flurry of activity around Henrietta supervisor Jack Moore. He made some comments that were, indeed, inappropriate, and especially in bad taste, for someone on his position.
However, this incident has me thinking about why we, especially African-Americans, always look for Caucasian Americans to apologize for their unwise, and, in many cases, racist remarks?
I think the reason I began to ponder this is because of what I believe. In Mt. 12.34, the bible says “…out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.”(KJV). This tells the entire story for me, which is that, when people have uttered a word or phrase, they have done so because of what is in their hearts. Why is this important? Because if it is in their hearts, a forced apology will not change what is in their hearts!
In my experience, there have been two reasons why someone has said what they’ve said: they’ve either completely believed it, or they haven’t realized what they’ve said is wrong. And, because of this, I think all that is needed when someone has said something wrong is that they should be made aware what they’ve said is offensive. Then, following this revelation, we would be able to determine whether someone has said something out of ignorance, or whether they’ve just “slipped up.” And, if they’ve said it out of ignorance, there should be no need for a forced apology; it should happen automatically. If it has just been a “slip up,” they will only “apologize” if they have been forced.
And, if they have been forced, why even utter the words? Those words, at this point, would not be genuine, they would be self-serving, and surely would not have changed the person’s heart.
They would likely utter these same prejudiced phrases or words, and maybe in an even more vile manner, at a later date. They would just ensure the next time, there would be no cameras or microphones around.
As African-Americans, and victors, we need to stop demanding apologies from people. We need to know who we are, and understand the power that we have. One, we need to understand that, when an elected official says something which lets us know they do not like African-Americans; we need to let them know we do not like them the next time they are up for re-election.
Until we make people feel the power of the vote, we will continue to be taken for granted every election cycle, by every politician. And, if the person making the offensive remarks has a business, we should use our economic power to purchase somewhere else.
Second, we should know that we are more than the words someone has levied against us. We are a strong people, with a rich heritage, who need not bow to the ignorance of the statements which have been made against us.
It is much better to know what someone thinks of you, than to have someone smile in your face, and tear you down behind your back. At least, then, if someone said they did not like you, you would know exactly how to deal with them.
People have made prejudiced remarks against African-Americans for many reasons, some of which have been based in ignorance, and some of which have been racist. Our “job” is to help educate folks as to who we are as a people, and to keep moving forward with the purpose God has given us, while not groveling for an apology from someone who has not meant the apology they have been forced to give. We are wiser than that, and should hold ourselves in much higher esteem.
In the future, more ignorant statements will likely come forward; however, let’s not beg for an apology. Let’s make sure we remind those who have made such statements that it has been offensive, and in poor taste; then, let’s let them make the next move. A heartfelt apology should be accepted, but a forced one never should be!
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