White people need to apologize to the people they’ve actually harmed instead.
By now, you’ve all heard about the disgraceful 2021 insurrection that happened in the nation’s capital on January 6th. Aggrieved White racists stirred up by the worst damned President in history stormed the Capital Building as Congress was attempting to certify the national election, making Joe Biden the President-Elect of the United States and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris. Trump’s stoking White Supremacists led to violence most White people haven’t seen in their lifetimes, especially not from White people. White Supremacists have brought shame unto the United States, one of the biggest advocates of democracy in the world.
With our national shame comes self-reflection. How did we get here to being a third-world, shithole nation? With self reflection for some comes the need to apologize.
For lots of White people, this week’s insurrection made them feel the need to apologize for the nation’s sins. They finally get it, and they feel bad for not getting it much sooner. It took people dying, the secure national Capital building being breached, and politicians were threatened. The guilt for their years of apathy has been too much for them to bear. While apologizing is a great start for the recently awakened, it’s important the apology is appropriate, meaning the apologies need to fit the crime.
Apologies without a purpose are worthless. Worthless apologies can be seen as a way for White people to absolve themselves from the real offenses they committed against Black people they have come across throughout their lifetimes.
Apologizing to Random Black people Is Bad
White people apologizing to random Black people because they feel guilty and looking for a way to absolve their racism or lack of antiracism is problematic. Random apologies are problematic because they’re dropping the guilt of the offender on a random stranger’s lap who knows nothing about the person apology.
Black people on the receiving end of such apologies don’t know if you’re a good or bad person, or whether your past racist actions were intentional or accidental. Black people gifted with apologies from random White people also have no idea if the apology is sincere. When my neighbor apologized the other day, I didn’t know what to do or say. It felt extremely awkward.
I didn’t know why I was accepting his apology.
I had no clue about the Black and Brown people my neighbor may have harmed throughout his life. Where was his head 20-years ago?
I may be forgiving him for something that’s so egregious he should’ve been locked up for it.
Apologizing to me, a random stranger, felt wrong.
Apologizing to random Black people is an easy out for White people. They don’t have to do the heavy lifting of retracing their racist footprints to understand their role in getting us to this terrifying moment. I’d ask White people not to make your problems our problems and don’t use us as your baptismal pools to sanctify your souls. Own your racism, sit in your shame, and apologize to the people you’ve actually harmed. It’s sad the country is being torn apart, but White people must ask how they contributed to the events leading up to an insurrection.
Throwing out blanket apologies is a cop out.
Where Do You Start?
If you’re White, the very first thing you need to stop saying is this isn’t who we are. This is exactly who you are. America has always been violent. It’s racist. It’s complacent, and White people are guilty of doing nothing, including you. Stop repeating the stupid shit from the news and crack open some history books. If you start from the Trail of Tears and work your way up to January 2021, you’ll see White America is the same America it’s always been.
If you’re shocked, be ashamed of yourselves, because your minority friends, neighbors, coworkers, in-laws, and grocery store workers knew how America was already. You should have known too. So, suck it up buttercups. You knew too, you just didn’t care because it didn’t impact you. You must deal with your complicity in the crimes of White Supremacy.
Find the scenes of the crimes. If you’re White, you’ve harmed someone unless your entire life has been spent around just White people. Just face it. Apologizing is a good first step, but you need to apologize to the people you actually hurt. Go find the places you’ve been, the people you ignored, the Black people you may have cheated, the Black people you know you were afraid of, and the Black people you thought weren’t good enough to be in your orbit. You need to do the work to find out which Black folks you harmed if you feel the urge to apologize.
Help the right people. Don’t ask Black people what you can do to help Black people because you’re feeling guilty right now. Ask yourself what you didn’t do for or on behalf of Black people, then do those things? Help people locally, and if you’ve moved, go back and fix where you may have destroyed.
There are questions you need to answer. There are lots of questions you need to be asking yourself to ensure you direct your apologies to the right people. Start with these:
- What Black people did you steal (i.e. power, money) from? Go find them.
- Which Black people did you cut the line in front of to get ahead? Go apologize because they remember. Trust me, they do.
- Have you demotivated or mistreated any Black children? Accuse them of being criminals/bad? Find those kids or their parents to apologize.
- What scheme or products did you sell, endorse, create to steal wealth from poor and desperate Black people? Find those people and tell them. Apologize publicly.
- What Black children did you exclude from your kids’ play dates? Find their parents.
- What Black person(s) did you secretly call the N-word when you were angry? Find them.
- Did you fail or Black kids or keep them back while help White kids? Who were they? Go to them.
- Did you allow your employer to pay you more and the Black coworker less? Were you the boss and knowingly pay Whites more than Blacks? Go find those people who were cheated?
- Who are the Black people you didn’t tell about the White secrets used for upward mobility? You know the stuff you share with only White people in White spaces? Go to those folks.
- What Black people did you disrespect, disregard, abandon, or undermine? Find them, apologize.
- What Black people did you harm in your sphere personally? Go to those people.
- Did you exclude your Black coworkers from office gossip, lunches, White coworker chats? Did you knit-pick their work, throw them under the bus, steal/take credit for their work? Find them.
- What Black person did you tell you didn’t see their color? Find that person.
- Did you tell a Black person you didn’t want to talk about race because it made you uncomfortable? Find them.
Start asking yourself the hard questions if you feel the need to apologize. Apologizing to me or someone who won’t benefit from your apology is a waste of time. You’re looking for a quick way to unload your momentary guilt. That’s not right.
The True Purpose Of An Apology
Apologies are regretful acknowledgments for offenses or failures. White people apologizing to random Black people they don’t know is literally a wasted apology. If you, guilt-ridden White person, didn’t offend the Black people you feel compelled to apologize to, you shouldn’t be apologizing to them. An apology to random Black folks is a lazy way to repent for your sins. It’s a simple way to ease your guilt and to make yourself comfortable again, and we all know how White people like quick comfort.
I dislike accepting random apologies from White people, because I believe they should be given only when an offender means them, and only when you know you’ve offended, this includes anytime someone informs you of an offense you may not be aware of.
Apologies only mean something when they are given to someone who will benefit from it. While I appreciate the gesture, I get nothing from random apologies. I appreciate when White readers acknowledge their apathy or indifference when reading Black antiracism works, but when violent events like the violent storming of the nation’s Capital Building this past week by White Supremacists happen, apologizing to us isn’t helpful at all. Apologizing doesn’t erase the moment. It’s not a magic pill. It doesn’t erase the past.
The events of this week’s insurrection are traumatic for us, but the events are nothing new. America has been a violent nation for a long time. If you’re White and you haven’t noticed before 2016, it’s because you didn’t care, you don’t read, and you haven’t been paying attention. You should apologize to the nation for being asleep at the wheel. Apologizing to random folks won’t help now, but changing will.
I don’t want worthless apologies from White people. I want to read about White people going back to the people they’ve harmed to make things right, and you dealt with the results of your actions. Be advised, there are some people who won’t want your apology. The harm you’ve done may be irreparable, or they simply may not want your apology. The choice of accepting that apology is the choice of the offended, not you.
When a White person apologizes to random Black people, they remove the opportunity for the offended to have their justice. Justice leads to healing, and there are a lot of hurt Black people who never receive justice in America.
Use your apologies to do good. Apologize to Black people you’ve harmed, knowingly or otherwise. Your victims will appreciate it, even if they don’t remember the offense.
Be a better White person. It’s okay to be sorry. It’s not okay to apologize to random Black people to make you feel better. That’s not how this is supposed to work.
Marley K. 2021 in Quarantine
Follow me: https://marleyk.medium.com/
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