Thursday, January 21, 2010

174. There was a race-and-media controversy in Duluth, discussed here:

http://www.perfectduluthday.com/2010/01/18/northlands-news-center-the-mlk-version/
and
http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2010/01/jitterbug_the_t.php#comments
and
http://www.secretsofthecity.com/mnspeak/reporter-apologizes-for-racist-headline-on-mlk-day#comment-244719

I'm interested in non-apology apologies (e.g. "I'm sorry you feel that way"), and this one has some of those features.

My thoughts:

Comments on the Perfect Duluth Day site are closed on this topic. Julie Pearce is (I'm told) a good egg, and no negative consequences should come to her for this error. Things happen. As newsrooms shrink, more things will happen.

But -- there is something instructive to come from this apology. Note that it has two parts:

1. The sincere, genuine apology that helps mitigate the initial offense and warms us to Julie as a person.

2. The awkward attempt to make her rookie insensitivity a learning opportunity for others. The turning point is "However," a bad move because it appears to undercut whatever comes before it in any paragraph.

"I love you, however..."
"Normally, I vote Democrat. However..."

The turn is awkward because the apology starts to become about "we" instead of about "Julie."

However, let's all take this as a perfect lesson that as far as we have all succeeded in becoming more accepting of diversity, changing stereotypes, and shifting our thinking... we still have a long way to go... We're all so used to reading it, seeing it, and hearing it, that if we're not careful we become breeders of it without even realizing it... It can serve for all of us as a poignant example of... the room for improvement in all of our lives, and the ability to see when and where we all fall short.

I'm not sure who the "We" is here. Only one of "us" made the mistake. From the available evidence, one of us may or may not have "a long way to go" -- who are the rest of the "we"?

Now, I live in Duluth. I know we have a history of racial intolerance and a culture of intolerance, even, among us today. I'm not saying that what she says isn't true. My wife skims the "Rants and Raves" of Craiglist once in a while, a reminder of the culture of intolerance.

But the apology would have been more effective if it were only an apology, and not an apology that promises to teach all of us something about ourselves

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