25/ 02/ 2015
Update: As I was about to post this, Giuliana Rancic released this video apology, which I think says the right things. Whether or not she means it, someone at E! got the message, which is a step in the right direction. This is why we need more diversity in media–so lessons like this can be learned from and we can move forward. I’m still posting this up, however, because she was far from alone in her mistakes and I hope others can learn from them, too.
So everyone’s talking about Giuliana Rancic’s offensive comments about Zendaya’s dreadlocks on the red carpet.
For the record, I thought Zendaya looked beautiful. And she already gave a perfectly classy and eloquent response to the ignorance of Rancic’s comments, so kudos to her for that.
What I want to talk about today is what happened afterward, a.k.a. Rancic’s “apology.” Because anyone who is part of a minority group that has ever in history suffered the brunt of insensitive commentary or jokes knows all about these so-called apologies, which aren’t apologies at all.
Translation? I have no choice at this point but to publicly apologize to you. But actually it’s you who took what I said the wrong way. Your feelings were hurt because you are too sensitive, and you misunderstood what I said. Now LET ME CAPITALIZE SOME WORDS JUST TO EMPHASIZE THAT I’M NOT RACIALLY INSENSITIVE.
In short, she learned nothing.
The first thing people need to understand when it comes to apologizing for saying something insensitive that hurts or belittles other people is that their intentions don’t matter, it isn’t about THEM. No one cares what they meant or didn’t mean to do with other people’s feelings before they had verbal diarrhea.
If you are ever caught believing in or saying something that you didn’t realize had offensive and hurtful connotations for someone else, it’s because you are either a product of the culture that made it offensive, or because you’re ignorant. Either way, it’s still your fault that you said it, not your victim’s fault for taking offense. So instead of accusing your victim of being too sensitive, or for having bad comprehension skills, maybe you should figure out whatever stereotype etc. it was that led you to make the offending remark in the first place.
Yes, that might mean that you are racist, even if you don’t call yourself that. News flash: just because you’re not a card-carrying member of the KKK doesn’t mean you’re incapable of saying racist things. And no, it doesn’t count if your best friend, your cousin by marriage, or your sister-in-law is a minority. If the R word freaks you out, though, and you prefer to call it something else, like insensitive, ignorant, or stupid, that works too.
(Oh … does that hurt your feelings? I’m sorry.)
The point remains that you should probably consider re-examining yourself and the things that come out of your mouth, so you can be smarter the next time around.
Let’s put it this way: if you’re a bad driver and you hit me with your car one day, and I’m lying on the street bleeding from my head, you can say sorry all you want, and I could even forgive you. But it doesn’t change the fact that you hit me with your car.
So instead of begging for my forgiveness and worrying so much about whether people will think you’re a bad driver, maybe a better use of your time could be… I dunno, to learn how to be a good driver?
Here’s the funny thing about sorries. Whenever I fucked up as a kid, and got caught, I used to go crawling to my mom full of tearful apologies that were a whole lot more sincere than what we saw from Rancic. You know what my mom said to me? “Sorry means it’s too late.”
In other words, just because I said the magic “S” word didn’t mean I got an automatic pass for whatever messed up thing it was I just did. I might’ve thought I was slick, and I might’ve even been genuinely upset, but saying I was sorry didn’t mean I was actually sorry. And whether or not I meant anyone harm by it didn’t matter, because the deed was done.
So to Rancic and all the fake apologizers who came before her and who will come after her: I’m just saying, sorry means it’s too late.