Sorry, but forced apologies are the worst. Why can’t we quit this insincere ritual?
Forced apologies are a boring cultural ritual that we refuse to let die. An apology is supposed to help the offended person feel better after being hurt. And when a person truly understands and regrets the hurt they’ve caused and wants to redeem themselves, sometimes a sincere apology is all it takes to mend that relationship. But will the offended one really feel better if he can say that it was all a sham? And can’t you always say it?
I learned this from my friend Troy early in my adult life, when he introduced me to a new friend of his from work – a rude white man in a Budweiser hoodie named Wayne.
“Us Bacardi and Cola at work, man,” Troy told me. “I’m telling you, Wayne is the coolest white boy since Eminem came out.”
Wayne, as tall as he was, grabbed his green trucker cap, nodded and reached out for a handshake. I gave him a book and welcomed him to the OR.
“We don’t have a lot of white boys around here,” I said, examining his faded jeans and Nike Cortez sneakers. “Stay close to Troy or they’ll think you’re a knocker.”
“Knockers? Wayne replied, his face twisted into a question mark.
“He’s an undercover cop,” Troy laughed. “We call them knockers because they jump out of the car and hit you on the head.”
“There is no cop in my house, brother!” Wayne shrugged. “Not at all!”
There were white people in our neighborhood – knockers, cops, housing cops, Johns Hopkins workers who had the courage to park near us because they were too cheap to pay for the garage there. hospital, as well as occasional drug addicts who came to town looking for an explosion – but no residents or white peers. The city of Baltimore is separated like this. We had to travel 15 minutes by car, or three hours by bus, to see white people.
Troy asked me if I wanted to go to the bar with them. “First ride on me, my brother!” Wayne intervened. “Just beer, it’s not a pay week.”
“No, it’s okay,” I replied, finding my favorite spot on the steps, where I loved to eat sunflower seeds and watch the sun fade, and watched Bacardi and Cola walk down the block.
Troy was like me when it came to thinking and dreaming. We both had limitless curiosity, always the first to hit the road and travel to other cities and states, and we questioned everything. We didn’t listen to crazy stories without toasting the storyteller and then going back and checking everything. You had to be smart enough to shoot one at us. The difference between me and Troy, however, was that he needed to connect and network with everyone he worked with throughout all of the jobs he held. Think about one of those community college diversity flyers coming to life – that was Troy. He introduced me to the first Koreans, Nigerians, Jamaicans, Swiss and Puerto Ricans I ever met. We even had double dates with Alaskan women. Who knew there were black Alaskan women in Baltimore who wanted to date street guys like us? Troy knew – who is it. I’ve always admired that about him. I had an impenetrable wall built around me. And in most cases, people who weren’t from my neighborhood wouldn’t come in.
Troy’s white friend Wayne became a fixture over the next three months. I went out with them a few times to different lounges and restaurant bars, and laughed when Wayne pushed the black girls. Well at first I laughed. But after a while, I started to feel uncomfortable, because her rap always said: “I have a lot of soul in me sister, watch me work!” Those words were still coming out in a country, semi-fake, black sounding voice.
“Yo, I don’t come with that nut anymore,” I said to Troy one of those nights Wayne fell deep into that stupid accent. “He also acts.”
So Troy approached Wayne and told him he needed to relax.
“I’m sorry, brother,” Wayne replied quickly. “I get a little wild when the juice is in me, my brother.”
I always hated the way he said brother. And I hated it even more when he called me brother.
“Just call me D,” I told him more than once.
Each time, he apologized with an empty shrug. “My bad, D.”
Maybe his apologies were sincere. Maybe they came from the bottom of his heart. But he never really seemed to be sorry. These interactions left me with the unpleasant feeling that he maybe thought I should be proud to be called “brotha” by him. I was not proud.
I was also stubborn. Since I was a child, I have been against the practice of saying “sorry” just for the sake of saying it. It reminded me of when I was five years old and pulled the batteries out of a remote control and threw it at my cousin’s head with all my might.
“Tell your sorry cousin!” Cried my uncle. The remote had nearly cracked it.
” Boy ! Excuse you! He said, fog forming over his square frames. “And your dad is going to whip your ass!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I said. “I won’t do it again.”
The problem is, I wasn’t sorry. My cousin’s rc car had stopped working, so he pissed in the toilet and dropped my car. I’m 40 now and still angry about it – and angry because I had to make a false apology. Even after I explained my actions to my uncle, he still felt that my apology was necessary. We do this to kids all the time – insist they apologize even if they weren’t at fault, then pretend it fixed the root cause of the real problem because it’s easier and faster than to resolve a conflict. It’s no wonder people carry this theory into adulthood – that a quick “sorry” is supposed to magically solve any problem they’ve caused, even if they don’t think so.
Now, bogus apologies have also become a shared public experience on a daily basis. One of the latest examples came recently when hip hop megastar DaBaby apologized for the disturbing homophobic slurs he made on stage at the Rolling Loud Festival in July.
DaBaby’s comments on stage dominated the entertainment news cycle for days, prompting several other big festivals where he was scheduled to perform to drop him. In an attempt to quell the professional damage, DaBaby took to Instagram and – much like Wayne’s hastily “my bad” – quickly issued a contrite statement apologizing “from the LGBTQ + community for the hurtful comments. and triggers I made “.
Did DaBaby apologize because he has hurt millions of people, including fans, by promoting homophobic rhetoric that can have deadly implications, or did he apologize because of the amount of money he risks losing as a result? Did he understand why his comments were harmful and flawed, or was he trying to prevent companies that don’t want to be seen as pro-bigotry from working with him indefinitely?
When someone apologizes too quickly, or only after suffering financial consequences, I wonder if they are sorry for their actions or just sorry for getting caught. In DaBaby’s case, it probably didn’t accomplish what he hoped for. Once companies publicly declare that they are abandoning you, they will likely support their decisions, at least for the foreseeable future. A few days later, DaBaby deleted her apology message. I contacted his team to ask why, but I did not get a response. But the damage is done: removing a hasty apology so quickly makes the apology even more bogus and reactionary. The deletion, which drew another public attention to the story, made it seem like, at least in private, he could still stand behind her ugly words.
I stopped hanging out with Troy when he had his work friend Wayne with him. But one day, Troy spotted me sitting at my favorite spot with my sunflower seeds, watching the sunset, and approached with two mugs and a bottle of liquor.
“Should I pour?” Troy asked, brewing two big cups of Remy for us before I could answer.
“Surprised to see you here during rush hour happy hour,” I said, spitting seashells onto the sidewalk. “I thought you would show up with your boy Wayne.”
“Dude, f ** k Wayne,” Troy laughed, taking a sip of the scorching brandy. “I slapped him at work and got fired.”
Troy told me he was standing near the break room and heard Wayne and another white man laughing hysterically. He poked his head inside, thinking he might join in the joke, just in time to hear the other white man say, “Yo Wayne, what’s up nigga!”
Wayne replied, “Sky, ceilin, how are you feeling, man!”
“Free time!” I cried, spitting out my glass. “Yooooon, no. What did you do?”
“I did what any respectable black man would do,” Troy said. “I slapped Wayne so hard I’m sure he’ll have a headache for at least a week.”
Troy said Wayne hit the wall, holding his red face in his hands, saying, “God, Troy! I’m sorry, relax! Please!” The other white ran out of the room and returned with a supervisor who invited the trio into his office. Troy has the boot. The whites lost a few days without pay but kept their jobs. Troy was charged with second degree assault and reckless endangerment, but was never convicted. Wayne and the other white boy did not come to court.
Troy was still a pretty open guy, but he didn’t bring too many friends from work to the neighborhood after that. He told me he felt bad for slapping Wayne – not because he had hurt him, but because he had lost a job he really loved. Troy was sorry for allowing someone he thought was a friend to take an opportunity like this. Unlike DaBaby or Wayne, however, he never offered a sincere, forced apology – neither to Wayne, nor to the company. I will always respect him for that.