There have been multiple accounts of various people and organisations having to apologise for the previous racist and/or colourist comments. Yet, many are not buying these apologies anymore. These apologies have been accused of being insincere; they are apologising because they got caught and not because they truly mean it. Some have even argued that these apologies are to be written off simply because they do not believe that they have no knowledge that their statements/actions were racist or colourist. I find myself unable to make a decision when it comes to these apologies.
In the case of Maya Jama, she was effectively ‘dragged’ on twitter for some of her colourist statements she had tweeted back in 2012. It is an understatement to say people were disappointed. I believe she issued an apology and tried to open up a conversation about colourism via her Twitter page. Initially, I found myself disappointed and even angry, simply because she is also a woman of colour so I expected her to protect our minority. So, when these tweets resurfaced I felt betrayed. However, when I think about 2012 and what it was like, especially for a dark-skinned woman, I wouldn’t say her statements are out of the norm. This is not in any way to excuse these statements. To put it simply, in 2012 there was a huge fad around light-skinned people, it became the new ‘thing’. In fact, many I went to school with would have made similar statements and would have not been called out for it. Again, this is not to excuse what she had said but instead question whether it is right to question the sincerity of her apology. A lot of the old controversial statements made by people on twitter were permissible during those years. To say that they cannot change as a person, even though societies views have altered, seems unfair.
Another example would be H&M. They were also criticised for featuring a black child in a jumper that referred to children as monkeys. This ad had very contrasting responses. Some didn’t perceive it as racist simply because it is true that children are often referred to as monkeys and believe that the statement was in no way a direct reference to the race of the model. In fact, I believe the child’s mother issued a statement saying how she approves of the ad and didn’t see anything wrong with it. However, others believe that this ad is completely racist and there is no way the company could justify their actions. I myself agree with the latter, for there are only two ways in which I can understand how this ad was approved. Firstly, the fact that this photo was approved says to me that the company may not have enough people of colour to check their work and make sure it is politically correct. However, if that is not the case, it then says to me that they are all idiots. How is it that not one person in the entire process of ‘vetting’ this photo didn’t see how this photo could be problematic? No one person was able today “Do you know what… I don’t think this is okay. This may cause an issue.” Yet, time and time again we see this same story with many different brands apologising for ‘accidentally’ producing content that may be considered racist. I, myself, have come to the conclusion that it is a marketing strategy; it is Noise Marketing. They are fully aware of what they are doing and they’re using it to their advantage.
Finally, there is the more recent case of Liam Neeson. It was revealed during an interview that upon finding out his female friend had been raped by a black man, he ventured into ‘black neighbourhoods’ wanting to murder a “Black Bastard”. This cause particular outrage due to the fact that many black men have been accused and/or convicted of crimes they did not commit simply because they were black and Neeson’s actions support this. There are some who have said that in owning up to the situation and effectively ‘exposing’ himself his apology for his actions is then sincere. Yet, I am not sure if it is. Or rather my issue isn’t with the apology but instead our reaction as a community to the apology. There is an interesting thing happening, whereby in apologising for racist actions/statements our community values these individuals even more. Almost as if we are saying ” Thank you for not being racist.” As if a simple apology can override the actions and the implications of these actions.
Ultimately, can an apology truly reflect whether someone has learnt their lesson, whether someone has grown from their actions? Is it at all appropriate for people to use the black community as a ‘learning curve’? Are we buying these ‘apologies’ from the luxurious brand or do we perceive their actions as strategic? Is apologising for being racist, in order to be celebrated, the new trend?
Written by Gift Onomor