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The Melissa Harris Perry story and eventual apology got me thinking about all of the apologies we heard in 2013. And there were a lot.

Alec Baldwin apologized to gay people after using a derogatory slur saying, “Words are important. I understand that, and will choose mine with great care going forward.”

Keep that statement in mind.

Paula Deen apologized to black people, also for having used a derogatory slur in the past saying, “I beg you, my children, my team, my fans, my partners, I beg for your forgiveness.”

Mayor Rob Ford apologized to Toronto for lying about using crack cocaine.

Jimmy Kimmel apologized to China for an ill-conceived comedy sketch where a 6-year old jokingly said the US should quote “kill everyone in China.”  Ouch!

President Obama apologized to America for what fact checkers are calling the biggest lie of the year, “If you like your healthcare plan you can keep your healthcare plan.

MSNBC’s Martin Bashir apologized to Sarah Palin.  It was late, long, candid and complete yet not enough. He was gone.

And Bashir’s colleague, Melissa Harris Perry, apologized to Mitt Romney for showing on TV, a family photo with his adopted grandson, who happens to be black, just to poke fun at the governor and the Republican Party. (See above)

There is nothing funny about that. The first rule of comedy is that it should be funny, it wasn’t. There is nothing humorous about a panel of adults on national television pointing out the ‘otherness’ of a baby in relation to the members of his family; especially a little black baby.

April Dinwoodie who is biracial and was adopted by a white family wrote on CNN.com, “The exchange was a cold reminder of us of just how easy it is to flippantly do harm, and also of the dearth of understanding and sensitivity surrounding race and adoption.” You can read her article for more details, but she makes the point for me.

And so does Alec Baldwin.

In his apology he said, “Words are important. I understand that, and will choose mine with great care going forward.”

That’s good advice to Melissa Harris Perry, her colleagues at MSNBC and all of us. We should choose our words very carefully, exactly the way Melissa Harris Perry did in her apology.

Her words, “I am sorry.  Without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family.” She got it right. And it takes a very big person to do that.

None of us are perfect. We will all make mistakes in the New Year. So, perhaps one our resolutions should be to learn from Ms. Harris-Perry; the art of the apology.

12 thoughts on “The Art of the Apology – What We Can Learn from Melissa Harris-Perry & Others

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  2. BLACK MOSES 73 on said:

    What we learned is that black people need to realize that no matter what type of job you have or how light your skin is they will remind you are still a ni**er. She thought she could say the same ignorant things they say apologize and it will be cool…LOL

  3. This conversation illustrates that we have a long ways to go in terms of race relations in this country. Last week I watched BET special event about Girls got power or some other useless name. What I noted is that of the majority of Black women who got awards, the majority of them were light skin Negroes who have not really done anything for the cause or low income African Americans. In short, as African Americans we are still stuck on that plantation of light skin Negroes and Uncle Toms doing all of the speaking for the masses. We can do better and we surely don’t need a milk toast program on BET selling out the cause.

  4. Chester Todd Jr. on said:

    George, I guess the “negro elites” can be equated to the poor white trash that belong to the Tea Party being lapdogs for rich conservatives.

  5. Chester Todd Jr. on said:

    Who cares about the Rommey family? They don’t give a sh.t about Black people, I feel that if you know anything about being Black then you know that we have been the blunt of jokes for 400 years. Besides who gives a damm what Don Lemon thinks or says? The man is a fakes brother and a bigger fool. Don thinks whites and is not a friend to Black people.

  6. Melissa waited two days, before she finally tweeted, “I apologize to all…who feel I degraded…” A true apology, a) would be immediate, b) be personal, not via Twitter (with its own #, no less!), and c) admit the offense, i.e. omit the “who feel…” She did degrade people solely on the basis of skin color.

    Moreover, her blog claims the segment went “an unexpected way.” Yet she added her own racist follow-up joke, that the Romney baby could marry the Kanye child. (I guess because both are black. Funny stuff.) Racism in one thing that just doesn’t belong.

  7. Apologies that are so generalized that it does not expose the core hateful thing that instigated the wrong is a weak and potentially intentionally dishonest apology.

    In this case, MPH and her panel were clearly ridiculing the audacity of Romney’s/Republicans/Conservatives to have a “token” baby of color in a family of whites that believe in conservative principles. They were not poking fun at the baby:instead, they were poking fun/hate at Romneys for thinking they were a good environment for an African American baby.

    That was the wrongness that should have been clearly apologized for: Lemon lets MPH off the hook for the real trangression.

  8. George A. Johnson on said:

    Why are these Negro elites on tv in the first place. They are playing the rolevof lapdogs for white liberals.

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