An apology is not a conclusion.
It’s the first step.
County Commissioner Heidi Carter’s public apology is a big deal. It matters that she, finally after being prodded by me and others to back down statements made before and after a county funded investigation, but it takes more than saying I’m sorry to repair this damage.
“Honestly, I’ve struggled with how best to respond to the manager’s account of racial bias in my interactions with him and county staff,’ she said. “Looking back, I recognize that my defensive reaction perpetuated a familiar defensive response by a white person, especially in the midst of ongoing anti-Black violence in this country.”
Good for her. She finally gets it. It helps owning how and why it’s her “lifelong responsibility” as a white woman to constantly check, double check and ask a Black friend about her actions. We shouldn’t dismiss the sincerity of her apology.
Wait a minute. It’s time for the tribe to gather around the campfire to have a little talk with Black Jesus.
First things first, Black folks are 200 years past being sick and tired of apologies. It has never been enough. We’re sick of proclamations apologizing for slavery. We’re tired of press conferences offering thoughts and prayers after another Black person is mistakenly killed by police. We’re fed up with the assumption that Black folks are a forgiving people. Yes, we love our Black Jesus, but don’t get stuck in a hard place with only five cents to call back home.
We may not answer the call.
Why? Glad you asked.
Saying Black people are fed up with apologies is another way of saying show me more than you tell me. It’s also a way of saying your white ass should have known better. Anyone elected to serve a community with a Black and Brown majority is expected to have taken lessons on how to communicate in the presence of Black and Brown people. Not spending time and effort to get that right sends a message of being lazing, indifferent, stupid or racist.
Carter is correct in asserting this is a lifelong classroom experience. Listen up, this is not calculus, it’s basic arithmetic. No matter how you add things up, 2 plus 2 will always be 4. She should have learned this before the fourth grade. No one, listen up the rest of you serving in public office, should be credited with a seat at the table without the basic common sense related to how to act and treat Black people.
It is also critical to note the subplot in this mimicking of a Greek tragedy. Carter’s apology came after significant backlash from white citizens. This is a powerful example of the virtue of checking your white people. All praise to a strong population of woke white people living in Durham. They certainly got Black people’s back.
The problem with this plot is it shouldn’t have to take white rage to garner a response. What’s up with not being able to listen to Black people? Is Carter’s apology more of a statement related to how she is viewed among her white liberal friends? Is it about preserving the white woke vote, or does she really care about how she annoyed Black residents with talk involving this is how it feels to be a woman?
Is this an apology to white woke folks evoking the power of equity and inclusion? Something about it sounds more like an explanation than the witness of a journey down the road of vast introspection.
I wonder, has Carter apologized to County Manager Wendell Davis. Telling the community your sorry is one thing, but Davis is the one most damaged after being dragged through the mud of public shame by two investigations trigger by members of the Board of County Commissioners. For that matter, Wendy Jacobs, chair of the board, should apologize for leading from the lens of white privilege.
Can we discuss a brand of leadership summarized best as patty cake style – a game of picking and choosing when to hide between the protection of policy and procedures? Jacobs wants the public to believe she can’t press a meeting to discuss the findings of investigations, funded with taxpayer money, based on privacy limits, while being comfortable with making a public announcement related to investigating Davis.
Last I checked, a county commissioner is not an employee protected by privacy guidelines. Last I checked, the County Manager is more than willing to wave privacy concerns related to these investigations. Leading well demands consistency, and the only constant in this matter is Jacobs using barriers to transparency when it serves her agenda.
Apologies matter. They’re the first step toward authentic resolution. Keep in mind those other steps. Some apologizes result from being pressed against the wall. It’s the call of surrender upon finding no form of escape. Is Carter’s apology the waving of the white flag. If so, does she have a small army prepare to fight on another day?
I’m waiting for the show me more than tell me.