Lately, there has been quite a lot of “drama” (I put quotations because I feel like the vast majority of it is called for and the word drama feels patronizing) on the forums and on Instagram and as a result there have been a lot of “apologies” (I put quotations here because almost every apology I’ve seen has been total crap). There is one thing that I feel like is sorely lacking from every single one of these apologies: accountability and reparations.
There are several things that really piss me off about the way these apologies are constructed. Firstly, stop referring to offensive jokes as “mistakes.” A mistake is when I go to the grocery store and forget to buy milk. A mistake is when I accidentally forget to plug my phone into its charger before bed. A mistake is NOT: including r*pe jokes or the N-word in your story, including racist and stereotypical content in your story, demeaning entire cultures with no regard for how accurate your depiction is. Those are all conscious decisions which, regardless of intention, negatively affect other people.
Secondly, language and semantics MATTER. In almost every apology I have seen, manipulative language is used to victimize the responsible party and demonize the affected party. Examples of this include: “I didn’t mean to offend you.” Or, “I’m sorry IF I hurt you.” This is not taking responsibility. This language effectively separates you from your behavior. What are we if not reflections of our beliefs, actions, and words? Reframe your statements to take accountability instead of gaslighting the person(s) calling you out.
Thirdly, age is not an excuse for bigotry and ignorance. If you’re old enough to write for or read on Episode, you’re old enough to understand the basics of racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. No one is asking you to write a dissertation on the predatory nature of financial institutions in predominantly Black communities. With all of the internet at your fingertips, saying you were “young and ignorant” 3 years ago at age 16 is unacceptable. If I could drive at 16, I could definitely know not to use the N-word.
Finally, reparations and action moving forward. All of the authors I’ve seen making apologies for past racist behaviors have issues statements but that’s as far as it goes. There are no calls to action, no activism on their part to further educate others on the things they have supposedly learned, and definitely no donations to appropriate organizations despite being in the payment program. This is especially relevant to authors who have profited directly off of the offensive content they’re being called out for. If you have made money off of your story which features offensive and ignorant content, I think it’s only just that you pay back some of that money to organizations related to your “mistake.”
Feel free to add anything onto this, but this is something I really needed to get off my chest with everything going on both on the forums and on Instagram. I’m definitely welcoming discussion, but many threads of a similar nature have been closed due to forum guideline violations so try to keep a bit of decorum if possible.
Peace, love, justice