Saturday, September 18, 2021

Earl Ofari Hutchinson: When an Apology for Racist and Offensive Rants is Never Enough

Norman OK girls kneeling for Natl Anthem
Norman OK girls b-ball team kneeling for Nat’l Anthem

*Here we go again. In the space of a recent few days we had a verbally disjointed announcer during a championship game rant and rail at members of a girl’s basketball team in Norman, Oklahoma for having the temerity to kneel at the playing of the national anthem. Then you had Miami Heat player Meyers Leonard getting caught spewing an anti-Semitic slur while playing a video game. If that wasn’t enough in a week you had a near icon sportscaster at a Chicago TV station go off on a female co-worker with blatantly sexist and offensive digs. Finally, you had two Georgetown law professors seeming to denigrate Black students as chronic low achievers.

Now what ties the five offenders together is they quickly issued statements of apology and, of course, made the claim that no offense was intended. This was predictable and very pro-forma. These were individuals who loosened their tongues in a way that is guaranteed to draw instant wrath. When that happens, careers have a way of vanishing quickly. But the apology for rants, especially racist rants, has become so institutionalized that it’s troubling.

The template for this sort of stuff could have been lifted from the standard template that corporations have repeatedly used when they get caught almost always on a viral video of some idiotic racist slur, slander, or dumb act by one of its employees. In almost all cases, the target of the offense is an African-American or Hispanic who has committed no crime or impropriety. When this happens it’s a PR disaster for the company.

Major corporations are ever sensitive to the bottom line and corporate officials madly scramble to clean things up and make the embarrassment go away. The way that’s done is to fire or suspend the offender, and issue a flowery statement swearing that they are “committed to equal opportunity and diversity and have zero tolerance for racial bias.”

In the case of the Oklahoma racist ranter, word quickly went out that the services of the cable TV network contracted to carry the championship contest would no longer be needed. Now it was no longer a question of one person’s vile, disconnected blather. It was a matter of revenue loss and a looming public relations disaster for a multi-million dollar enterprise. The network moved fast and issued its own statement decrying the offensive shenanigans of its broadcaster. As always, the media dutifully report their statement and everyone walks away happy. That is until the next time it happens. Then the all-too-familiar template for dealing with a racial bigot is trotted out again.

Earl-Ofari-Hutchinson1
Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The Oklahoma debacle is only the tip of the iceberg.  (This commentary by Earl Ofari Hutchinson continues HERE.)

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