Thursday, October 07, 2010

O'Donnell Shows How It's Done, So Listen Up

Last Tuesday, Lawrence O'Donnell was on his new television show talking about the Republican Chairman Michael Steele when he said,
"As the first congressional election during his party chairmanship approaches, Michael Steele is dancing as fast as he can, trying to charm independent voters and tea partiers while never losing sight of his real master and paycheck provider: the Republican National Committee,"
After Steele called O'Donnell and expressed how this use of the term "master" in reference was quite offensive, O'Donnell went on his show the next night and apologized in a manner that I think all white Americans could stand to emulate.

Fortunately, O'Donnell recognizes that the effect of one's actions are always more important than the intent. Sure, he didn't have to apologize, but the fact that he did shows he has a lot better understanding of white privilege than many folks within liberal/progressive circles.

You see, his apology has little to do with Steele. It's about right and wrong. The appropriateness of an apology isn't dependent on whether or not Steele is a decent person, because O'Donnell's words reach far beyond just the individual he was referring to. It would have been much better if he hadn't made this remark in the first place. However, after saying it, he had to decide to how he was going to react to being told how offensive it was. He could either contribute to the way that white Americans try to decide for themselves what should and should not be offensive to people of color or he could make it clear that he understands the impact of his actions as a media figure. Thankfully, he chose the ethical response. My hope is that more white Americans will learn from this and follow his example.

1 comment:

risa said...

Well put.