Re: Black History Edition (John McWhorter & Glenn Loury)
A public apology is a funny thing. There are two completely distinct beasts hiding under the same name. If I insult you for no reason on bhtv -- something I'd never do, of course -- then, by offering to apologize, I offer to acknowledge the existence of something ugly in me that I can't always control. It's confessing my imperfections. It's acknowledging that my soul is not as pure as I wish it were and it's a renewed pledge to let my better angels do more of the driving. It's siding with you against the ugly in me.
A forced apology is an entirely different animal. It's an act of survival, not of contrition. Sincerity, being unverifiable, is irrelevant. Like when you pay a fine: no one asks you if your heart is in it. In a forced apology, the words are for the victims but their meaning is for the public. The objective is shaming. It's a power transaction really: I abused my power, so now you get to abuse yours, and we're even. Society's norms are upheld. We, westerners, don't do shaming very well (which, frankly, is just as well). So I understand McWhorter's concern. A forced apology is not about changing hearts but paying fines. The minute the student says "I accept your apology," she agrees that the offense was not worth more than the words of apology. But words are cheap. So how bad could the offense really be if a few insincere words are enough to undo it? Yet there is one reason she might want to do it even if contractually the deal isn't worth it. By accepting an apology she gets to display her ability to forgive, which is a noble trait.