Friday, January 13, 2017

Rate That Apology, Part 6: Ira Madison III

During the Jeff Sessions confirmation hearing, MTV journalist Ira Madison III posted a tweet captioning a picture of Sessions holding his Asian-American granddaughter. The tweet has now been deleted, but it read:
Sessions, sir, kindly return this Asian baby to the Toys "R" Us store you stole her from.
After deleting the tweet, Madison posted the following "explanation" on Medium:
Hello. Yesterday saw the confirmation hearing of Jeff Sessions. As he was called to testify, Sessions placed his Asian American granddaughter on his lap. I made a joke alluding to the irony of a 70 year old career politician placing his post-millennial, multi-racial granddaughter on his lap to shield himself from criticism of his long standing record. My work is satirical and my words on my Twitter account have never represented MTV’s personal mission statement. But what was intended to be a provocative joke about Sessions’ record put his family in the crossfire and for that I am sorry. 
I am also sorry my joke unnecessarily distracted from the more serious matter at hand. I — and many many other Americans — genuinely believe that Jeff Sessions’ deeply troubling past on issues relating to race and immigration are disqualifying and look forward to holding him and other potential members of Donald Trump’s administration accountable for their actions. Sessions has already been rejected once by the United States Senate for his unfortunate racist comments, behaviors, and views, including praising a 1924 Immigration Law intended to end “acceptance of all races.” He was rebuked by Republicans and Democrats alike in the 1980s, unfortunately, he’s before us again. 
Going forward, we cannot be distracted from Sessions’ history, the histories of many of the men and women Trump wishes to appoint to his administration, or the online rhetoric designed to shut down debate and intimidate and terrify with violent threats and fear of doxxing. This is indicative of life on the internet for many endangered and marginalized groups right now and we must be vigilant. My writing, in part, will always be devoted to justice and I look forward to seeking it out wherever I can in the next four years and beyond.
Alas, this is not going to enter my annals of good apologies. One of the cardinal sins in a bad apology is when the author gets "on a soapbox about how [they're] really right about the core issue and just happened to express [themselves] poorly." That's definitely at work here -- a 2:1 ratio of "soapbox" paragraphs to "apology" paragraphs (and that's being generous in labeling the entire first paragraph as an "apology").

Moreover, the apology paragraph -- really more of a sentence -- is blurry and evasive. Sure, there's something intrinsically tacky about dragging a toddler into a political "joke" in this manner, and I guess that it is encompassed by talking about "put[ting] his family in the crossfire." But there's also a racialized element to the joke that can't be ignored and which this apology attempts to shunt aside. To characterize the joke as targeting "the irony of a 70 year old career politician placing his post-millennial, multi-racial granddaughter on his lap" beggars belief. Anyone with a pulse reading this joke saw it as a crude dismissal of multi-racial families among stereotypically conservative communities: "there's no way Jeff Sessions really has an Asian granddaughter, lol -- she must be a prop!" An apology which does not acknowledge and atone for that cadence, isn't one.

Grade: 3/10

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