Is it too late now to say sorry?

Justin Bieber poses a question that introduces the controversy of apologizing. While Bieber proposes that people do not apologize soon enough, I often wonder if people are too quick to apologize. However, I am just as guilty of “over-apologizing” as the next person, which my friend confronted me about this past weekend.

        We were studying on the swinging benches when the wind blew someone’s paper over the balcony. The girl with the paper turned around with a desperate expression, and I immediately said, “I’m sorry.” It was then when my friend asked me why I had apologized when I had no effect on the paper falling to the ground. I could not answer her. I reflected on the question, and I honestly do not know what made me instantly offer an apology. It was almost like a reflex. Was it my way of sympathizing with the girl who lost her paper? Or was apologizing just the socially acceptable thing to do?

        I was again confronted with this issue later that same night. I attended an event where we took off our shoes at the entrance. Growing up in a community where we did not lock our back door, I did not think leaving my shoes unprotected was a big deal. My friends and I proceeded to add our shoes to the pile. A couple hours later when we were ready to leave, I went to grab my shoes, but I could not find them. After searching through the spread of shoes several times, I walked out of the building barefoot. My friends repeatedly said they were sorry that I lost my shoes. Even friends who were not at the event apologized to me. Thinking about the conversation I had earlier that day, I wondered why my friends were telling me they were sorry. They did nothing wrong – they did not take my shoes. So why did they feel the need to apologize? Were they genuinely sympathetic to my situation, or were they merely abiding by social norms?

        These questions sparked further questions. I started to wonder why it can be so easy to apologize when you are not at fault but so hard to apologize when an apology is necessary. I remember a time in high school when I made myself apologize to my principal because she caught me wearing leggings, an act that violated our uniform policy. I was shaking as I walked into her office, rehearsing what I was going to say when I got there. Why was it so hard for me to say sorry in this situation when it was so instinctive to say sorry when the paper fell to the floor? Was my unnecessary apology less sincere, or is it just harder to say sorry when you are actually at fault because it is a reflection on yourself?

        When you are at fault, an apology infers that you accept responsibility and admit that you were wrong. As humans, it is hard for us to admit when we are wrong. We feel that conceding takes away from our worth as a human being and fear being considered inadequate. Making a true apology forces us to acknowledge the success of someone else, which often causes us to experience a feeling of inferiority. Yet we throw around sympathetic apologies without a second thought. Does this idea of over-apologizing diminish the value of true apologies? Could over-apologizing create a sense of superficiality within society?

        If apologizing just becomes another habit, then there may no longer be any real meaning in making an apology when we are actually at fault. This could be extremely problematic and could prevent humans from having authentic and sincere relationships with each other. However, I do not intend to claim that apologizing to show sympathy is an abominable sin; I am merely advocating for us to think deeper about what we truly mean when we say the words “I’m sorry.”

Turf Wars Episode I: Let the Kids Play

“It’s about to go down” is a lofty way to start a YouTube video, but sometimes it does indeed go down. Earlier last August at the Mission Playground, a public park located in San Francisco’s historically Latino but increasingly gentrified Mission District, one video does just that (see below).

Going viral on Bay Area local media and later picked up by larger sites like the New Yorker and TechCrunch, the video – shot by a seemingly-neutral bystander – shows an argument over the use of a soccer field. On one side is a group of teenaged Latino boys, identifying as locals who frequently use the park, and on the other side is a group of white men, later identified as employees of Airbnb and Dropbox. The video begins with a pan of the busy field and continues as the newcomers become increasingly confrontational while they try to argue their way on to the field.

Under the policies set by the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, the newcomers were able to buy permit time at Mission Playground, followed the rules when booking the field, and were upset when those rules weren’t respected. On the other end, the park’s regulars felt slighted by the sudden disregard for their own norms, which have prevailed at the park for as long as they can remember.

So who’s right?

Warning, some NSFW language included

After first watching this video, I very quickly took the side of the local teenagers. How dare some people, let alone older white men in a predominantly Latino community, try to run some kids off of their field?

But stepping back, it also seems unfair to blame the Airbnb and Dropbox employees for buying the permit and expecting the permit to be respected. The same situation has bothered me more than handful of times too. Whether it’s booking a study room or a soccer field, it never feels good to kick someone out of a space you planned to use. While the way that the newcomers handled the situation may have upset me (saying things like “who cares about the neighborhood?” and resorting to tactics you might expect only a toddler to fall for), I can’t fault them for following the rules.

I also can’t fault the local teenagers for not wanting to follow the park rules. They have created a well-respected culture with a merit-based spirit at its core. It’s simple: if you win, you stay. Not until the confrontation escalates do you see the teenagers frustrated with the newcomers themselves, who happen to represent the influx of new residents to the neighborhood. But up until this point, you see the teenagers challenging the newcomers to compete to stay. While it’s not exactly true to the Parks Department’s book, it’s hardly unfair either.

So maybe it’s the park rules themselves that bother me most. The Parks Department’s permit policy creates a system in which those who can’t afford to buy special time on the park are at the mercy of those who can. In this way, the permit policy undercuts the long-standing relationship and tradition that local teenagers have with the park. Recognizing this, and in response to community activists, the Parks Department later decided to remove the permit system.

While the permit policy removal seems like a victory for the Mission’s local teenagers, what does this mean for the neighborhood’s relationship to its newer residents, like the employees of Airbnb and Dropbox? Maybe they’ll just need time to assimilate into their new neighborhood’s customs, but maybe they don’t want to. Either way, they’ll have to play for their right to stay on the field.

The KKK Mile

So here’s the briefing:

The KKK wants to adopt a highway in Georgia; the court said no, and now the KKK is suing.

And many people are upset about many things.

Some are upset that the KKK did not get the right to represent itself (this group includes the KKK and the ACLU–strange alliance), and some are upset that the application was even considered (Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials).

A similar case has happened before– the KKK in Missouri was able to adopt part of the highway after Missouri’s state rejection was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2005. Though the KKK sign was sawed down twice and the highway was later renamed as the Rosa Parks Highway.

In the Georgia case, however, the application was denied because the state court believed that “promoting an organization with a history of inciting civil disturbance and social unrest would present a grave concern” and could “have the potential to negatively impact the quality of life” of people in the county and state. The court further concluded that the sign would be a distraction to motorists.

At his point I am sure you are curious, so here are some interesting adopt-a-highway signs.

Some of these adopt-a-highway signs are very distracting in my opinion. Yes, the KKK has a racist and violent past*, but using this as a basis for the judging seems subjective and there certainly are organizations that fall in the grey area.

Does the state government have the right to determine what sign is “too offensive” to be posted? It definitely has the obligation to protect the minority, and like Christian suggested, driving pass a KKK sign everyday is extremely uncomfortable for African Americans. But to what degree should the government protect the offended? Should the government step in for Confederate signs in a black community? Or crusade signs in a Muslim suburb? Communist signs for veterans from the Vietnam War? Or planned parenthood in a conservative Christian community? Or pro-gay right organizations in say, my home state Alabama?

This also begs the question: What is the ethical implication of denying groups like KKK the right to clean roads for free? We don’t mind jailed criminals cleaning our streets – and the fact that KKK is offensive to the majority of the people should not be a reason why they shouldn’t be able to represent their views. At the same time, we don’t allow offensive license plates either (“KKK” will most certainly be denied as a license plate).

The KKK claims all they want is to clean the roads, though if they really want to do that, they wouldn’t be asking for a sign. The spokesman also maintained that they just wanted to use this as another way to assist the community (the word “another” is quite alarming). But if all we know is that an organization wants to adopt a highway, it’s hard to say no basing solely on the offensive claim.

Because of freedom of speech, Westboro Baptist Church can protest legally outside of veteran funerals and American Nazi Party can stage peaceful marches with police protection. It is extremely difficult to accept some of the resulting actions, but such is the negative consequence of freedom of speech. So why can’t KKK adopt a highway?


* KKK has changed their stance to white loving instead of color hating, do I believe that and do I think that is a legitimate thing? No, but that is their official stance.

Too Much Baggage?

Image credit: Dave Herr via The Nerve

A few months ago, Planned Parenthood put the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation under fire for withdrawing their funding from Planned Parenthood’s breast health services. The decision was allegedly made to appease pro-life supporters.

Now, it’s Planned Parenthood’s turn to be scrutinized for their financial decisions. Planned Parenthood of North Texas recently rejected a $500,000 donation from our university’s very own Tucker Max (Duke Law School ’01). For those of you who don’t know, Tucker Max is a blogger and New York Times best-selling author who makes a living from being promiscuous with women and critiquing these encounters publicly. Tucker Max is a selfish jerk. But you don’t have to take my word for it, he tells you so right on his website: “My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole. I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead.”

Spoken like a true women’s advocate if you ask me! Tucker Max admitted he was looking for a tax break through a contribution to Planned Parenthood and wanted to get some positive press stirring before his next book is released. He also claims he was genuinely trying to do some good by giving back.

But Planned Parenthood wasn’t having it, and understandably so. I mean, just look at what Tucker Max had to say about the organization a little earlier in his career. Last July he tweeted, “Planned Parenthood would be cooler if it was a giant flight of stairs, w/ someone pushing girls down, like a water park slide.” #saywhat? On March 14, he wrote, “In South Florida. This place is awful. Shitty design, slutty whores & no culture, like a giant Planned Parenthood waiting room.”

Dear Tucker Max,
Using derogatory language to describe the clients of an organization probably won’t help you get one of their buildings dedicated for you.
Common Sense.

Nevertheless, Max saw things differently, telling the NY Daily News, “I thought they’d be very excited about it.” Max also had this to say of Planned Parenthood: “Their motives aren’t about helping women. Their motives are about what they look like to their friends and signaling they’re taking the right types of donations from the right types of people.”

Tucker Max is not alone. Planned Parenthood of North Texas has faced much criticism for not accepting the money, especially since the state of Texas has just ruled to defund Planned Parenthood.

They declined the money, and are slammed for denying vital services to underprivileged women and families. But if they accepted, they’d be helping out a notorious misogynist and condemned by feminists everywhere. The decision was really a lose-lose situation for Planned Parenthood. The way I see it though, if they took the money, at least they’d have ended up with $500,000 in the bank.

Notably, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) jumped at the opportunity to snatch half-a-million dollars and contacted Tucker Max about becoming the beneficiary. Assuring Max he could still help prevent unwanted pregnancies, they proposed using the money to purchase a mobile spay-and-neuter truck for animals. They even came up with a charming title: “Fix Your Bitches! The Tucker Max No-Cost to Low Cost Spay and Neuter Clinic.” PETA clearly has a different code of ethics when it comes to its marketing. (We saw this last year with the pornography site PETA plans to launch, which Eddie discussed.)

Max has declined the offer to help PETA, blogging, “There is no chance I’m supporting an organization that wants to ban two of my favorite things: Making animals dead and then eating them.” Yep, what a jerk. And isn’t it ironic how he didn’t seem to have a genuine interest in Planned Parenthood, yet was willing to give them the money, but not PETA, who has never met a publicity stunt they didn’t like?

Should Planned Parenthood have taken Tucker Max’s money, or were they right to reject the offer? Personally, I’d have a hard time turning down money from anybody, even someone I don’t like. Then again, I certainly don’t think it would be appropriate for the NAACP to cash a check from the KKK so the Klan could get a PR boost. So how bad does someone have to be before their help should be rejected? And how bad does your own situation have to be? If you’re like Planned Parenthood and desperate for money, can the ends justify the means?