“I am sorry” is perhaps the single most powerful expression in any language. Say the three little words from a place of heart, depth and truth, and watch the angry brows of your opponent unravel…say them to the frozen-hearted and watch them become undone before your very eyes.
As I watch the country that I love go down a path that I never imagined possible I wonder how those three little words could have stopped or at the very least lessen the anger that’s been building. But what about when saying sorry is just not enough? Just in recent weeks we have all seen the surge of antisemitic comments from not only the mayor, but football players and other A-list celebrities flood mainstream and social media. A mayor who singled out the Brooklyn Jewish community for gatherings, but turned a blind-eye to rioters and looters. A football player, who idealized the anti-Semite Louise Farrakhan, quotes the monster that is Hitler. Prominent newspapers that at every turn put out headlines that shed a negative light on both Israel and Jews.
Taking ownership of one’s actions, of one’s behaviors, is a burden that weighs heavily on each individual person.
It was not too long ago that the New York Times headlined an article on its Twitter account regarding the headway the tiny country was making in the race to finding a vaccine for the Coronavirus. The headline read as such; “The Israeli defense ministry’s research-and-development arm is best known for pioneering cutting-edge ways to kill people and blow things up. Now it’s is turning to saving lives.” The headline went viral within the Jewish world, and the Twitter account of the anti-Israel newspaper was flooded with comment after comment ridiculing and reprimanding the way it represented the very cutting age ways Israeli scientist were working towards finding a vaccine for COVID-19. It was many hours later that The Times finally put out another headline regarding the topic. It did manage to keep the previous headline as the first line of the article. It was too little, too late. The first headline had been read and viewed and retweeted, and the damage to Israel’s image, was once again, done. The times took its jab at the country, and there was no apology from the Times; the new headline was a little more than a consolation prize.
And when the mayor of New York, the supposed leader and elected official for all of new York’s citizens, singles out the Jewish community in Crown Heights for not social distancing, and ignores all the other large gatherings in the city, I am not much buying his apology. As the leader, I expect the mayor to think before he speaks and ensure that he doesn’t create hate towards a group of his constituents.
And when DeSean Jackson quotes Hitler on his social media for thousands to see, and praises the Nation of Islam leader Louise Farrakhan, his apology is nothing more than hot air to my ears. Jackson’s antisemitic remarks no doubt are looked up to by many young Black men who follow and look up to the football star. And isn’t it interesting that the bigoted comments come from a person of color, whose people suffered at the hands of slavery and are now crying out for justice and equality.
So, when is sorry just not good enough? When the responsible party only deems it okay to apologize for fear of backlash, for fear of losing their coveted contract or for fear of being found out. An apology is worthless when the crime is repeated again and again, with no real education or action taken to rectify the wrongs that one has done. When the damage is done and the message that you intended to get across to your audience was passed on, and the ignorant within our midst have already taken your bigoted words to be true and just. Sorry-not-sorry is the real message of the day when it comes to antisemitic acts and sentiments. And we are not buying it.