The Unlearning of John Galliano, Netflix, Papa John's John Schnatter & ABC's Roseanne Barr - The N-Word + Disparaging Revelation- Trevor Noah, Sean Spicer and, James Gunn
Image: UW Daily
We are aware of why Netflix fired its head of communications
Jonathan Friedland and why Papa Johns' John Schnatter resigned. We are also aware of Roseanne Barr's racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett. Very reminiscent of John Galliano's sacking from Dior following an antisemitic rant in 2011. Only this time, the N-Word, a common euphemism used to set people apart on the basis of their color/ race has reared its ugly head and seems like there are more revelations pouring, some current and some literally being dragged out of the proverbial closet: Trevor Noah and, Sean Spicer.. and, James Gunn's provocateur on rape and pedophilia.
I believe action speaks louder than words. While some people who make mistakes have the power to undo those mistakes by the subtle art of unlearning, most also don't use that power at all. It is a classic conundrum because we seldom condone substantively discriminatory behavior against disadvantaged groups or behaviors that aren't conducive for inclusion - We condemn them instead because we feel forgiveness, where it's not welcomed, can rapidly normalize many isms! This is true to an extent.
But, when people apologize and feel bad for something they did and said because of a belief system that is deeply embedded in their core, yet they are willing to shake the ground and make room for improvement, it is definitely a big step towards absolution!
As a D&I coach, I don't believe in admonishing people who perpetuate intolerance or racism. It may seem like a sermon to some but in reality its highly meaningful: Hate the sin, not the sinner. I didn't say that! But I trust every word of this quote to be true! I understand that many opinions are made after incessant reading and hearing about bigotry or misconstruing beliefs - cultural or religious and leaving it to one's own interpretation to convey those behaviors through the trajectory of fear, ignorance, and prejudice. These negative behaviors play up in all the isms: racism, nationalism, misogyny, homophobia, reactionary religion etc. basically biases are defined or described by these negative behaviours. Like he's very homophobic or she is racist etc. We attribute biases to behaviourial tendencies. And tendencies can be altered or manipulated, yes sometimes, for the good :)
That is why we have training and methodologies to deliver programs and help people become more accepting and inclusive. My work is about neither glorifying nor devaluing any belief system. It is about restoring faith in humanity and treating every human being with dignity by making them unlearn beliefs and make room for new and inclusive conversations seeing people as equal and not different. What we learn is something that can be unlearned with equal fervor. No belief system, bias or behaviour is the status quo.
Biases can be eliminated altogether or amplified horribly. It largely depends on how biases are managed. What is our reaction to those biases?
I believe some mistakes if acknowledged are forgivable. While some should not be. There is a reason why companies like Netflix, Papa John's, and American Broadcasting Company do what they do when faced with a situation where they do not intend to minimalise and disenfranchise their diverse customers and put themselves in a greater disadvantage for perpetuating hatred from within their quarters or high ranks.
There is also, always room for improvement. No one is perfect and no one can pretend to be politically correct all the time. The true essence of forgiveness is the obliteration of the ideology that punishment and abhorrence alone can change people. Punishment can backfire and may accentuate the underlying problem than resolving it. Because the perpetrator will refuse to unlearn a behaviour for being admonished or may believe punishment as a means to an end...even if that's not good, but just do it and get it over with, kind of a way!
Thoughts? Most welcome. I would love to hear my readers' views. - Amit Anand