Dog and the N-Word Part II: The Cure
Thursday, July 03 2008 | Comments (0)
When a company, or an individual, screws up, there are right and wrong ways to make amends--admitting guilt, owning up to the damage caused, making amends, taking steps to prevent a recurrence--these are all part of good public relations and part of being decent, moral, and responsible.
In many ways Duane "Dog" Chapman has done the right thing. After the tapes of his offensive rant became public, he was quick to admit his guilt and apologize for the damage he caused. He reached out to the African American community and it's leaders. He's devoted time--or, rather more time--to inner city charities and raised money for African American charities. He's made an effort to listen and learn from his own spiritual adviser, Tim Storey, as well as other African American leaders. He has made attempts to become more aware of black history and educate himself on the crucial issues. And he's been publicly humble, apologetic, and contrite--insisting that he will do "whatever it takes" to make amends and regain the public's forgiveness and trust.
In a bold move, he invited his most vocal critics, Roy and Niger Innis, of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), to come stay with him for a few weeks. He wanted them to get to know the Dog and his family personally, see how they live and what kind of people they are, and form their own opinion about the issue. To his credit, Dog won them over, and Niger Innis has become one of Dog's foremost defenders, insisting that Dog is not a racist, that his remarks were taken out of context, and noting that few of us would look good if our private, family conversations were made public.
All this is good, but some things ring less true. One of his forays into black culture included visiting Mount Vernon and learning about the conditions faced by slaves in early America. Appalled that Washington's slaves were buried in unmarked graves, he has made arrangements to be buried alongside these unknowns in an unmarked grave to show his solidarity with their suffering. Such actions, while perhaps well intentioned, are ultimately ignorant and perhaps offensive (at worst he could be accused here of desecrating a grave site). In the bluntest terms: Dog means well, but he's clumsy and dumb.
The worst is that Dog has insisted that he had no idea how offensive the "N-word" was to African Americans, but the whole point of his taped conversation with his son was that he knew exactly the effect his language would have. He knew that things he said--especially his use of the N-word--would offend the viewing public. Did he make an attempt to change how he talks? Did he try to apologize to Monique, the person who was personally affected by his language and was trying to expose it? No, he attempted a cover up and threatened to fire his own son rather than change his own behavior. Only when the issue became embarrassingly public did he take steps to change.
Still, he has made attempts to change and, as Innis and others have pointed out, there is a difference between offenses committed out of anger and hate, and those committed out of ignorance. The latter at least, can usually be fixed by education.
Does all this show a real change of heart? Or is it all 'spin'--an attempt to stay in the good graces of a public whose attention keeps his career alive. Only time will tell if Dog has been truly "educated" or if it's all just an attempt to keep up appearances. And, as Dog himself would be quick to point out, only God really knows his heart.
Perhaps Dog should take a cue from the bible he loves so well: "By loyalty and faithfulness is iniquity atoned for..." (Prov 16:6 RSV).
Dog, be a loyal and faithful Dog--keep trying to do the right thing--it's really the only thing you can do.