The Problematics of Disingenuous Public Apologies

In Uncategorized by Adrienne K.3 Comments

In the weeks since I wrote my Native Harvey Weinsteins post, I’ve been learning hard lessons about Indian Country and men I thought I trusted and knew. My inbox has been filled with stories upon stories of men I have shared space with, men I have promoted on my social media and in my talks, men I have held up as shining examples as the good ones. I mourned hero after hero. I unfollowed and blocked men I called friends. I offered words of support and healing to women I don’t know, as I tried to process what I was learning. I know I let some people down who felt I could do more, but I was struggling to keep up with the flow of emails and support the women–and myself–who were having to relive moments they tried to tuck away forever. I also watched men I specifically mentioned, and others who we all know about, make broad general apologies on their Facebook pages, or share the post and without realizing it was literally about them. I watched as one in particular continues to be praised and profiled and held up as an indigenous feminist role model, which has only increased in the last few weeks. Only four Native men I know reached out to me directly to check in after the post. There is still so much work to do, and I’m not done fighting.

Not all learning is easy. I have always adopted a philosophy on the blog of “consenting to learn in public”–being willing to own up to my missteps and learning, allowing others to see that vulnerability and hopefully be willing to change and grow themselves. In the days after my post, I put up an open letter/public apology to Native women by a friend, someone I cared about and have given a platform several times on this blog. I was recently approached by a woman who came to me with the support of several other women who have witnessed and experienced problematic behavior from Kyle. They have seen that recent behavior has not changed since the public apology, and felt that the continued presence of the post was allowing the behavior to continue. As soon as I was contacted, I immediately deleted the post, but they and I felt it needed to be addressed more comprehensively.

So I’m deeply embarrassed, I’m hurt, I feel used, and I feel awful thinking that I allowed my blog and my platform to be manipulated in a way that continued to harm women. For my role in that, I’m truly sorry. This is extremely hard for me to write, and I’m typing with shaking hands and feeling sick. This is personal, and painful. I’m so appreciative that these women reached out to me, and their note to me confirmed some hard truths I myself was grappling with. While I’m trying not to blame myself, I do take responsibility for not being more critical in my reading of the initial guest post, and for leaving it up even after my own recent experiences led me to question its authenticity.

In what follows, you’ll find a response written by a community of women who asked to remain anonymous. Below that, you’ll find the original post.

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The Problematics of Disingenuous Public Apologies

Public apologies are a colonial tactic often intended to silence a community without genuine intentions for actionable follow-through. Whatever rhetoric a person can spin, there are warning signs to be aware of when a person seeks to dominate a conversation for their own
benefit.

Look for:

  • Public apologies rather than direct apologies to the people hurt.
  • Blanket statements which seek to diminish personal responsibility.
  • Generalizations which create confusion between reality and fiction.
  • Speaking on behalf of an entire community or group.
  • Excusing actions by putting the blame on society rather than taking personal
    responsibility.
  • Continuing to reinforce a particular discourse while denouncing that discourse (e.g. in
    the case of toxic masculinity, continuing to refer to intimacy as “fucking”).
  • Not recognizing the role of power dynamics (e.g. assuming that students are acting
    consensually when they are, in fact, not in an equal position).
  • Shrugging off serious issues (e.g. referring to a person being suicidal with no follow-up
    about how they are now).

Instead:

  • Praise the people who have endured despite the poor choices of another person.
  • Relieve yourself by not blaming yourself for the actions of another person.
  • Continue to speak up and share experiences.
  • Be aware that toxicity can happen through texts and social media as well as at speaking
    events, conferences, and gatherings.
  • Offer meaningful support to people who have been harmed by toxic actions (e.g.
    listening, assuring, addressing suicidal thoughts, offering resources).
  • Do not allow problematic people who need to work on themselves access to community
    members, students, or colleagues.
  • Remember that Aunties talk.

Hopefully, together, we can turn the conversation away from accolades for a self-serving public apology and instead focus on praising and supporting people who continue to process the problematic choices of another person.

_______

Guest Post: Kyle T. Mays

I read my colleague and friend Adrienne Keene’s blog post titled, “The Native Harvey Weinsteins,” published on October 12, 2017, and it was the truth; the gospel truth. Over the past few days, I’ve also read the many stories based on the #MeToo hashtag going around social media. These have hit home for me and surely (I hope) other men. I sincerely apologize. While not trying to decenter particular experiences, I do want to talk with my Indigenous cis-hetero brothers. But first, let me explain what I, well, what we need to apologize for. I/we don’t deserve your forgiveness, and it’s not even something we should assume you’ll be willing to offer, given the enormous damage we have caused. Indigenous cis-hetero men, our triflin ass, patriarchal ass behavior, is stopping the revolution.

To Indigenous womyn, relatives, to anyone and all of my kin that I have personally hurt, I apologize for being an emotionless, stone-faced asshole, who acted inhumanely; I will do better. Will my Indigenous brothers join me?

I wanna apologize to all of the womyn I’ve hurt, known and unknown, for my behaviors, or more precisely MY toxic masculinity. I won’t offer any excuses. I was wrong, and I apologize. I want to apologize specifically for the emotional abuse that I’ve/we’ve caused. I/we will never truly understand the gravity of the pain we have caused. But still, I apologize. Here’s a list of the things for, all of which cis-hetero Indigenous men are complicit in, that Indigenous womyn know all too well.

  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual harassment
  • Domestic violence
  • Emotional abuse
  • Groping
  • Actively celebrating and listening to sexual conquering narratives
  • Street harassment
  • Being cold-hearted
  • Ignoring womyn’s emotions
  • Fucking/harassing/manipulating students
  • Ruining the career prospects of Indigenous womyn, trans, non-gender conforming, queer, and two-spirit folx
  • Threatening behavior towards Indigenous womyn
  • Womanizing
  • Locker room talk
  • Body shaming

I wrote this list in about 2 minutes, right off the top of my head. That means that there are numerous things I am blind to that I/we need to apologize for and to proactively stop doing. Shit, the whole list affirms a painful realization for me: that us, Indigenous men, are a major reason our communities continue to suffer. I know, some will say colonialism is the problem; notice my audience. I’m not talking to colonialism, I’m talking to you, brother. More on that below. Our behavior indicates that we don’t actually believe in decolonization, at least not how Indigenous womyn imagine it.

There are those who will say “not all men” and Indigenous womyn who speak out against this behavior are being divisive. Some will also say that we should focus on settler colonialism. Yes, settler colonialism is a problem, and we are products of it. But that is not an excuse for our continued serial abuse—the habitual line-stepping—that so many of us continue to do. Yes, all cis-hetero Indigenous men, by virtue of being in a settler patriarchal society, are implicated. We need to do better.

I apologize because of my/our womanizing, that you now have trust issues in every new relationship. You can’t trust men, our motives, and that’s our fault.

I apologize for your attempted suicide and depression because of my/our emotional abuse. We should know that our toxic behavior can cause these issues.

I apologize for not expressing my feelings. I thought for years that as long as I never told someone how I felt, then the relationship would fizzle; it never fizzled, and I only caused more damage. That sort of emotional abuse leads to conclusions about our relationship that I was not even considering or prepared to offer.

I apologize for actively listening to men describe their conquering of womyn’s bodies. That listening made me complicit in the behavior.

We commit emotional abuse all of the time. We are often emotionless, stone-faced assholes. Even if our sexual relationships are consensual, shortly after sharing an intimate moment, we ignore the person and then act like they don’t exist, which is terrible. Even before getting to this point, have a conversation with them about what we are looking or not looking for. Find closure. It doesn’t mean that feelings won’t be hurt, but at least there is clarity about where you both stand. And when we don’t do this, and the person wants clarity, we flip it and describe that person as crazy. They are not crazy; our asses are just triflin.

Indigenous Men, Here Are Things That We Need To Stop Doing
Fellas, why do we even mention the fact of having a sister or auntie or niece or daughter when offering a reason as to why we are appalled about sexual assault or harassment? That’s the same logic that wypipo use when they say they have an Indigenous friend and therefore aren’t racist. Men, when we do womyn wrong, we weren’t thinking about our sister or niece, so we need to stop bringing them up. We don’t have the right to mention the womyn in our lives when discussing our treatment of womyn. And when we get caught up, we don’t need to apologize first to our mothers and our family; apologize to the person we hurt. Our mothers did their best to raise us, and we failed them, and we actively did the opposite of what they taught us. Don’t make our mothers complicit in our toxic behaviors.

Don’t ask Indigenous womyn to educate our triflin asses about shit. If you need to be educated on a topic, come holla at me. If I need to be educated, I should be able to pull on your coat.

Here is a retort that Indigenous men often use: “we need to go back to our traditional ways.” What does that mean? Who will it benefit? Because when some Indigenous womyn hear that, they think about their abuser, who is a “traditional” person in their community. That “traditional” man caused harm to them, and was not held accountable. If our idea of “traditional” shames Indigenous womyn, it’s not a good idea. At. All, and is prolly pseudo-traditional.

Fellas, we don’t need womyn to call out, well, us. We need to do it ourselves in personal and public realms. We don’t need to gather all of the facts, sounding like a member of Forty-Five’s cabinet. We be sounding like him when he said there are “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville. We need to believe victims. And no, we should not receive nor do we deserve any praise for simply doing what’s right. We will not get a badge for becoming better people.

Normally, I don’t put limits on love and intimacy, but how we be actin, we might need to do it. Here is another thing we need to stop doing: fucking students, graduate and undergraduate. In all seriousness, this is flagrant and foul. I know, there are those who will say that they got together consensually, and therefore the power dynamics are irrelevant; maybe. I’m not rollin with that logic. There is a clear and definitive power dynamic. We have seen numerous articles over the last few years (and through the Black, Indigenous, and Latinx grapevines) about male professors harassing and sexually assaulting female students. That needs to stop. With all of the apps available to us, we should be able to find someone that will appreciate our/your old wack ass, and within your age group. We need to stop being emotionally immature. We can’t be damn near 50-years-old and still hitting on every womyn we see at a conference; that’s not a good look.

Let’s stop referring to ourselves as feminists. We don’t deserve the label. We have barely been good accomplices, perhaps slightly better than white liberals, and that slightly is debatable. Our patriarchal, ain-shit-ass bullshit continues to subjugate Indigenous womyn, and we need to admit that.

Finally, we need to be better relatives. Using colonialism, as I stated above, as a justification for why we are trash, is no longer an excuse. We can’t talk about building Indigenous futures, nationhood, or decolonization while also creating hurt among all of our relatives (I mean relative broadly, here, including those we are literally related to and those we are not), which festers and destroys an possibility for change. That shit don’t make sense.

If we are serious about decolonization, then we need to decolonize our behavior, ourselves, and imagine new ways of being Indigenous men. Being an Indigenous man is not about how many women we can fuck, but rather about how we can build a future where Indigenous womyn don’t have to fear simply living as the bad-ass people they are.

Indigenous men, how we’ve been living is wack, and the way we’ve treated Indigenous womyn, we need to mourn forever, and deal with the fact that we did our Indigenous relatives wrong, forever.

To Indigenous womyn, relatives, to anyone and all of my kin that I have personally hurt, I apologize for being an emotionless, stone-faced asshole, who acted inhumanely; I will do better. Will my Indigenous brothers join me?

 

  • Monique Mojica

    Thank you for having such courage. Sending love and light.

  • herthoughts

    I do not think, Adrienne, that you need to apologize for Kyle’s post. It brought forth lots of conversation. Perhaps because you know him, it was hard to see him clearly. I found his post too easy and disingenuous, and I let him know it. This whole #metoo movement is very complicated, as are the interactions between women and men, and I sure don’t know what long term effects it may or may not produce. The right thing to do is talk about it, which you are doing.

  • daby

    The one thing that’s clear is almost every man has crossed another person’s sexual boundaries. How we go forward with positive change is bound to be difficult, and the path is only known by walking it. Keep up the good work.
    But what worries me most is the people who believe this kind of behavior is ok have nothing to be ashamed of, and will continue doing it despite this movement.