Opinion: The arrogance of an afterthought


"When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." Maya Angelou

Growing up, one of the things that used to get me in the most trouble was changing my story to try to get out of trouble. I remember many vivid occasions where I tried to talk myself out of getting spankings by trying to convince my parents that what I had done to warrant the punishment was really not my intention or was me just playing, but it didn't work, nor did it stop the punishment. In fact, many times the resulting punishment was worse, and I remember Momma saying, "You should have thought about that before you did it!" In other words, she was not accepting my apology as an afterthought. In Mom's mind, if I would have just thought about it before I said or did it and really did not want to do it, thinking would have led me not to do it in the first place. Her calling it an "afterthought" suggested that she felt that the only reason I was recanting my statement was that I realized that my thinking or action got me in trouble, not necessarily because I believed it was wrong. Momma knew that it wasn't that my rationale was righteous; I just didn't like the results, so I recanted.

We have seen a lot of recanting going on lately. Corporations and businesses have been recanting their statements and beliefs, and it causes me to wonder. On June 3, 2020, New Orleans Saints' quarterback took a stance reiterating his disgust with those who disrespect the flag by kneeling during the National Anthem. The next day, June 4, 2020, he issued a public apology, stating his comments "completely missed the mark." On June 10, 2020, Starbucks banned employees from wearing anything that reflected the Black Lives Matter Movement, but two days later, on June 12, 2020, it recanted, apologizing for its "hasty" decision. On June 12, 2020, white televangelist and Pentecostal pastor Ron Parsley made comments relating to the need to honor the forefathers of this nation who were "flawed" and owned slaves but released them (untrue) and racism being America's "birth defect," and on Monday, June 15, Ron Parsley wrote an apology recanting his statements and admitting, "As a white man from the hills of eastern Kentucky, I can't possibly identify with the plight of people of color in our country ... So let me be unequivocally clear: Slavery was and slavery is a blight on our nation and the world." Then there was megachurch pastor Louie Giglio, who talked about slavery being a blessing for white people and for the building up of the nation. He has translated white privilege to white blessing. But then a few days later, he released a teary-eyed statement of apology. So once again, after the fact, corrected statements are made as an afterthought. Recants are made as an afterthought.

There is an arrogance associated with those who believe that they can say what they want and do what they want, and then when it doesn't yield the results or response they want, they apologize as an afterthought. As Christians, we are taught to forgive, and we are taught in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This statement alludes to the fact that there is a confession of sin, a confession of missing of the mark, of a mistake made to Christ because of Conviction by Christ. The question then becomes, are these afterthought apologies made as confessions because of conviction and confessions because of Christ, or are they confessions because of convenience and confessions to prevent commercial loss?

The alternative to an afterthought is a forethought. A forethought suggests before a decision is made there is some thought given to it, scenarios run, and the heart of an organization and person is searched. Because the work wasn't done on the front end, we now get to see the contamination in the hearts of organizations and people, that they then attempt to cover with an apology.

I am glad statues are coming down, names are being changed, laws are being passed, but I also realize that they are only happening as a result of protests, demonstrations, stances made. This suggests these issues were not important to the lawmakers before the noise and alarm of protesters was sounded. This could translate to the idea that we were not important, our causes were not important to them until we let them know that they were important to us.

The harsh reality is that you do not have to ever have lived in our shoes, grown up in our neighborhoods or been born with our skin color to understand what we are asking and to empathize with our plight. What should be reflected as a forethought before ever having to be corrected as an afterthought are simple statements. Do I clutch my purse when I see me, then why do I do it when I see them? Do I ever panic when I am pulled over for fear of death, then why should they fear? Do I feel I have the right to access and achieve all my dreams, then why don't they have that right to access and achievement? If proactive time was taken in forethought, there would never be the need for an afterthought apology. An afterthought suggests that I wasn't worth thinking about, wasn't valued enough to be considered realtime, so arrogantly it is believed it can be fixed in the edits or fixed with an aftermarket apology.

The biggest key to this is basically a love demonstration! Those who are loved and cherished are forethoughts, planned for, prepared for, invested in, but those who are not loved, not the main love are afterthoughts and are tolerated or adjusted for because they weren't planned for in the first place. The true arrogance of this is that it is expected that the afterthought apology or action is supposed to be accepted, because "at least it was offered." Well in the words of Ntozake Shange in the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, "one thing I don't need is any more apologies, I got sorry greetin me at my front door, you can keep yours." Or in the words of Bullet for My Valentine from the song "Worthless" - "You can't keep all your apologies, Those words are worthless to me, And I don't want to hear that you are sorry, Your words mean nothing to me." We are tired of experiencing arrogant afterthoughts; we would like Christ-led confessions of change because of conviction.

Napoleon A. Bradford, D.Min., is the lead shepherd of The L.I.F.E. Center: A Cyber Community of CHRIST Followers.