NBC Explains The Monkey Ad They Ran Right After Gabby Douglas’ Win, But Doesn’t Apologize
by Dr Boyce Watkins, KultureKritic.com
NBC has issued an excuse and explanation for their recent ad with a monkey doing gymnastics that was shown right after a Bob Costas tribute to gold medal winner Gabby Douglas. The ad set off a firestorm of controversy, as the timing of the ad was incredibly poor and highly offensive to millions of Americans. The ad featured a “monkey with an Olympic dream” lifting himself up on still rings, with flashing cameras in the background. I don’t need to tell you about the flaws of mixing the imagery of black people and monkeys.
NBC came forth with their explanation for what happened shortly afterward:
“Gabby Douglas’ gold medal performance last night was an historic and inspiring achievement,” NBC Universal spokeswoman Liz Fischer said. “The spot promoting `Animal Practice,’ which has run three times previously, is one in a series with an Olympic theme, which have been scheduled for maximum exposure. Certainly no offense was intended.”
I refer to the statement an “explanation” and an “excuse” because it clearly was not an apology. I find it interesting that NBC would go out of their way to tell us that they didn’t intend to offend us. Did anyone think that they offended us deliberately? What the network needs to understand is that most offensive organizations are not deliberately ignorant, and even in the case where you accidentally offend or insult another party, an apology is more meaningful than simply thinking that your lack of intent lets you off the hook.
The tone of the NBC excuse is consistent with the manner by which many organizations clean up after offending the black community (there isn’t much of a penalty for offending black folks). In situations where a sincere apology seeking humility and understanding is called for, we instead get the insinuation that we are simply being too sensitive and that the lack of intent should exonerate the offender from what they’ve done. That’s like my saying “I don’t have to apologize for running you over with my car because it’s clear that I didn’t see you in the street. Therefore, you have no reason to be angry with me. ”
Perhaps NBC should consider an alternative statement that goes something like this:
“Gabby Douglas’ gold medal performance last night was an historic and inspiring achievement. It has been brought to our attention that the spot promoting `Animal Practice’ was offensive to some, who see the ad as a reminder of America’s painful racial history. To those who were offended by the ad, we sincerely apologize. Certainly no offense was intended.”
Do you see how easy that was? You see, a person who refuses to apologize for a wrong they’ve committed against another person is actually committing a second offense by turning the blame for the turmoil onto the injured party. When I say, “Oh, I wasn’t trying to offend you with the monkey ad that came on right after your African American hero,” I am effectively saying that it is your perception of the situation that is flawed, not my actions.
Let’s be clear: What NBC did was horrible and humiliating for everyone. A simple apology was all that the situation called for, not a tongue-twisting explanation for all the reasons that it wasn’t your fault. All throughout our history in this country, African Americans are consistently told that slavery wasn’t a big deal, that we get offended too easily and that racial bias is the social boogeyman only seen by those who are determined to harbor delusional conspiracy theories. But the truth is that the rest of world can clearly see (as the United Nations has cited our country for blatant human rights violations in our education, economic and criminal justice systems) that the most delusional among us are those who somehow believe that American racism is a thing of the past.
The first step toward racial healing is accountability. We’re tired of being manipulated.
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