I was looking for a picture and
came across this image by some retailer.
Why are they advertising a shirt about
being unapologetically black on a white woman?
I remember when Rihanna came out with her album Unapologetic. Since then, it's been a buzzword attached to self-empowerment. What it basically means is that you don't apologize for anything you do, even if someone is offended. In many ways I completely understand and agree with this concept. For instance, I'm not going to hide my faith in Jesus because it offends someone. I'm also not going to straighten my hair to blend in or hide my "blackness." That would put me in the camp of unapologetically Christian and unapologetically Black. Where this concept of being unapologetic gets murky is when we step away from big pictures, social media, and phantom bosses to people we actually care about: friends and family.

I'm no stranger to saying things I mean and having them taken in a way I didn't mean for it to be taken. Sometimes it takes a minute to settle in, especially depending on how the person reacts. Some people won't say anything, others may confront you, and others may start crying. Now here's where this phrase and concept is doing a number on our society today. Many people who claim to be unapologetic take the stance that they said what they meant and if the other person is offended that's just too bad. That attitude makes perfect sense when you're talking to a stranger behind a computer screen, a hater who always has something negative to say to you, or a boss who thinks your natural self is unprofessional. It does not make sense when you're talking to someone you claim to care about...

Here's an example. In college I used to go shopping with my girl friends all the time, especially before big events or occasions. If outfits are tried on, opinions are asked. There have been times when someone has emerged from the dressing room and said "What do you think?" only to be disappointed when I say "I don't like it." Further, there have been times when I have followed the subsequent "why?" with an honest answer the person did not appreciate. Perhaps I said it makes them look bland or it doesn't highlight their best features or that it looks awkward. Whatever the case, from my point of view, it's an opinion that was asked for, and an indictment on the outfit not the person wearing they outfit. However, when my friend takes my comment as an indictment on her personal appearance, what kind of person would I be to respond "unapologetically"?

I have a "friend" who approaches life from the "unapologetic" side of the argument, so not only do I know the arguments for responding in such a manner, but I also know what it feels like to be the friend who is offended by what has been said. This so-called friend will be quick to say that they won't apologize because they meant what they said and they would be lying to make me feel better. However the issue isn't about meaning what you said, it's about whether or not you meant to insult the person you're speaking to. When I tell my friend that a particular outfit doesn't suit her body type and she takes offense to it, it's not because she's in love with the outfit and she wants me to retract the statement. She's offended because from her perspective I have said something negative about her body type, I'm calling her too curvy or not curvy enough for the outfit, or too tall or too short. She is adding something to the words I've said that I did not intend. What's more is even if the reason I thought the outfit didn't look right was for one of those reasons, I most certainly did not mean that her body type was bad or unacceptable, which is clearly how she took it if she is offended. Thus, my first reaction is not try to justify what I have said, but to apologize for offending the person.

"I'm sorry you were offended by what I said; I did not mean any offense by it."

This is a very simple statement. It's not apologizing for saying something you meant, it's apologizing for the miscommunication that came from what you said and for hurting someone you claim to care about in the process.

"Unapologetic" people resort to making up excuses to push the blame on to the person who is offended. Comments such as "Well, that's what I meant" or "I don't know what to tell you" show an absolute disregard for that person's feelings. To say "well I don't see it that way" is to say that your opinion is the only one in the conversation that matters. You're completely silencing the thoughts and opinions of your friends simply because you don't agree with them. What kind of friend does that?

For people who claim to be unapologetic, I can tell you that if your friend tells you they are offended and your reaction is to continue offend them, you aren't a good friend. It's not about tiptoeing around issues or "lying to make people feel better." It's about recognizing that other people have feelings, too, and that your perception is not the only perception. You don't have to say "I'm sorry I said that" because you said what you meant, but remember the whole time you're arguing with your friend about how you said what you meant the fact that you won't apologize for the offense given also means you meant to offend the person. When the above scenario plays out with my friend and she gets upset and says I called her fat, I don't have to go four rounds justifying what I said; all I have to do is say "my statement was not meant to imply you were fat, I didn't mean for you to take it that way and I don't think you're fat." Look now, that doesn't even have the words I'm sorry in it!

I'm just giving you some food for thought. Perhaps you spend a lot of time thinking about what you say, but maybe you should stop thinking about you for a second and listen to what your friend is saying to you. If you don't care that you've offended this person, is that really your friend?

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