Sunday, February 26, 2012

Stop Apologizing

Too much of our public discourse today is focused on taking offense and forcing apology, and it’s time for people to quit apologizing.

The latest public figures to beat their breast and beg forgiveness are the executives of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, which put pieces of fortune cookies into its Taste the Lin-Sanity frozen yogurt. Lin-Sanity refers to New York Knicks player Jeremy Lin, who came off the bench to become a basketball sensation. He’s a much-needed piece of good news for the often-suffering New York Knicks and a punishing pun prompt for tabloid headline writers.

That Jeremy Lin is an Asian American in the N.B.A. is part of what makes him unique. I can count the number of Asian-American Harvard graduates in the N.B.A. on one finger. Being Chinese is what made former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming an advertising commodity when he was playing in the U.S. That the fortune cookie pieces reference his being Asian isn’t an insult to Asians. He’s Chinese-American, so are fortune cookies. You can argue that it’s hokey, common and simplistic, but offensive? Maybe in Harvard Square, but not by New York standards.

And did anyone really think that the ice cream company was trying to make an ethnic insult? If there’s a corporation with more progressive bona fides than Ben & Jerry’s, I haven’t heard of it.

If they named an ice cream after me, they’d have to put chunks of Irish cheddar cheese in it; and while that would be an insult to ice cream lovers, it would not be an ethnic insult to me or Irish Americans. And even if Ben & Jerry’s came out with an Irish writers’ ice cream that played to ethnic stereotypes and was filled with whiskey swirls and Guinness-infused chocolate chips, we really shouldn’t get offended. Whiskey and beer are what we Irish are known for (even if some of us don’t drink) and the ice cream would be delicious. It would also sell out in about five minutes.

I’d like for once to see someone under attack for being offensive to refuse to apologize. Ben & Jerry’s was clearly not trying to insult Jeremy Lin, Chinese people, or even New York Knicks fans. It would be great for a tie-dye wearing hippie from Vermont to be the first to come out and say, “I don’t apologize. Fuck you if you don’t like it.” I won’t hold my breath.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said. Now tell it to Hollywood; they're the worst "offenders"...