How to Do A Good Apology

Wisdom from Mia Mingus

Hello everyone! Today, wisdom from Mia Mingus about what an apology could/should/can look like. It’s pretty breathtaking, IMO.

Hope you are staying safe, angry, loving, soft, tough, wild, giving, motivated, etc. Please please make sure to wear a mask and remember that, though many places have decided to pretend we can simply will the virus away, we are in fact still in the middle of a pandemic. Act accordingly. Act like your disabled friends are watching, because they are.

First up, bunch of tweets—please click through and read, some are threads. If you’re looking to places to give money, your local bail fund is still great, as is The Okra Project, Decrim NY, formerly incarcerated small business fund. To name but a few!

Twitter avatar for @MPHProjectMidwest People's History @MPHProject
#RayshardBrooks’s girlfriend Natalie White was just arrested for setting the Wendy’s on fire. She now faces up to 20 yrs in prison. The ATL Solidarity Fund is accepting donations for her bail and legal defense. Donate now:
ATLsolidarity.org https://t.co/JXIX3O7fUF

Randy Travis @RandyTravisFox5

Suspected Wendy's arsonist Natalie White arrested less than an hour ago. Members of @GwinnettSO fugitive unit found her. @USMarshalsHQ took her into custody. Fire happened after #RayshardBrooks was shot by #AtlantaPolice @FOX5Atlanta https://t.co/dKtOf1XUJG
ID: a page from “awards for good boys” with a VERY good and cool orange background. The toon is titled “good boy experiment #578” and the top good boy is saying “I have spent one month reading feminist literature.” Below, the month is dubbed a success, and two other good boys (gender neutral) say “look at this wise boy!” and “he is our scholar now.”

Speaking of feminist literature, let me please remind you my book is not that, nor is my work, really, I pretty patently hate everyone (with LOVE, I hate everyone but also believe in the fundamental worth of all humans and I will fight for those I disagree with amen)—I think this much is clear, though it clearly touches on this shit. THAT SAID, if you’re looking for an actual book to help you learn about feminism in a non-cartoon, non-shelby-centric way, let me recommend a few favorites that have been really formative (as always, please feel free to send me suggestions! I love book suggestions):

  • Feminism for the 99%

  • Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World

  • Women, Race, and Class

  • Revolting Prostitutes

What Comes After the Girlboss? By Amanda Mull

women can’t be abusive women don’t even poop !!!!
January 20, 2020

Speaking of Girlboss, please follow my personal Girlboss and the literal funniest person I know Alexis Wilson. Do not annoy her, thank you. Here are some of her good tweets. If you really want to be an ally please leverage your privilege to get the TV show “Bunheads” back on. Thank you.

There is so much talk about cancel culture, about accountability, about consequences. This is good, we should talk about these things, but also oh my god is the conversation messy. Messy and often too narrow to get into the complex reality that, yeah, people aren’t perfect. And also, these words mean different things to different people. It’s extremely clear that there is no consensus for what is consequence, what is an errant call out that probably should have been a private conversation, etc.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and yesterday was thrilled to virtually attend a seminar and hear Rachel Herzing and the 8 to Abolition organizers discuss their entrance into organizing and how they feel about this moment. (Should be on Haymarket’s Youtube channel to watch free, by the way.)

This is not applicable for every situation, of course, but Herzing said something that really struck me when talking about the need to work with people you might not agree with. She was specifically talking about how abolitionists sometimes work with reformers, that there needs to be room for people who think differently, who don’t know yet, who aren’t all the way there. Space to fail, to fuck up, to mess up. “Give each other the generosity to fail,” Herzing said. The de-emphasis on perfection is, I think, often seen as a cop-out (lol) in certain spaces. And that can be so true: the “I’m still learning!” bio never bodes particularly well, in my experience, much like how 9 out of 10 times the most vile harassment comes from people with usernames like “PositiveVibesOnly.”

But the crux of that is real, and true. How can I make room for people who don’t know, give others and myself the generosity to fail? To fuck it up, to make mistakes, to try, to try again. Crucially, that doesn’t mean “repeat harm over and over again.” These are tough conversations, around things that are not well understood, with terms that are rather haphazardly slapped in a myriad of wrong directions, usually some vaguely liberal comedian who wants you to know that he can, actually, #SayAnything and it’s these oversensitive audiences that have ruined his career.

everyone needs to log off except the pet accounts. Yeah .... let’s make it a ghost town of people pretending to be their pets
May 11, 2020

I’m going to quote a bunch from Mia Mingus below to help answer some of these questions, definitely dive in and read everything. This book on transformative justice is an awesome resource for starting to process how this looks in practice.

Related: The Aesthetics of Apology by Helen Donahue

Here are some extensive quotes from Mia, it’s all just so good and timely and beautiful. It’s also really helpful to frame that, though many of us can say what doesn’t make a good apology (hi), it’s really hard to actually name what a good one looks like. And, as you’ll hopefully read and learn below, actually saying sorry is but one part of the process.

  • How to Give a Good Apology Part 1 — Mia Mingus

    • “Here, we will focus on conflict, hurt, misunderstandings, small breaks in trust, and low-level harm. We begin with these because most of us do not know how to navigate these smaller experiences and our relationships suffer or even end because of it. We stress relationship building in transformative justice work because without strong relationships, we will not be able to respond effectively to harm, violence and abuse within our own communities. If we are not going to rely on police, prisons or the courts, then we are the ones who will have to address things such as domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, murder, stalking, child abuse and child sexual abuse.”

    • “For most of us, we have been taught to fear accountability and struggle to know how to conceive of it outside of punishment or revenge. Accountability does not have to be scary, though it will never be easy or comfortable. And it shouldn’t be comfortable. True accountability, by its very nature, should push us to grow and change, to transform. Transformation is not to be romanticized or taken lightly. Remember, true transformation requires a death and a birth, an ending and a beginning. True accountability requires vulnerability and courage, two qualities that we are not readily encouraged to practice in our society.”

    • “Accountability is generative, not punitive. If you want punishment, you should be upfront and transparent about that. Do not ask for accountability, when what you really want is punishment or revenge. Just as it takes work to be accountable, it also takes work to receive someone’s accountability.”

    • “We will all hurt people we love and care about at some point. We will all have our time on the chopping block. We want to try and reduce harm whenever we can and that is different than trying to avoid conflict or pretend away hurt.”

sweet sub
February 8, 2020

How to do the actual apology can be read about in detail here. Some key takeaways:

  • “Apologizing is a chance to practice risk, embracing the unknown, and faith. Apologizing to someone so that they will apologize to you is not apologizing—it is manipulation. Do what you need to do to get to the place where you can apologize without expecting anything in return. You cannot control anyone else, only yourself. Your apology may not be received well or the person may not want to be in relationship with you anymore.”

I am thinking of how we punish vulnerability, and how much vulnerability it takes to say you were wrong, to say you fucked up. How we squelch this across the gender binary but also so vehemently tell our boys that they must not be weak, not be wrong.

I am thinking about how in my own work, when I leave things open-ended, this too is seen as failure. As though acknowledging I could never speak for anyone but myself, that I need input, want input, am shaped by that, is somehow a deficit. My favorite review of my book noted this, with the incredible review writer stating that there is “little research other than her own [mine] opinions, at the end of the book, she ask[s] for others to weigh in to support her theories.”

197 pages.... not so many with paragraphs
August 17, 2019

But of course! Because! NO ONE KNOWS! NO ONE KNOWS ANYTHING! We are all mewling sacks of clay being formed and reformed and shaped and molded by ourselves, our whims, our loves, our needs. We are fallible. We will be wrong. We will be wrong often. To be wrong is not to “admit” or “fess up” to unknowing, it is to dive into the deep, plentiful pool of what is left to learn. It is beautiful, it is what can make us whole. I want us to make room for this journey—not in a way that excuses ignorance, but in a way that centers healing, creation, building. And what better time, as pedestals are torn down and monuments burned, as these physical hallmarks of wrongness are wrenched from the Earth. Let us create a better world. We can!