There's the old "how's our breakup going?" e-mail (usually sent fewer than 24 hours after the event in question), and its sister apologia, a slightly more-thought-out unburdening that can arrive anywhere from two weeks to decades post-termination. (Once, I got a note from someone who'd had a crush on me in 7th grade, apologizing for the emotional harm he'd done at the time.)
(*UPDATED w/ LIZZIE RESPONSE BELOW*)
So there was this exchange where legal analyst Andrew Cohen wrote this — I don’t know how to describe it exactly, prostrate(?) — email to his Ex on her Wedding Day. Author Lizzie Skurnick called him out, and generally speaking the post by this young lady sums up my feelings on it with regards to journalists getting to use the internet as their little playpen. Privilege persists because it pops up in otherwise innocuous situations that you ignore, or move on from and soon forget. But there’s over 6000 Facebook “Likes” on those couple posts, plus the pickup by Jezebel, and subsequent rippling out because of the status of the media outlets and Live Journalists involved. Any Old Hag knows “Likes” are internet currency nowadays. This particular type of currency is not available to all.
But I have a more specific point regarding word choice in relation to this. When I first read the exchange I wasn’t able to copy the URL, and I recalled the article by remembering the word “apologia” in Lizzie’s piece. In Googling “Skurnick apologia” I’ve come to discover that Lizzie’s favorite word after “Skurnick” might very well be “apologia”. Ha! but no, really! Going back to 2004 in the NYTimes, to more recently The Daily Beast, and Jezebel …I’d link more, but WTF, and I think I’d feel sheepish and apologia about it.
Also, the results of the “apologia” search were incidental to the point. I like words. Learning new ones. Being reminded of old school ones. I now quite enjoy asking retailers about the latest “pantaloons” to come out, for example. What struck me about this was that the word felt schticky to me. It’s not a word most would use in casual conversation. And again, this is not about my personal preference; I love the schticky Live Journal schtick, especially when done by professionals. But it occurred to me that if I wrote a piece and said “Yo yo yo” or “Waddup, son” … this would come off as schtick. Most media outlets, blogs or otherwise, would edit it out, or ask me to rephrase. And perhaps rightfully so, as it would be distracting. But a word like “apologia” seems to me like Caucasian schtick. If I write “Waddup” and someone reads and asks in their head, “does he mean hello?” Similarly you can write “apologia” and someone reads and asks, “does she mean apology or apologize?”
And that makes this exchange a sort of double-decker example of how the dissonance of privilege is subtly reinforced. Editors and media outlets validate a certain kind of schtick over others. Adding a “son” to my phrasing is very natural for me, and others of my college-educated multicultural background. Nary a day goes by without one of my homies telling me, “Slow down with the apologias, son.” But yet, to tell my story I’d have to tailor my language, and that’s presuming they’d even let me broadcast my love letter to that one night stand on the day after her last one night stand. Word.
UPDATE: Lizzie says,
Honey though — I am black! Half-black, at least! And my black mother was Professor of English at City College, and I was English major at Yale! We can say “apologia” too! (You are right to call me out for using the same words over and over, however. Don’t check me on “apoplectic” and “obviate” and “preclude” and “allegedly”, please.)
aww, sookie sookie now Salutations, Miss Skurnick! Your riposte has been duly recorded!
No, but forrealtho, this is a hazard with the blurring lines of the media institutions and the individual writers. It’s good we can parse out that Lizzie would be wrongfully filed under the rubric of so-called “White Privilege”, but the individual finger-wagging is never the point. Per the educational background defense, I too could be guilty of contributing to the problem (to say nothing of my balls). I don’t think I’m wrong here though— “apologia” would likely not be edited, “yo’s” would; both are schticky — it’s just the problem is more nuanced. But we knew that already. I mean, the broad-yet-nebulous institution of privilege exists, i think most agree, but yet this example of a subtle reinforcement of that Bigger Badder thing would otherwise go without comment. And by all accounts it barely deserves comment. But I think it’s sort of like little drops in the bucket adding up to a Big Wave that drowns us all. And so the point is we’re all a little bit complicit, but I think the only way to make progress is to do the menial task of fighting the wave by removing one drop at a time. I plan to post an update on The People’s victory over Privilege ETA 3012.
(I might reblog this as an update, fair warning)