Jeff Gates, the father, photographer and writer whose essay in the Washington Post prompted my post here and a lively discussion thereafter, has been kind enough to contribute additional thoughts and clarifications in response. This is one of the really good things about the internet, and his willingness to enhance the discussion with additional perspective reveals good things about Jeff as well. His original article is here.
At the outset, I want to clarify something about my post that I kept intending to do but obviously did not, at least not well. The fact that the man who was suspicious of his photo-session with his daughter said later that he worked for Homeland Security didn’t figure into my analysis at all, and still doesn’t. I am concerned with the original encounter, and the question of whether this was excessive Big Brotherism clouds the issue, which I see, and saw as this: we should applaud and encourage proactive fellow citizens who have the courage and the concern to step into developing situation that they believe might involve one individual harming another. As the man needed no special authority to do that, I don’t care whether he was a federal agent or not; I thought it was pretty clear that this was not official action. Indeed, I think as official action, the man’s intervention was ham-handed and unprofessional.
Here is Jeff Gates’ Comment of the Day, on the post, “Roshomon, Good Citizenship And Ethics: The Case Of The Concerned Stranger And The Indignant Father.” Continue reading
“O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!”
—Robert Burns Jeff Gates, a writer and adoptive father, contributed a thought-provoking column in the Washington Post’s Outlook section this weekend, describing what seemed to him to be a traumatic experience at Cape May. It begins…
“After my family arrives on the Cape May ferry for our annual vacation to the Jersey Shore, I take pictures of our two daughters on the ferry’s deck as we leave the harbor. I’ve been doing this since they were 3 and 4 years old. They are now 16 and 17. Each photo chronicles one year in the life of our family and our daughters’ growth into the beautiful young women they have become….On that first day of vacation, the sea was calm and the sky a brilliant blue. As I focused on the image in my camera’s viewfinder, the girls stood in their usual spot against the railing at the back of the boat. I was looking for just the right pose…Totally engaged with the scene in front of me, I jumped when a man came up beside me and said to my daughters: “I would be remiss if I didn’t ask if you were okay.”
He goes on:
“It took me a moment to figure out what he meant, but then it hit me: He thought I might be exploiting the girls, taking questionable photos for one of those “Exotic Beauties Want to Meet You!” Web sites or something just as unseemly. When I explained to my daughters what he was talking about, they were understandably confused. I told the man I was their father. He quickly apologized and turned away. But that perfect moment was ruined, and our annual photo shoot was over.”
Many of us might laugh off the experience as a funny anecdote, but not Gates, and not his daughters. He is Caucasian and they are both of Chinese heritage, having been adopted as infants in China by Gates and his wife. He obsessed about the incident for a while, and worked up sufficient indignation to track down the man and confront him, saying “Excuse me, sir, but you just embarrassed me in front of my children and strangers. And what you said was racist.” Continue reading
Melissa finally realized that this photo isn’t funny.
I posted earlier about the sub-par apologies offered by the infamous MSNBC Three, who decided to indulge their hate for Mitt Romney and Republicans by ridiculing the fact that Romney’s family now includes an adopted African American infant. Either Melissa Harris-Perry got a Martin Bashir memo, or she sincerely decided that she had not adequately communicated regret for the ethically indefensible segment. What she delivered, on the air this time rather than through Twitter, arguable qualifies as a Level #1 apology [“An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.”]:
“Without reservation or qualification, I apologize to the Romney family. Adults who enter into public life implicitly consent to having less privacy. But their families, and especially their children, should not be treated callously or thoughtlessly. My intention was not malicious, but I broke the ground-rule that families are off-limits. And for that I am sorry. Also, allow me to apologize to other families formed through trans-racial adoption, because I am deeply sorry that we suggested that interracial families are in any way funny or deserving of ridicule. On this program, we are dedicated to advocating for a wide diversity of families. It is one of our core principles. And I am reminded that when we are doing so, it must always be with the utmost respect. We’re genuinely appreciative of everyone who offered serious criticisms of last Sunday’s program, and I am reminded that our fiercest critics can sometimes be our best teachers.”
Harris-Perry deserves special credit for the last sentence. She didn’t have to say that, and it is an excellent point for her to make, especially on her network, where some critics have been told that someone needs to shit in their mouths. Continue reading
Several readers have asked for the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale scores for the three MSNBC creeps who decided to use a loving, non-political family photo featuring Mitt Romney’s newly adopted grandchild as an opportunity to sneer at the family, Mitt and the GOP, and engage in some unprovoked race-baiting. It was such an ugly display that decent human beings a) would never have engaged in it at all and b) wouldn’t have required a wave of criticism to wash over them to realize apologies were in order, but they did. Why? Because they are hateful people, unsavory and loathsome. As such, I really had decided that mucking around in MSNBC swill wasn’t worth a second post, but since you asked, here are the scores. The best apologies are in category #1…no danger of that with this sorry trio.
Apology 1: Dean Obeidallah Continue reading
“On Sunday’s Melissa Harris-Perry (MSMBC) show, the eponymous host led a panel of entertainers in a rundown of the “photos of the year,” which somehow included a Romney family picture that “a lot of people had emotions about,” according to MHP….“Everybody loves a baby picture,” Harris-Perry said, “and this was one that really, a lot of people had emotions about this baby picture this year. This is the Romney family. And, of course, there on Governor Romney’s knee is his adopted grandson, who is an African-American, adopted African-American child, Kieran Romney.” As Harris-Perry made the introduction, panelist Pia Glenn sang “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same,” a tune whose original lyrics read “one of these things doesn’t belong.” “And that little baby, front and center, would be the one,” she added. …Comedian Dean Obeidallah chimed in by reducing the baby to a token. “I think this picture is great,” he said. “It really sums up the diversity of the Republican party, the RNC. At the convention, they find the one black person.”
Then the host, without missing a beat and without sensing any irony, said that the next segment would be devoted to answering the question, “Hey..is that racist?” Continue reading