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A writer friend of mine, Donn, who’s one of your fellow followers on this blog, is reviewing some of my posts for me (thanks, Donn!). He read my post “This One Time When I Was ‘White Fragile’,” about the time I was white fragile with this African-American co-worker of mine.

Donn had some questions for me.

So, could you get in touch with Patrick again? If you could, should you?

These are really good questions. So:

Could I get in touch with Patrick again?

Probably not. Maybe, if I had his full real name written down somewhere (maybe in the journal I kept at the time), I might be able to call up the company we both worked for and ask if they’d forward a letter to him. But who knows if they’d have a current address for him after all this time? Or I could search on LinkedIn for everyone who has that company name in their work history. But LinkedIn limits how many results you can see if you don’t have a Premium account (and I don’t), and I wouldn’t be able to see everyone’s photos.

Do you have any ideas about how I could try to get in touch with him? The other co-worker I talk about in the article, Megan, doesn’t remember that conversation, and she didn’t know Patrick.

If I could get in touch with Patrick again, should I?

Yes.

I believe an apology is never too late to offer, as long as you apologize sincerely, without attachment, and without trying to justify yourself. Patrick might not care, hell he might not even remember me or the conversation. But I could say something like this:

When we were both at [company], we had a conversation in the elevator one day about whether black people and white people have accents. You called me up at the end of that day and told me that some people might be offended at what I said. I reacted very badly. I ripped into you, was excessively defensive, did most of the talking, didn’t care about your perspective on what I’d said. I avoided you after that.
This is probably 15 years too late, but I behaved badly towards you, and I’m sorry.

That’s all I’d say. And I’d send it to him and let it go, not expecting that he’d forgive me or even reply. If he did reply, I’d listen/read whatever he wanted to say, and thank him.

I do think it’s never too late to offer an apology. I once offered an apology to someone 10 years after I was unkind to him, and it wasn’t too late. If I’d ever wronged someone to the point that they lost money, or their reputation, or their livelihood, or something else serious, in that case I’d feel like I should make reparations somehow. But while I’m sure I offended Patrick, I don’t think I affected him materially.

I’m curious what you think. Is it ever too late to offer an apology? Do you think I’d do more harm than good if I apologized?


PS You should look at Donn’s blog, The Freedom Project, about his and his wife’s quest to retire their debt, quit their jobs, and sail the world.

Photo credit: © 2013 Marina Caprara, CC BY 2.0.

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