Sorry Not Sorry: Why People of Colour Have Apology Fatigue

By Roshni Goyate

On 17th July 2019, Campaign magazine, a global advertising industry publication, placed Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party as the cover feature. Yes. That’s right. On the cover. 

Campaign’s immediate response to the overwhelmingly negative reaction was an apology that, at best, showed their genuine illiteracy on subjects such as allyship and inclusion, and at worst exposed the decision as sensationalist, opportunistic and dangerously sinister. 

Having written for and been featured in the magazine, as well as named on their lists, we feel urged to take a stand on why this kind of half-apology is unacceptable. 

1. It naively places emphasis on intention, rather than impact 

Any apology that begins with ‘it was our intention to…’ is a red flag for us at The Other Box. No matter how well-meaning the intention (which, by the way, Campaign says was ‘to address how the Brexit Party has emerged as a brand within an increasingly divided political and social landscape’...) they completely failed to show a nuanced understanding of what the impact was. Which leads me to the next point… 

2. It ignores the racial violence of Farage’s politics

He literally stood in front of a poster of migrants to incite racial hatred during the Brexit campaign. While the team at Campaign may be blissfully unaware of the everyday racial violence and abuse people of colour in Britain have to suffer as a direct result of Farage’s Brexit campaign, we, as a company founded by women of colour, are not. 

So for Campaign to say their team ‘does not tolerate racism, sexism or bigotry of any kind’ is simply not enough to reverse the impact of featuring a bigot on the front page. We want to know what you’re actively doing to counter it. 

3. It undermines Campaign’s own work on diversity and inclusion

At this stage, a statement like ‘Campaign’s agenda is focused on supporting diversity and inclusivity’ comes across as desperately insincere. As an industry, advertising and marketing is still notably unsafe for people who don’t happen to be white, straight men. We hear it first-hand almost every day from our 3000-strong community of creatives who identify as having been ‘othered’. We need to see an industry publication like this clearly and consistently showing up as allies for those of us dealing with marginalisation every day. 

We fully accept that we’re all on our own paths of practising true diversity and inclusion. As such, that 350-word platitude-ridden apology needed to be just 9 words. ‘We’re very sorry. We have a lot to learn’. Because we all do. Every day. As Maya Angelou said: ‘When you know better, you do better’. Campaign have shown us they have a lot to learn in order to do better.