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The Apology Kristen McQueary Should Have Written

Shorter, sorrier than the one she did.


Hurricane Katrina claimed over 1,800 lives. Kids lost parents. Grandparents lost grandchildren. Neighbors lost friends.

I knew the storm's horrific death count when I sat down at my computer on Thursday to write an op-ed piece expressing my wish that such a storm hit Chicago.

I knew the death count, but for reasons I still can't explain, I plowed ahead with my work.

Chicago, I explained, needed to be hit by "an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury," because unless it experienced the "chaos," "tragedy" and "heartbreak" of its own Katrina, the city was not likely to "hit the reset button" necessary to get its financial house in order.

And that's why, on August 13, 2015, I found "myself praying for a real storm."

Today, however, I'm praying only for forgiveness. My words hurt a lot of people, most of whom I'll never meet, and many of whom witnessed unimaginable events during the 2005 hurricane.

My Katrina column was a bad idea, poorly executed by me, an upper-income, white Chicagoan, who - in this case anyway - was remarkably tone-deaf to the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people.

Reaction to my column was swift and overwhelmingly negative, and after poring over hundreds of tweets and at least a dozen articles that ran in newspapers from Washington D.C. to New Orleans, I understand why my words angered so many readers.

Chicago has a lot of problems, but I know now that I wouldn't wish a storm like Hurricane Katrina on anyone.

I'm sorry for the pain I caused.


See also: The [Friday] Papers: Hurricane McQueary.


Comments welcome.


1. From Peter Hylton:

Your version is vastly better than hers, of course (not least in acknowledging, on her behalf as it were, that she speaks or spoke from the point of view of an affluent white person).

Your last sentence ('I'm sorry for the pain I caused.'), however, is just the sort of thing that is characteristic of the kind of nopology you are attacking. One needs to apologize for the wrong one has done, not for the pain it has caused. Otherwise one too easily slips into thinking that the pain arises from over-sensitivity and is not really (certainly not entirely) one's own fault.


Posted on August 14, 2015

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