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This Is Not How To Apologise For A Racist Tweet

Rosanne Munn has given her first interview since being fired from Roseanne by the ABC television network. Speaking on friend Rabbi Shmuley's podcast, she addressed the tweet that caused wide offence and swiftly prompted her removal from the TV show. Although the conversation was emotional and she profusely claimed remorse and misunderstanding, Roseanne's reasoning of her actions was, at points, problematic, which makes it even harder to accept any of it as an appropriate apology.

Last month the actress was embroiled in social media controversy when she sent a tweet comparing Valerie Jarrett, a woman of colour and one of Barack Obama's senior advisers, to a character from Planet of the Apes. It was quickly branded as racist and the repercussions came in quick and fast.

As well as having her the show cancelled (a ten-episode revival had been ordered before Roseanne's tweet) by ABC, who's president Channing Dungey described Roseanne's tweet as 'abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values', her tweet was publicly condemned by her former cast mates too.

Actress Emma Kenney tweeted: 'I am hurt, embarrassed, and disappointed. The racist and distasteful comments from Roseanne are inexcusable'. Co-star Michael Fishman issued his own statement in which he expressed that his character 'was designed to represent the inclusive nature of [his] views. To represent portions of society often marginalised.'

'We must stand-up against; bias, hatred, bigotry and ignorance to make society a better place for all.', he added. His tweet prompted a reaction from Roseanne, to which she replied accusing him of throwing her under the bus and when colleague Sara Gilbert tweeted her disappointment , Roseanne responded in disbelief.

Roseanne's social media behaviour in the aftermath of all the backlash received didn't go down too well. Many commended ABC for acting so swiftly and decisively on such a pertinent issue while on the other side of the dispute, Rosanne tweeted to apologise for her 'bad joke about [Valerie Jarrett's] politics and her looks' before claiming she was on sedatives at the time of tweeting. That excuse didn't go down well either.

Her first interview post-cancellation was an opportunity to set right the mishandling of the situation as well as the initial tweet itself, however listeners weren't encouraged by the focus on her 'loss' rather than the impact and ignorance surrounding what Roseanne had said.

Roseanne quickly became upset discussing what had happened. 'First of all I didn't mean what they think I meant, but thats what's so painful. I have to face that', she explained. 'When you hurt people there's no excuse. Now they're changing the words of what I said is so painful'.

'I horribly regret it. I’ve lost everything', Roseanne also added. 'And I regretted it before I lost everything and I said to God, "I am willing to accept whatever consequences this brings, because I know I’ve done wrong. I’m willing to accept what the consequences are." And I do. And I have.'

It's hard not to feel that Roseanne's concern for her reputation undermines the couple of times she directly apologised for what was said and who she hurt in this interview, regardless of the lack of intention on her part. The issue is that Roseanne made an ignorant and racially offensive comment, but the too familiar non-defence of 'I have a black friend so I can't possibly be a racist' we've all heard over the years doesn't wash anymore, and that's the direction that Roseanne seemed to head.

'I definitely feel remorse', she told Rabbi Shmuley. 'I have black children in my family, I can’t...I can’t let ’em say these things about that, after 30 years of my putting my family and my health and my livelihood at risk to stand up for people.'

Roseanne went on: 'I’m a lot of things. I’m a loudmouth and all that stuff, but I’m not stupid, for god’s sake. And I never would have wittingly called any black person…say they are a monkey. I never would do that! And I didn’t do that. And if people think that I did that it just kills me. I didn’t do that, although they think I did.'

Later in the podcast Roseanne claimed that she wasn't aware of Valerie Jarret's ethnicity which, again, doesn't lend itself to reassured progression away from her Twitter mistake. 'I thought she was white, I did not know she was a black woman', she said. Roseanne explained that she had told ABC this when they called to ask her why, with an existing history of controversial tweets, she had said such a thing.

Though Roseanne seems to be filled with remorse for the misguided tweet and here acknowledged that assuming Valerie was white is another 'form of racism in itself' - or rather the type of ignorance that feeds colourism and our culture of systematic racism - it still leaves a bitter aftertaste in trying to forgive someone who professes to 'know better' to have not behaved as such.

'I know the history of the world and racism and how it affects people and I am not ignorant. But I'm stupid sometimes', she explained. 'I understand a lot about racism, I've always worked with black women and worked on my racism and their anti-semitism, I've worked on it since the 60s.' No, waving the black-ally flag does not eradicate a racially insensitive statement. Nevertheless, it's difficult territory to maneuver in because in trying to position herself as someone who should know better, Roseanne has sadly managed to highlight the huge issue with public ignorance when you're as high profile as she is. We've arrived at a point in society where you will be held accountable for what you say, and arguing a history of affiliation with the marginalised community you offended doesn't mend the wounds, it only distances you further from the problem at hand.

Even the most sincere apology is quickly poo-pooed when you voluntarily throw another layer of your own ignorance into the heap. Especially when much of Roseanne's distress seems to have come from a lack of willingness on the Twittersphere to accept her apology in the aftermath of the original tweet which has since been taken down. 'They don't ever stop. They don't accept my apology, or my explanation', Roseanne explained. 'I've made myself a hate magnet and as a Jew it's just horrible'.

The lasting effect of offence caused by celebrities is really coming to light. Once upon a time all it would take was a screenshot of a bland statement written out in iPhone notes and little consequence would follow. But now there's pressure to be held accountable and while companies and organisations are taking better steps to do that (Roseanne sacked by ABC, Kevin Spacey dropped from House of Cards, Spotify removing R Kelly from playlists) the right way to proceed hasn't been effectively established by the individuals screw up in the first place. And while there may not be a right way - one size definitely doesn't fit all in these cases - claiming, as someone who doesn't belong to the black community, to know the black experience too well to be called a racist is probably the wrong one.

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