“Recognizing your personal power and your undeniable impact on others is the first step to acting in alignment.”
– Celia Sagastume of Astrosagas
Here is one possibility.
An open letter of apology to Ijeoma Ukenta from Abigail Elphick:
Dear Ms. Ukenta,
I am writing to you to take responsibility for my behavior in Victoria Secret in Short Hills Mall in Millburn, New Jersey and to take whatever action necessary to be accountable for the harm I have caused.
Let me begin by saying I am sorry. I am not saying this because my behavior was captured on video and went viral, although I do admit the publicity is at the same time a painful motivator for change. I am sorry because of the harm I have caused to you and others, harm that I am only beginning to take in and understand.
What I did was act aggressively toward you. I threatened you physically. My action was unprovoked by you (and even had I been provoked, I still am responsible for my own behavior). When you called attention to my aggression and threatening behavior, instead of stopping, or apologizing or leaving the store immediately, I said you were lying. I accused you of threatening me. I feigned a mental breakdown. I called on others in the store to support me in controlling you. I screamed at you. I came after you again, threatening your physical safety. And then I called the cops, lying to them, accusing you of the very behavior I was engaging in.
I could say that I didn’t mean to do all this, that I didn’t understand the impact of my actions and words. But at every point I was making decisions. I made a decision to come after you. I made a decision to cry. To fall on the floor. To accuse you of lying. To call the cops. To put you in harm’s way.
I cannot say that I fully understand the ways my decisions that day and the aftermath has impacted and will continue to impact you. Yet I can only imagine that you were terrified, humiliated, enraged, and deeply hurt. I can imagine that my behavior has traumatized you and countless other Black people who are not surprised by what I did, but exhausted and demoralized by it. I understand that my behavior is part of an ongoing and dangerous pattern in which white women’s emotional fragility has, over hundreds of years, caused injury, imprisonment, torture and death to Black people.
There is no way to undo the harm I have caused you and others. I do not expect your engagement, but will remain open to hearing from you at any point in the future if you have something you’d like to say to me, or a specific way I can repair the damage I’ve created.
I am working on plans to better understand why and how I was able to disregard your humanity and threaten you as I did. I am looking for avenues to engage in conversation and reflection with other white women over the patterns of white women’s racism. I expect that these plans will evolve over time. My ultimate goal is to work toward a society where you and your loved ones feel safe. I do not expect you to believe me, but I am hoping that my own consistent and effective action over time will communicate my sincerity.
I do not expect your forgiveness, and I will not ask for it, but I will work to earn it.