05.20.2008 | | Posted at 12:00 AM
Mea Culpa Mondays was started as a weekly feature to track the most interesting media apologies. It dates back to the first, now defunct, Shepherd Express website – the original posts are lost to the internet and confined on my hard drive. So trust me when I say that this is the first time in the Mea Culpa history with two consecutive Tua Culpa Tuesdays. Now more than ever before, other people are at fault. This lession was taken to the logical extreme by Memphis Flyer editor Bruce VanWyngarden, NBC News and the president last week when each found ways to turn being accused of blame into being the victim. For no one could becoming a victim be more complicated than Bruce VanWyngarden. After a Monday television report, the entire city of Memphis took offense to columnist John Branston's use of “HNIC” to discuss the search for a new school principal. Coined by Joe Clark, the principal immortalized in Lean on Me, the unique term is the most ethnically colorful way of acronyming the “Highest [black dude] In Charge.” Like policing the school baseball bat in hand or chaining student’s to desks, HNIC was a part of Clark’s no-nonsense, lawman persona. So when the mayor referred to the need for a Joe Clark like principal, Branston figured the new recruit would enjoy Clark’s nickname. Naturally. “I apologize to those who were offended by the use of the term in John's column,” VanWyngarden wrote in an online editor’s note. “It was not intended as a racial slur but as a cultural reference to a very real and important decision facing our school board.” “Thanks primarily to a rather sensationalistic story on WREG Channel 3, John Branston's City Beat column from this week's Flyer seems to be generating some controversy,” it began. “…Whether that was an error in judgment or insensitive is open to debate.” To be fair, WREG is notorious for sensationalizing the entire NIC system of taxonomy. They even complained about the Lowest NIC.