Voices: Influencers like Elle Darby take note – when it comes to racist tweets, sorry isn’t enough

Barely a week into 2022, and yet another influencer is embroiled in a scandal thanks to problematic tweets from a decade ago. Lifestyle and fitness blogger Elle Darby, who has amassed over 785,000 followers on Instagram, is facing plenty of backlash after racist, homophobic and fatphobic tweets she’d posted back in 2011 were discovered.

Tweets of a similar vein from her fiancé Connor Swift were also dug out, much to the displeasure of their large fanbase. The posts saw Darby tweet the likes of “I just hate Polish people and Indians really” and Swift’s use of racial slurs, which have naturally stirred a lot of outrage online.

In true influencer fashion, Darby posted an apology video on her YouTube channel, where she has over 580,000 subscribers. During the three minute video, she expressed how she was “ashamed” by her actions and how her tweets are “so far from the person I am today”.

If you’re wondering why those words sound familiar, it’s because it’s the tried and tested apology that has become an influencer go-to for when things get a bit bad. While I totally believe in taking accountability for your actions, apologies like this just don’t cut it anymore. For me, these apologies seem to lack sincerity and almost seem like a task that needs to be ticked off the “influencer apology tour” checklist.

As many influencers do when caught in such predicaments, Darby will now be taking a leave of absence from social media while she reflects on her actions.

Now, I can’t comment on what kind of reflection may occur, but what I am almost certain of is that her path to redemption will look like many other influencers before her who have also faced backlash due to problematic tweets.

Darby’s already completed step one, which is to make a swift apology, usually in the form of a post on Instagram stories, but often tends to make the situation worse. She then proceeded to step two, where she posted a more formal apology video on her YouTube channel.

She’ll then take some time away, come offline after promising to learn and reflect from her mistakes. The final step will involve her return to social media, with a reflective post, maybe even a rebrand, and then it’ll be back to business as usual.

And just in case you were wondering, her brand deals won’t be impacted in the long run. How are you so sure, I hear you ask? Well, all you have to do is look at the blueprint that has been set out before her for influencers and celebrities alike when it comes to situations like this. Yes, some face repercussions in the short term, but for the most part, all goes back to normal.

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It’s not that I want the likes of Darby to get cancelled and for their careers to be destroyed by past actions, it’s more that I want people to truly understand the impact of their words and know that they have a lasting effect.

I’ve never been of the belief that making racist, homophobic or fatphobic comments were ever just a part of growing up and “something we all did” at some point, as some like to suggest. Nor am I of the belief that just because these comments were made 10 years ago, it somehow justifies them.

People who call such actions a mere mistake and blame age and life inexperience fail to realise that it’s more the mindset than a few words that bother the rest of us. When the tweets targeting marginalised communities are so incessant, it’s hard to ignore.

For those of us who are usually on the receiving end of such problematic tweets, we know all too well how this will play out. Ultimately, Elle is a white woman in an industry that mostly elevates women who look like her. While her following has reportedly plummeted by almost 100,000, in the long run, she will most likely come out from all this pretty unscathed. Her privilege remains intact.

I do hope that Darby truly uses her time away offline to do the reflection she has promised to do. But to anyone who thinks we should move on because she’s apologised, well, sometimes sorry isn’t good enough.


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