Dear Paula: instead of begging for forgiveness, instead of awkward mea culpa interviews, instead of trying to explain how your great grandfather’s ownership of slaves somehow has relevance in 2013, here’s some free advice on dealing with your problem: disappear.
Vanish. Just go away. Come back in about a year. Within a week or so, the unceasing torrent of news will quickly overwhelm anyone’s continuing interest in your racism, whether it is intentional or otherwise. In the meantime, tell your business partners that you will save them embarrassment by voluntarily suspending your endorsement deals. This makes you look gracious and less like a toxic landfill that nobody wants to get near. Take the year to think up some credible responses to your predicament–not just the teary cornpone appeals to Southern tradition you’ve relied upon thus far. Spend your time talking to people who really understand racism and can help you develop a sincere response.
In a year you can re-emerge in an environment that is far less charged than what you find yourself in now. You can talk about what you’ve learned. You can talk about your personal and business efforts to address the racist attitudes that persist in this country.
Of course, this only makes sense if you really want to change. Right now, it’s sort of hard to tell.