According to Merriam-Webster; Cancel-culture, noun, is the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.
A relatively new term, popularized in the mid to late 2010s in the United States of America, to address and express offensive and harmful behavior of persons or entire organizations that without widespread social discourse would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
There are certainly polarizing views on cancel culture and its liberties. But, in my opinion, it’s largely intended at its core as an act of defiance of the people. Especially by marginalized and oppressed groups.
While others find cancel or call-out culture problematic, for black women such as myself, for ages under the constant scrutiny of the system at play, it’s another way for us to be heard, to act, and bring awareness of longstanding grievances to the forefront. Injustices to our people and communities. And in my opinion, that is not a bad thing whatsoever.
Nobody is exempt from cancel culture – as it ought to be.
In a way, cancel culture says in a court-of-law fashion, “I’m going to make you acknowledge this.”
Certainly, the more of a public figure you are, that is to say, publicly accessible your platform is, the more concentrated the attention is on you to conduct yourself in a responsible way that does not demean or has the potential to cause harm to groups of people or spaces.
Cancel culture is more about us as a people taking accountability for our actions; whether one-off instances or a pattern. To put it visually, it’s like a big index finger waiving left to right in great disapproval. A stern warning to let that entity know that we, the people, are watching and we aren’t liking what we see. Essentially, we want you to do better.
Surely, it doesn’t quite come off like that when the canceling happens. It likely takes on a life of its own; much like fire.
But to some degree, why would we expect it to be any different than it is?
Do we really in the 21st century expect “passive” responses to atrocities against life-kind? Of course not.
With the speed of everything happening much faster than it did a decade ago, we too as a people have gained some momentum and courage for exacting change. For the sacrifices made in servitude to capitalism. Our voices have found ways of being heard and felt.
Cancel culture and the ideologies that stem from and beyond it, are an outcry from otherwise marginalized and oppressed people. And the people are fed up with being silenced and swept to the sides.
There’s no need to be scared of cancel culture. There are in fact way bigger and badder things to be concerned with – Seriously. If it scares you, it’s probably because on some level you are deeply concerned about your content or delivery thereof potentially being under fire or intense scrutiny.
Hell, this post could be seen as “problematic” to some group somewhere and in their eyes warrant a total “canceling” of my entire content.
Far too long have people and institutions gone unchecked. Conducting themselves in ways that have been extremely harmful to other groups. And equally as long, have people like you and me not been awarded the space and grace to say something, do something, or bring about actual change to the “old ways” of things.
Imagine sitting in filth for decades on end while the perpetrator goes on to portray themself in an untrue light. While they continue to earn an income off the backs of real and agonizing pain and suffering of others. While they are allowed to repeat those atrocities time and time again because they were never checked – addressed as being harmful or hurtful.
How would you feel?
So, what happens to the canceled? Do they just go off somewhere to die?
And that’s not what we want them to do either.
What is required from the canceled at its core in my opinion are accountability, sincerity, and action. Addressing what went wrong and the ignorance at play. A sincere and deep sense of reflection for the harm inflicted. And deliberate and continuous action to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
The people that have been marginalized or oppressed by you are not here to educate or even rehabilitate you. It’s about holding up a mirror, looking at your reflection, and making a commitment to do better going forward.
Cancel culture or call-out culture by name is for many dismissive, exclusive, or off-putting; a public shaming of sorts. Again, many terms, stereotypes, and phrases we “accept” today can be put under that same microscope. But, that’s neither here nor there at the moment.
The term is also an attention-grabber and easily and widely recognizable. And yes, sometimes it takes slapping a label on something to draw needed attention to it – negative or positive.
I’m not writing this to explore all sides of the cancel culture debate. Rather, to take a stance in my perception of the needle it moves. The conversations it starts for people that look like me.
We are a strong, royal, and intelligent group of people. And the fact of the matter is that our efforts, however great, always fall just a little short; our beauty, our bodies, our lives.
And if it takes a group of people with shared experiences banning together saying “this is not okay” to help make living on this planet a little less terrifying and grotesque, then so be it.
What's your take on cancel culture?
What feelings do you associate with it?
How do you feel it hurts or helps your community?
What would you change about it?
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