By DaiJhah Owens
Cancel culture, cancel culture, cancel culture! It seems everyday we log in to social media, we hear this phrase. Someone, usually a celebrity, has said or done something deemed problematic by the masses and we come to a collective internet agreement that they are no longer worth supporting. Now, there has been much discussion recently on the validity and appropriateness of the internet cancel culture. Some folks feel it’s gone too far; everyday someone new is being canceled. Some folks feel cancel culture has lost its “sting” and is now just a trendy thing to say. Per usual, I feel much differently about cancel culture than most (I’ve never been one to go along with the thought processes of the masses.) I hope the words I write in this blog will bring clarity to the deeper issues that allow for cancel culture to exist in the first place.
From what I remember, cancel culture was birthed from the need to hold individuals, specifically public figures, accountable for their harmful words and actions. Men like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, R. Kelly and many more had been exposed on the public staged for their disgusting crimes against women and children. Kanye West was cancelled multiple times. Important conversations were being held about the need for accountability. Discussions like, “Can we separate the artist from their art?”, “Can you be against rape but still play R. Kelly’s music?”, “At what point do we stop supporting problematic people?” All of these discussions made people grapple with how we hold each other accountable, or don’t.
Here’s the thing, if we as a society and especially within the Black community, consistently held people accountable for their harm and violence, no matter their social status, we wouldn’t need a cancel culture.
So many of us turn a blind eye to overt and covert harmful behaviors. We laugh at the inappropriate racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes. We make excuses for people. We defend violent men and women because of their “legacies.” We don’t care if someone is causing harm if it doesn’t affect us. We are more willing to forgive a harmful person because their existence benefits us in some way. We stay silent. I believe the birth of cancel culture came from people being tired of harmful behaviors being brushed under the rug.
Now, I understand that not everything or everyone has to be “cancelled” necessarily. Those who have caused any kind of harm should be given the space to acknowledge their behavior, apologize to the people they’ve hurt, and change their actions. BUT if there is a pattern of harm. A pattern of abuse. A pattern of lack of accountability from their peers. A pattern of excuses. Then yes, cancel their asses! And cancel they friends too!
You see, our history as a people of inadequately holding our peers accountable has led us to where we are today. I believe because we haven’t cultivated the tools and courage to rightfully hold each other accountable, we have resorted to just cancelling them (which honestly is sometimes necessary *cough R Kelly.)
So, the next time you criticize cancel culture ask yourself, “Have I done the work to hold my peers accountable for their harmful words and behaviors, or do I just look the other way?”
You can’t be mad at cancel culture while simultaneously staying silent when people harm others. Your silence gives breath to the need for cancel culture.
DaiJhah Owens is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. DaiJhah is passionate about shifting political power to oppressed groups through education. She believes there is nothing more powerful than an educated black woman who can smell political BS a mile away! Connect with her on Instagram at @d_nakhole!