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There is a lot of talk about “cancel culture”. It keeps coming up every time someone does something that used to be the norm that is now socially unacceptable. People talked about “cancelling” Kanye West when he came out in a #maga hat and talked about eliminating the 13th Amendment. There was talk of “cancelling” Ralph Northam when pictures allegedly of him in blackface surfaced from his college days. Most recently, “comedian” Shane Gillis lost a job opportunity when it came out that he traded racist tropes about Chinese people on a podcast and video. It seems that every other month, someone is being “cancelled” for something they did. If you were to believe some folks (mostly male #ffffffolks), “Cancel Culture” is out of control. If only that were true.
CANCEL CULTURE IS A MYTH. The witch hunt for reasons to ostracize people who have done wrong in the past (or last week) does not exist. People do not need to walk on eggshells when they speak their mind. Say what you want. If you say something aberrant, people will decide whether to or not to consume whatever your product is. If an actor says something racist, I have every right to not watch their shows or movies. If a politician’s views are white supremacy wrapped in a pretty package, it is my prerogative to expose it and choose not to vote for them. If a singer keeps making songs that sugar coat rape, I have the choice to not listen to it. If a group of people do this, it is no one’s fault but the person who executed the aberrant action that they no longer are in favor with the general public. This used to just be called “boycotting”, and even then, no one forced anyone to boycott anything. People made that choice. The thing is that some people didn’t. Boycotts are not compulsory, but if enough people don’t consume a product or service, then perhaps the generator of said product/service should look to themselves and think about what it is they said or did. Or not. It’s a free-ish country.
Calling out and boycotting people and businesses has been around for years. At the dawn of this country. The term “cancelling” is only recent, formed in Black Twitter™ and disseminated to the nation and world. Folks have been “cancelled” for numerous reasons in the past. Black folks who could pass for white would run successful businesses or get into decent schools, only to be found out and run out of town when they were found out. Mary Ellen Pleasant, a black millionaire philanthropist, was slandered for supporting abolition and putting her money where her mouth was. It seems that “cancelling” and “cancel culture” is all of a sudden a problem because it is now affecting cishet (mostly white) men and their pockets.
All that said, forgiveness is a very potent salve. There is not one adult person who has NOT done something regrettable in the past. It is a matter of how they atoned for their misdeed. I don’t blame them for not wanting to bring up their past sins. Back in the day, just as I was getting over my toxic homophobia, I picked up transphobia when I learned that my co-worker John was now Judy. Though I kept professional at work, I definitely fed into the grotesqueness of using air quotes when referring to her in pronouns and making idiotic arguments like “why can’t she just be gay”? I look back at all of the things I thought and said, and I wish I could apologize to her in person. I couldn’t even find her if I tried (because I tried), and I have no business dredging up any trauma she suffered from my co-workers and me because I feel bad for what I said. She has likely moved on (she luckily found a better job that was more open to her), and I have spent years doing what I can to not be the asshole I once was.
No human starts out saying, “Hi I’m Gary, and look at all the homophobic rants I made 15 years ago! Can I have the job now?” A LOT of white politicians donned black or brown face in the past, oblivious of how racist blackface has always been. They have gone on to champion progressive causes and help the black and brown communities they now represent and govern. Some have acknowledged their actions, made full throated apologies, and their work afterword bore a sign of remorse. Others (Ralph Northam) have either denied or dodged responsibility. I am more willing to forgive the former than the latter. No one wants anyone to be banished from civil society…except I wouldn’t mind if Mel Gibson just disappeared form existence Thanos snap style. The bottom line is that “cancel culture” is not real. People are just mad that they are being held responsible for their actions. Forgiveness after GENUINE apologies is a beautiful thing.
“The bottom line is that “cancel culture” is not real. People are just mad that they are being held responsible for their actions”
Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog , he currently writes the Chronicles of Nonsense segment for the Almost Tuesday show on WAYO-FM 104.3, and regularly posts and writes on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon.Additionally , Chris is a Food Writer for Rochester City Newspaper. His blog is www.chroniclesofnonesense.com