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Unlearning Cancel Culture
Unlearning Cancel Culture
By Ravyn Ariah Wngz, Contributing Writer
Cancel culture is not often described for what it really is: a modern day public stoning. Its violence masked in the language of accountability, anti-oppression/racism, and feminism. It’s carceral logic to disappear people when they make decisions you don’t like. I’m reminded of being chased for wearing pink. The door slammed behind me by my family after I was outed at age 17. The way my family violently stopped me from showing up as my full self at my own mother’s funeral for fear I’d wear a dress. Identity erased but still expected to participate as a respectable family member. My choice to stop all communication and promise never to forgive.
We as people who are born into mindsets of white supremacy are being asked to reckon with our own toxic behaviors and to reimagine a present time where love and care are at the center of our movements. To be in relationship with each other involves radically committing to conflict, not disposing of anyone. It means staying in the process, showing up in new ways, and deeply rooting our work in love.
There are so many self-proclaimed 'woke' people who understand their job to be that of deciding who is worthy of attention, praise, and celebration, or who is, at their worst, worthy of destruction. Folks who pride themselves on possessing the best qualities of humanity are out there, "rooting out" the people they deem to be dangerous, problematic, or whose platforms need to be canceled. While professing abolitionist values of collective care, protection, and justice on the one hand, they seem unaware of or unbothered by utilizing the same behaviors and tactics they call out. Revenge is not justice.
When discussing controversial topics we must consider multiple views in our interrogation. We need to understand the micro and the macro when peeling back the layers. We must understand and resist the ways that white supremacy squashes nuance. One such nuance is that people who are victims of harm often face injustice. They feel forced by their understanding that punishment is the only way to unlearn harmful behaviour. This results in calling for the canceling of people who haven’t been held accountable or haven’t shown remorse.
In some cases, we call for the canceling of people who are celebrated for their talent, but they express violent language and behaviours and cause harm (thinking of a certain wizard writer here).
I’ve heard the phrase "cancel culture is political correctness gone amuck.” How dreadful!
Political correctness is a long, co-opted and weaponized phrase used by oppressors against marginalized communities that include LGBTTIQQ2S and African, Indigenous, and people of color communities who are fighting for our basic human rights.
When we ask to be treated with justice and humanity we are said to be policing language and being "politically correct.” No. We are being alive, free, and human. We deserve justice and humanity!
James Baldwin reminds us that children have never been good at listening to their elders, but never fail at imitating them, for what other models do they have? We’ve learned white supremacist systems of punishment and cancelling from white supremacists who enslaved Africans and who have continued the mass genocide of Indigenous peoples all over the globe.
It's time to unlearn their lessons. It's time to build new ways of resolving issues. It's time to recognize all of us in our whole humanity, and to work to dismantle the state systems that create the wicked conditions that contribute to harm in the first place. For our children, let's do this work. Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war, love is growing up.