A comment on ‘cancel culture’

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As the conversation of racial inequality continues to clog the airways (and rightfully so) we, as black people, find ourselves in a particularly delicate position balancing between patience and pissed off (again, rightfully so).

Non-black people all over the world are becoming more active in these conversations, and while this open dialogue is vital to everlasting change, it has become our job to tilt towards patience. While this may not be fair, I submit that this will be the only way we can solidify non-black allies in our movement.

With people, particularly white people, publicly sharing their position, we can easily dissect their words and look for hints of racist thought and disingenuous— this is something we have been trained to do for over 400 years. However, it is important to note the difference between an insult and an ignorant comment.

An insult is easy. There is no sense of solidarity or support— the intention is obvious. When a white business owner in Middle River made a joke on Facebook recently, insinuating that black people will not attack public service buildings, he made clear his position on the cause. This was an insult.

While the insult may have been the result of lack of education, his glib and inconsiderate comment rocked our community into ‘cancelling him’ and no longer supporting his business. Fair.However, ‘cancel culture’ may be going a bit too far in its efforts to uncover hiding racists and leave them battered and bruised via social media outrage, and their pockets empty from boycotts.

The truth is, there are instances when a problematic comment gives us the opportunity to educate rather than to cancel. This is the case for comments made in ignorance such as, “all lives matter” and arguments against kneeling during the National Anthem. People who love the country and are passionate about “doing the right thing” often can be swayed. They simply need a good lesson on “the right thing.”

Black people have been carrying the burden of educating white people for centuries— of course we are tired.

Especially, when people act as if they don’t have access to the same resources we do in order to learn more about the plight of our people. However, I question whether our job as educators will ever truly be done?

Black people have always been teachers; we set the standard for peace and understanding. By far, the majority of our movements have started using peaceful methods as a way of showing how people should respond to negativity: with love.

Black Wall Street and the Black Panthers are evidence of our desire to protect ourselves and live peaceful lives. Even now, we are the model of peaceful protesting. We have made it clear that looting does not support our mission. So why would we stop our effort to inform the public?

The problem with “cancel culture” is that it can shut potential allies down. Can we afford to cut people out of the cause for their ignorance and mistaken beliefs?

Those who make problematic statements learned this perspective from the world they lived in. Their white, military, police families colored every opinion they developed about black people for their entire lives. Overcoming this sort of social influence alone is incredibly difficult,perhaps nearly impossible.

Those who have been passive to our cause and make statements such as “all lives matter” may be reachable if we choose not to cancel them. Many racist adults did not originally choose racism for themselves, and the truth is, some of them are too far gone. However, many people have the heart and mind to be good people if, instead of going on the attack, we choose to have a conversation that leads to a new way of thinking.

We must consider, that “cancelling” a person may teach them a lesson regarding what they express publicly, but it can also serve to solidify whatever negative perspective they have about our movement.

Further, when is an apology too little, too late?

I am not saying it’s everyone’s ministry to educate the ignorant. However, in times like these we should be selective about whom we cancel and to whom we offer the olive branch. We should be willing to see if a person has enough moral aptitude to break old forms of thought and create new ones.

This is our new burden, heavy as it may be. Instead of launching an attack of insults, we can launch an attack of education. A barrage of articles, data, documentaries and books can go much farther than a barrage of hate.

Cancel culture certainly has its place— racists beware. However, if the path to rehabilitation is available, we must be willing to consider it for the good of the cause.