Cancel culture can be defined as the public boycott of an individual or organization after they have done something that could be considered as offensive. I agree that it is important to hold people accountable for their actions. However, I think that cancelling an individual over small issues can be counterproductive.
People tend to forget that we become more aware of what’s right and wrong through education. Think about when you were kid and how problematic some of the things that your peers, teachers or even you said. Maybe people were genuinely rude and should have been held accountable, or maybe they had no idea that what they were doing was wrong in the first place. I’d argue that for the most part, it’s the latter.
I also want to make it clear that the cancel culture I am referring to is when people attack certain people or organizations without attempting to educate them on an issue – not when people are called out for their consistently harmful actions or statements or when they are inciting hate speech or promoting violence.
I am also not defending people who have been problematic, but I do think it’s a lot easier to act like you are “better” than someone else after you have already been educated on an issue. None of us were born perfect (if there even is such thing as being perfect), So how can we put every other person on a higher pedestal than we put ourselves on?
I’ve noticed that cancel culture is also very on and off, in that people choose who they want to cancel depending on how much they already like them. For instance, some people may cancel a celebrity or person that they don’t really care for, but when someone they personally like is caught saying or doing something harmful, they turn a blind eye . This double standard shows how cancel culture is not productive because sometimes people who deserve to be held accountable may not be due to their popular image within the media.
I’ve also noticed that cancel culture often opens a pathway for people to start speaking out about an issue on behalf of others, which is contradictory to the whole idea of making society more educated and socially aware. For instance, I remember seeing a video of a group of non-Asian people wearing Asian attire because they were attending their Asian friend’s wedding. Some people, who were not Asian, spoke up as if these friends of the wedding family were doing something wrong. Not only did those people make a false conclusion and claim something was offensive, where in this scenario it was not, but they also started to make other people think that holding people accountable for cultural appropriation was stupid. This is harmful because those people can now convince others that anyone speaking out on real cultural appropriation is being dramatic or that their feelings are invalid.
I think that people should always stand up for what they believe in and say whatever they want (as long as it doesn’t hurt others, of course). However, I think we should also be mindful in how we react to seeing people who make small mistakes that are often a result of a lack of social awareness, as it can take away from more important issues. We should hold people accountable for their actions and make sure that they don’t make the same mistakes- but through discussion and education, rather than trying to tear them down.
We often act how we are told to act or copy what we see based on the environments we grew up in, but we are not our circumstances or our environment. We can change for the better by opening our mind, listening to others and being more empathetic – and the act of cancelling someone can often make us feel that we cannot.