Updated: Oct 31, 2020
By Alba Uriarte
Image retrieved from Chelsea Stah, NBC News
Whether it’s through Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube, most of Gen Z has witnessed, or taken part in, cancel culture. Cancel culture is a form of group shaming in which people withdraw their support from someone after they say or do something offensive. The term was popularized when James Charles was “canceled” by the beauty community because of drama with YouTuber Tati Westbrook, but it’s implications have stretched far beyond a rivalry between influencers. Cancel culture can take power away from oppressors and give it back to the oppressed. We’ve seen this primarily when celebrities are accused of sexual assault. In the cases of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and R. Kelly, canceling was a vehicle for social justice. It was necessary and effective. But unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the majority of times that we cancel others.
Canceling somebody for their offensive behavior might seem like an effective way to hold them accountable, but in reality, the only thing it accomplishes is to push them away. When we cancel someone, we alienate them. We cut them off completely and expect them to learn their lesson on their own. Cancel culture relies on the person accused of offensive behavior to dismantle their own prejudice. But in reality, dismantling prejudice requires education, effort, and oftentimes guidance. Canceling people in our everyday lives gives us an alternative to helping them overcome their prejudice. After all, cutting someone off can be easier than sitting down with them and having difficult, but necessary conversations about their actions. Cancel culture throws away any possibility of redemption and self-growth.
So we need to re-evaluate how to respond to the offensive behavior of others. By canceling others and cutting them out, we allow ourselves to ignore their prejudice and pretend like it doesn’t exist. Instead, we need to confront prejudices and help others understand why what they did was wrong. So let’s “cancel” cancel culture and replace it with conversations that foster education and personal growth.
Written by writer Alba Uriarte