"... if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself, cause, ‘Man, you see how woke I was, I called you out. That’s not activism.That’s not bringing about change.
If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.
That’s easy to do.”
President Barack Obama
I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness these days. In class a couple of weeks ago, we discussed the
2013 firing of Justine Sacco
. I had my students watch
Jon Ronson's Ted Talk
and asked them to write a one page reflection answering the question "Should Justine Sacco have been fired?" The conversation in class was incredibly powerful and enlightening. Many of my students immediately called for her firing. However, as we discussed the situation in detail and shared different perspectives, we grew aware of the hypocrisy in our culture and the inconsistent ways we choose to forgive or not forgive individuals for their mistakes. In class, we discussed our willingness to drag ordinary people down on social media because it's "easy." Much easier than bringing down a public figure or a celebrity.
The "cancel culture" worries me for a lot of reasons. How do we decide who we cancel? How do we decide who we forgive? Why does Justine Sacco get fired after misunderstood tweets but Louis C.K. is selling out shows despite admitting sexual misconduct? Who decides what punishment fits the crime? Who is creating the norms here? Are we going to grow more judgmental or more forgiving?
The conversation in class made me want to read a bit more about cancel culture. Here are some articles that stood out to me if you are interested: