Cancel Culture Sucks – But Not for the Reason You Think

Photo via Unsplash.

By Mariantonia Mejia / Contributing Writer

Your favorite content creators have likely fallen prey to cancel culture. However, people of color, particularly black people, have been the largest demographic with lasting effects from a cancellation.

Cancel culture is the process of the general public socially and/or professionally ostracizing a public figure for a perceived wrong.

As a society, we crave chaos. In the past, it was considered a family outing to set up camp next to a bloody, violent battlefield and delight as the soldiers tore each other to shreds. In Ancient Rome, onlookers cheered as gladiators fought to the death in the Coliseum. Public hangings or burning at the stake also brought in crowds of people, eager to see someone get what they deserve. 

This is not a novel idea. We love to watch people’s downfalls from the comfort of our homes, knowing that we’re safe from the very same thing we are inflicting. 

Now, this is not to say that every aspect of cancel culture is negative, nor that everyone who is perpetuating it has evil intentions. Oftentimes, “cancel culture” is really just people being held accountable for their actions. For instance, when Shane Dawson began to face repercussions for his long history with racial comedy and blackface, his supporters decried cancel culture as the main factor behind the hit to Dawsons’ career, rather than Dawson himself. When you’ve spent your entire life thinking you can say whatever you want, criticism is always going to sound like an attack. 

But, cancel culture is still quite destructive and has the power to ruin people’s lives, but not in the way that you may think. 

Too often, people of color are disproportionately affected by society’s desire to make people pay for their wrongdoings, but privileged white creators and celebrities sweep their controversies under the rug. We tend to hold people in marginalized communities to a higher standard than we do their privileged counterparts. 

Take Lewis Hamilton, for example, a Formula One British race car driver. While taking the podium after a race, he decided to wear a t-shirt demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was murdered by the police. In response to this, Formula One banned their drivers from wearing t-shirts on the podium entirely. 

Or even Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback who kneeled during the national anthem as a protest against racial injustice and police brutality in the US, who became a free agent after opting out of his contract with the 49ers. Not only did the world respond by vilifying him, but he remains unsigned by any teams to this day. 

In these cases, it’s not simply that we, as a society, want to watch the world burn, but rather that we feel the need to tear down successful people of color simply because they are using their First Amendment rights. 

We want to watch the entertainment they provide, we want to take part in the fun aspects of their culture, but we do not want to hear what they have to say. 

This is incredibly evident when we consider all the powerful, rich white men who have abused their position and continue to have thriving professional careers. 

Joe Rogan, a mega-popular podcaster with right-leaning tendencies, has recently come under fire for his use of the n-word multiple times, as well as his comparison of a group of Black people to “Planet of the Apes”. I think it can be universally agreed upon that these actions are deplorable, yet no signs have been shown that Rogan will be facing consequences. In fact, the executive director of Spotify, the platform on which Rogan receives the most revenue, stands by his decision to keep Rogan on the streaming service. 

Similarly, let’s look at James Charles, a successful beauty influencer on Youtube with millions of followers. In recent years, Charles has been accused numerous times of inappropriate relationships with teenage boys, and yet the internet always seems to forgive him. Admittedly, he does not garner as much support currently as he may have in the past, but viewers allowed him to get away with these actions for much longer than they should have. 

Overall, I believe that there are certain benefits to the existence of cancel culture. We must be able to hold people accountable and make them face consequences, but we must be wary of becoming too trigger-happy. If we cannot tell the difference between hateful actions, and the simple use of freedom of speech, we are in no position to throw stones. 


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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