Pointing out wrongs we see around us has value. It can bring about meaningful change. But these days it seems like all we do is criticize each other, and it’s taken on a judgmental, mob mentality thanks to social media.
There’s even a name for this. Call-out Culture or Cancel Culture is the group-think social media phenomenon where people who espouse abusive, bigoted, or otherwise socially-inappropriate views or activities are �called out� or �cancelled� into obscurity. Think: R. Kelly. Anyone buying his records anymore? Or Roseanne Barr. So much for that hit TV show.
So there’s proof that these tactics do work. But recently two prominent thinkers in America — one a former president, the other a leading academic — had the same message: using cancel culture from behind the anonymity of a keyboard is no substitute for doing the real work of social change.
Look: I don�t often agree with President Barack Obama and professor Dr. Michael Eric Dyson on most policy issues, and sometimes they don’t agree with each other. I do agree with them on this: by itself, being �woke� isn’t activism. It won’t change anything. That takes more than keyboard courage.
President Obama took a risk just by going out there and criticizing folks, mostly Generation Z activists, for failing to put their internet zeal into something more constructive and lasting:
- Actually learning and understanding public policy
- Promoting more political awareness and involvement
- Bridging community chasms that maintain the divisiveness that we’re experiencing in America
Later in a speech in Pittsburgh, Dr. Dyson echoed the 44th President, speaking to an audience of mostly young activists. He went further, reminding them that Christians believe God�s grace is enough for all of us to be salvageable from past faults or errors in judgement.
(What if George Washington’s presidency was “cancelled” because people didn’t like his temper?/Image: biography.com)
If nothing else, America is a country built on redemption stories, from a hot-headed young George Washington whose later temperance formed our democracy, to a former pot-smoking mediocre student who reclaimed his potential and became president before the age of 50. �Cancel culture� would have robbed us of two of the most inspirational leaders our nation has ever known.
(What if Barack Obama was “called out” as an underachiever before he ever achieved public office?/Image: Barack Obama Twitter)
Call out injustice? Sure. Reclaim your equality? Of course. But we can�t do that at the expense of the redemptive opportunities that make America the great and robust nation that it is.
We have to replace the meanness of cancel culture with action that heals, grows, uplifts, and transforms. That takes more than texting 280 characters.
So, if you�re thinking that �cancel culture� in its current form is making American culture better, you should cancel that thought right now.
Lenny McAllister is a Sparkt contributor and political commentator featured on BCN network launching January 6, 2020. He is a former television and radio show host in Pittsburgh.