In April, Sabrina Claudio was crawling her way out of the obscure, racially ambiguous whisper singer zone and into more well-known land but she promptly put her own foot in her mouth. Rather, she was forced to eat her tweets when a simple search pulled up the not so pretty things she said about Mexican and Black women. Before she really got started, her career was signed, sealed and cancelled. This is only one account of problematic views coming forth to bite someone in the behind, it isn’t the first and surely won’t be the last but I have to ask: Is growth possible in cancel culture?
As the public moves toward a certain consciousness– one that deems things our favorite sitcoms made jokes about not only inappropriate but offensive to certain communities we’ve started to hold our favorite stars to a standard. One that expects them to be aware of the world beyond and around them. However, there have been many that have seen their own demise due to this shift. When someone has said or done things that are problematic they get “Cancelled.” Which means simply that people stop their support, they don’t buy tickets to your movies, tune into your primetime television spot or buy your music anymore. It’s not hard to understand, as we experience growth, it isn’t a shot in the dark to expect our faves to do the same but sometimes I wonder if we give them the chance to.
Six years ago I was walking through the student center at my university when I was stopped by a group of women attempting to recruit new students to their organization, Feminist Collective Detroit. They asked me a simple question: why do you need feminism? It was that moment that I decidedly said that I was a feminist. After the Steubenville Ohio case, my ideals began to change and I began to speak up and loudly about feminist issues despite not having ever considered that I may be a feminist. That was the beginning of a beautiful shift in my life, but years prior in a time period I’ve deemed B.F. (Before Feminism) I would slut-shame, victim blame and crack inappropriate jokes. And though I am thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed of the person I was, it was still me. I dare not forget who I was in light of who I am today. The work of unlearning toxicity and bigotry and moving toward the views I hold now are a testament to my growth. I understand that as we experience growth we expect our faves to do the same. No amount of celebrity can keep you safe from critique.
Sometimes I think that many of us forget that we were at one time or another, whether it be recently or in the distant past, in a similar place as everyone else— clueless. Though the ease of access to information we have can render any excuse moot, it still stands that most of us weren’t born with this inherent knowledge of what can and shouldn’t be said. This isn’t an excuse for Sabrina Claudio, The Migos or that white girl in your lecture that said “nigga.” It’s just an observation, one that I encourage everyone to look through their own media and see the things they were saying before you awakened.
I’ve seen people say that cancel culture in itself is toxic and should be canceled but in reality it gifts people who may not have the social capital the power to fight back by taking their numbers, views and money elsewhere. For decades black women have been pushing for R. Kelly to deal with the consequences of his actions and though it took years, it’s finally pushing forward as music platforms stop promoting his music. When Logan Paul posted a series of offensive videos while traveling in Japan, Youtube suspending ads from his videos. There have been many instances in which people used their voices and social media to create change. There’s a new notes app apology every day and it becomes harder to discern if it’s sincere or something a publicist instructed them to do. There are many things to consider in these situations, a million questions to ask but the most important part is how you as an individual feel. Or what you don’t. Growth is without a doubt possible but if something is harmful or problematic–you choose what happens next.
Written by Taylor Hall