Table of Contents
- The Benefit to Minorities of Cancel Culture
- Justice Through Cancel Culture
- Works Cited
The act of “canceling” somebody has been around for as long as language has existed. In today’s society a culture has been created around this act. Call-out culture has mixed reviews, but the base reason for this culture existing is to try and educate someone on a past or present mistake they have made. Most mistakes are rooted in ignorance, so calling out the act can be necessary to educate. It has been coined as a culture due to the frequency and nature of this act. I believe cancel culture is somewhat necessary to hold people accountable for their actions, and to help keep others mindful of what they say and do.
The Benefit to Minorities of Cancel Culture
The first central moral issue to be addressed is the benefit to minorities. By utilizing cancel culture, the Systematicity of Microaggressions is exposed. A microaggression is defined as a, “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority),” (Merriam-Webster). It could be a comment such as “You’re so pretty for being dark” or assuming someone is from a different country due to their race or ethnicity. Microaggressions can also be non-verbal. A person can also micro-aggress by displaying sexual photos of women, which further objectifies women. These actions perpetuate the oppression felt by minorities. The issue may seem unimportant because it’s one comment or one action, but many comments or actions combined can have a great impact. Microaggressions can be very harmful to an individual as well as to an entire minority. Microaggressions can cause emotional turmoil within an individual. In an experiment conducted by Carl Word, he and his team assessed whether job employers treated candidates differently based on race. It was found that the black candidates received less interview time and that there was less engagement from the employer (i.e. eye contact and leaning in during conversation). Upon conducting the same experiment with new subjects, the researchers focused on how these non-verbal microaggressions affected the candidates. It revealed that those who received the interview with the micro-aggressive behavior performed worse than those who did not. They made speech errors like stuttering and incomplete sentences, as well as hesitating to provide an answer during the interview (Stafford). Although this seems small in nature, the impact is immense. Microaggressions can lead to a decreased sense of worth in an individual which can lead to, “…decreased physical and mental health and increased psychological distress,” (Isom).
Systematicity of Microaggressions on Minorities
On a mass scale microaggressions can uphold the racial hierarchy put in place by society. Since microaggressions are so subtle and sometimes unconsciously said, it’s important to draw attention to its ignorance when it occurs. It is essential to emphasize this, so the person knows what they are doing is harmful. Without doing so the person will not realize the aggressive nature of their comment or action and how impactful it is. If the act of microaggressions is reduced, then this could potentially reduce the amount of prejudice within people. If people know the behavior is discriminatory then this pattern of oppressive behavior can be slowed down or ceased which would result in a more functional and safer society and environment. Comment by Miller, Gianna M: Might include an example of small things building up to great impact here, something short as an illustration Comment by Miller, Gianna M: affected Comment by Miller, Gianna M: unnecessary ellipsis. You only need these to indicate something in the middle of your quote that you removed. Not needed at the beginning unless it was actually part of the thing you are quoting, and even then could be omitted unless you have some specific reason to keep it in. Comment by Miller, Gianna M: Who’s ignorance? The micro-aggression can’t have ignorance.
Justice Through Cancel Culture
Another central moral issue to address is that perpetuators of immoral acts can be brought to justice. Many if not most minorities have been silenced for as long as oppression has existed. People of color, women, and those apart of the LGBTQ+ community have never really had the opportunity to speak out about their injustices and be heard. Social media provides an easier platform for them to do so. Movements like “#MeToo” and “Black Lives Matter” have allowed for minorities to feel more secure in “calling out” the injustices directed towards them. This provides massive inclusivity and also serves as a safer space to do so. With more people feeling safe enough to speak out against these adversaries there is an opportunity to bring the perpetuators to justice. With the movement “#MeToo” people can come forward about the sexual harassments and assaults done to them in the past. In return the offenders are called out and can potentially face the consequences. This shows that offensive actions have repercussions, and that these repercussions can be followed through. This movement has highlighted the serious sexual misconduct rooted in the film industry and has brought repeat offenders over many years to justice. With the Black Lives Matter movement attention has been brought to the major injustices African Americans face daily. Police brutality is an issue that has been brought to the spotlight with this movement. These issues cannot be immediately eradicated but calling out and emphasizing them can help reduce these issues from appearing as frequently. Critics of call-out culture claim it has gone too far and that it does more harm than good, but the oppression and discrimination has gone even farther. There are toxic aspects to this act, but with every good thing comes misuse. “Cancel Culture”, the act of dismissing someone and no longer supporting them, is a toxic symptom of cancel Culture, but this is usually seen on social media platforms. On social media some people can act more aggressively under the disguise of anonymity, but the base of their argument is still valid and pertinent. The repercussions of these callouts tend to be more aggressive as well and may seem unnecessary, but so are the consistent injustices carried out towards minorities. Comment by Miller, Gianna M: Confusing sentence. Them being silenced part of the oppression, of course it’s been around as long as oppression has. Pick a different measure of time.
Critics of the culture also claim that it has led to people being “too sensitive”, but this is a very toxic ideal. Speech activist Greg Lukianoff and psychologist Jonathan Haidt, critics of the culture, say that, “Its purpose is to get students to focus on them and then relabel the people who have made such remarks as aggressors…”(Rini), but they put more focus on the motives of the perpetrators rather than putting focus on what impacts the microaggressions have on a victim. Their claim suggests that the victims of these acts should just ignore and “shrug them off”, but this will just even further negatively affect these minorities and perpetuate the oppression towards them. By staying silent the victims of these aggressions can imply acceptance of the events. (Rini) Most of the time these acts are accidental and stem from ignorance. Being told one is being offensive when there was no intention of ill intent can be troubling to accept, but it is unfair to dictate what someone can and cannot get upset about when it upholds the systematicity of oppression.
Cancel Culture can have its negative aspects, but there can be negatives found in everything. It depends on one’s perception of the topic, but the pros of calling out someone’s problematic behavior outweighs the cons. Some problematic behavior is unintentional, so it is important to try and educate to reduce the ignorance and occurrences of this issue. But since some can be intentional with this behavior it is important to hold those perpetrators accountable for their actions. Callouts are not meant to humiliate and degrade, but to hopefully create a safer environment for everyone to thrive in.
- Isom, Deena. “Microaggressions, Injustices, and Racial Identity: An Empirical Assessment of the Theory of African American Offending.” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, vol. 32, no. 1, Feb. 2016, pp. 27–59, doi:10.1177/1043986215607253.
- “Microaggression.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/microaggression.
- Rini, Regina. “How to Take Offense: Responding to Microaggression.” Journal of the American Philosophical Association, vol. 4, no. 3, 2018, pp. 332–351., doi:10.1017/apa.2018.23.
- Stafford, Tom. “Future - Prejudice Is Not Always Overt. It's Called 'Microaggression'.” BBC, BBC, 10 June 2016, www.bbc.com/future/story/20160608-the-true-impact-of-tiny-microaggressions.