Cancel culture, contextualized
By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
When Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said that the decision of Major League Baseball to pull the All-Star game out of Atlanta because of its objection to the new voter laws hastily passed by the Georgia Legislature was another example of “cancel culture,” I groaned.
Specifically, Kemp said that the MLB had “caved to fear and lies from liberal activists,” according to The New York Times. In another statement he said that the MLB had caved to “cancel culture and liberal lies,” Mediate.com reported.
He also said, while making a nationally televised statement, that “he would not be silenced,” a sentiment that many on the Right have expressed as they work to paint their political opponents as violators of the constitutional right of free speech.
The Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman wrote that “in short, any time you’re being criticized in a way you don’t like, you can say you’re being canceled.”
All this babble about cancel culture has struck a nerve. According to some whom I’ve talked to, complaining about “cancel culture” is in effect voicing resentment that people don’t like it that their racist, sexist, homophobic, and other views are being called out. Apparently, many Whites have resented not being able to talk about their dislike of Black people, women (and their rightful place), gay people and people of other ethnicities and nationalities without being criticized.
So, when they are called out, they charge, “cancel culture.”
At the beginning of the Republican National Convention in 2020, a resolution was adopted which criticized the prevalence of “cancel culture,” which was defined as that which erasing of history, encouraging lawlessness, muting citizens, and violating free exchange of ideas, thoughts, and speech,” as reported by Vox.com. The phrase apparently began to be used in late 2017, and has grown in popularity, stoking the pent-up anger of White people who resent what they see as a culture which is evolving from that which they believe it was meant to be – a resting place made by White people for White people – to one which embraces the idea of pluralism and inclusivity.
But if one thinks about the actual phrase, it is actually White culture, which has been canceling the cultures of other groups of people for hundreds of years.
The current flurry over voting rights, for example, is a continuation of the history of White culture to cancel the right of Black people to vote, effectively canceling the culture of a group of people on whose backs America was built. The inequity of public education, with less money going to Black schools, might be seen as an effort to cancel Black culture; laws that made it illegal not only for Black people to learn to read but to also go to libraries might also be seen as part of the effort to snuff out Black culture. Disparate health care – in the past and now, as a disproportionate number of Black people are dying of COVID-19 is yet another example. And of course, there is police brutality, a practice supported by White culture which seems ultimately designed to eliminate or dilute the presence of Black people in this country.
White Americans canceled the culture of Native Americans; it works to cancel the cultures of Islamic-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and any culture which is not White, heterosexual, Protestant and male-dominated. The cultures of these groups have been canceled legally, socially and by the commission of genocide.
The former president opened the door for disgruntled Whites to be bold about their racism; he, like the late Rush Limbaugh urged White people to own their racism and sexism and Xenophobia, to not worry about being “politically correct.” And so, every time the power structure makes a move to further erode the rights of non-White Americans and there is a pushback, the Republicans cry foul and charge “cancel culture.”
We ought to be clear about what cancel culture is and tell the story – and we ought to tell the story in such a vivid way that even a blind person would be able to see it. Black and Brown people have been fighting against the desire of the power structure to cancel them out for hundreds of years.
Let the truth be known – and let it be told.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. Her latest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America is available at all booksellers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.