It’s no secret that one must use caution when posting online—everything that’s posted is permanent. Whether it’s those spring break pictures from the Caribbean or that angsty teenage poetry on Tumblr, everything floats around in cyberspace forever.
The permanence of online content has contributed to the phenomenon of “cancel culture,” where someone in the public eye is found to have done or said something problematic and subsequently loses all support from their fans. The public should know when a role model makes a mistake, but the severity of cancel culture is unproductive in the way that it leaves little room for forgiveness and growth.
Cancel culture can have its benefits, and its intentions are usually to combat racism, sexism, abuse or any type of public wrongdoing. Sometimes, a cancellation is well-deserved, as it is for certain offenders such as R. Kelly.
The permanency of cancel culture is daunting, though. It represents a withdrawal of support forever, which is not productive for positive change. There’s no excuse for any form of racism, sexism, discrimination or abuse—and there’s no defense for anyone who has displayed instances of these offenses—but if someone is permanently canceled without any hope of redemption there’s not much motivation for them to correct their problematic behavior.
For example, in 2017, beauty guru and YouTuber Jeffree Star deservedly faced controversy for racist comments he made when he was 19. Star, now 31-years-old, made a video apologizing for the comments he made, calling them “disgusting, vile, nasty and embarrassing.”
There’s no excuse for racism. The public was right to call out Star for the hateful things he said. Just because someone makes an apology video doesn’t mean they are forgiven or that they should win back the support of their fans. There’s no need to celebrate someone for not being a racist, but to permanently brand someone as their mistake and nothing more doesn’t give them a chance to change.
Calling someone out for their problematic behavior is important, but so is giving them the opportunity to learn and correct themselves.
Cancellation is dehumanizing to celebrities. It’s like making someone into an object and throwing them in the trash. Even before cancelling someone, society sometimes treats celebrities more like objects than real people. Yet, as far away and as high up as they seem, celebrities are real human beings. They see the hateful comments on their social media pages, they have real life emotions and relationships and they struggle with mental health too.
Kanye West is a celebrity who has publicly struggled with his mental health for years. West is open about this in both his infamous Twitter-storms and in his music. Recently, West faced controversy for his political views and his endorsement of Trump.
As an admirer of West and a non-admirer of Trump, seeing West with a MAGA hat is confusing. It would be easy to cancel West, and some people already have, but to brand and condemn him by his political views and discredit the musician that he is seems unfair. Again, this is not to excuse any ignorance, however, this is to encourage a gentler approach instead of cancellation.
Don’t excuse someone for problematic behavior, call it out. But consider someone’s mental health. Consider the efforts they are making to better themselves. Giving people a chance to understand and correct their problematic behavior will always be more productive than condemning them to a lifetime of identifying as their mistakes.