This past year has definitely been one of expressing our views, learning new things, and unlearning old ways of thinking. Social media has become a large platform for people of all identities to share their stories and stand up for what they believe in. Even people who used to stay in the shadows, have come out speaking up against injustices and in favor of social reform and other hot topics circling the news. High-profile celebrities like James Charles, Lana del Rey, Madonna, and J. Cole have begun using their social media platforms and acclaim to give back to the community or make pretty vocal statements about topics concerning racism and the overall state of our country.
As encouraging as it is to see influencers using their platforms for social change, many have received backlash after controversial videos and tweets have resurfaced from years past. Many fans are too eager to immediately "cancel" these individuals, unsubscribe, unfollow, and spread hateful rhetoric against these people. While celebrities should be held accountable for their actions, I argue that another approach might be more effective.
"Cancelling" an individual for their words, prior actions, or current beliefs is not productive. What could be a great opportunity for education, constructive criticism, and an enlightening conversation, fosters division we should not be proud of.
Cancel culture isn't just limited to the celebrities we follow on Instagram, but to the family and friends that are important parts of our day-to-day lives. If we want our loved ones to respect our point-of-view, reflect on their past beliefs, and start making active changes to be better, "cancelling" them won't do very much of anything. Our country is polarized enough, but we can choose to have conversations that bring people closer together instead of farther apart.
It starts with active listening; not listening to debate or form a counter-argument but to genuinely understand another person's perspective. Some people are truly uneducated about certain current events and societal problems, not out of ignorance but because many topics of conversation have never been conversed about so freely before. To make an impression on someone you don't agree with, the last thing you should do is lose their respect. When you lose someone's respect, you lose their willingness to consider any alternative view. People can be close-minded and quick to disagree, but you might be surprised how your approach to a difficult conversation can change the game.
As always, there are some people who are set in their ways; who will not budge, give you any sort of respect in return, or be willing to listen to what you have to say. It's not your job to change their mind, so you can go ahead and save yourself the energy by walking away. Many times, all you'll experience with these kinds of people is a heated debate with no positive ending or opportunity to educate. In that case I'd say, don't sweat it and move on.
We need unified community more than ever before, and "cancel culture" won't help us get there. I encourage you to compile a list of educational resources for people uninformed on pressing topics in our country today to have on hand. While you're at it, pick up some light reading, watch a documentary on a topic you're unfamiliar with, and have conversations with people you'd like to learn from.