Cancel culture or accountability?

Earlier this month a peer of mine was called out on Twitter for racist, white supremacist statements made in his biography on Twitter. This was the result of a contentious episode of a student-run political talk show on-campus, The Waynesburg Effect, that was removed from viewing after going semi-viral amongst alumni and current students in the Communication Department. 

What stood out to me as a multi-racial African-American student on a predominantly white college campus was the response of one alumna to my peer’s racism being exposed, “Cancel culture is disgusting.”

I was taken aback. I was disheartened. I was angry, and I was, in fact, disgusted by the excuses. Being Black at a PWI is already a challenging experience that can leave POC students prone to loneliness, but when someone’s “freedom of speech” directly affects my mental health and that freedom to hate is prioritized over my mental well-being, I begin to feel overwhelmingly discouraged.

As public discourse becomes more polarizing, and people’s perception of character more contingent on opinion, it’s tempting to confuse accountability with cancel culture. However, there is a stark difference. 

While cancel culture simultaneously removes problematic content from being digested and removes the possibility for that content, or that person to continue pushing those ideologies, it does not account for the capabilities of a person. It shuts the door and locks it.

As a Christian, I cannot comfortably or reasonably assess anyone as hopeless, or a lost cause. As much as racism affects my daily life, I cannot stop my heart from hoping for redemption and renewing in the minds of those that categorize me solely based on my appearance.

As a response to that tweet, and the many others from various alumni who pointed out some insensitive tendencies at Waynesburg, I tweeted my contentment with the exposure of some of the difficulties experienced in my four years at Waynesburg.

I mentioned the KKK recruitment flyers that had circulated in town my junior year, as well as the racial slurs experienced from the community, inappropriate comments from faculty and the constant mental weight carried while also being expected to perform well academically. It’s always grieving alone, and barely seeing progress. 

Exposing these issues isn’t cancel culture, it’s called accountability.

It is with care and value for this campus community and its members, including any of my racist peers, that I demand better. That I speak about the pain I feel when confederate flags are proudly hung in dorms, or when people tell me George Floyd deserved to die.

Accountability is the opposite of canceling. It recognizes the disparity between current and desired actions and thought processes and mimics our Father’s love in that it does not leave us where we are but demands growth. 

So, I challenge you to consider whether someone is being cancelled, or called higher. I will wait for apologies and restored relationships. The door is not locked, but ajar with hope for growth.

The Yellow Jacket Print Newspaper is back for a Special Fall 2021 Edition.

Pick up your copy around campus Friday, December 3! Copies will also be available at select locations around the community. Happy holidays and happy reading!