With news now traveling instantly through social media, many people find their reputations ruined by one comment. When should we show forgiveness and when should these actions be called out?
It’s a simple truth of the human experience: we all say things we regret. It might be an embarrassing question wondered out loud, or a joke made in poor taste. Regardless of what was said, everyone can relate to the feeling of hearing the words leave their mouth and their stomach instantly sinking.
While we’re all humans and we all make mistakes, there comes a point where we must hold ourselves and others accountable for carelessly tossing around words and actions at the expense of others.
This is the problem a number of celebrities, athletes, influencers and even average people have found themselves in recently. Old tweets will suddenly resurface, or a video will expose people saying something they probably shouldn’t have, and within the hour, they find themselves trending on Twitter.
This is “cancel” culture.
No one and nothing is safe from the deep-running wrath of Twitter. Ariana Grande has been questioned multiple times of cultural appropriation. Chicago Blackhawks winger Andrew Shaw was caught shouting a homophobic slur to a referee during a game. Even “Friends” has been called out for being transphobic, sexist and fat-shaming.
People are beginning to realize they no longer have to let these “jokes” and comments go unnoticed. Through social media, they can voice their dissatisfaction against those with significant followings, influence and power. Where this topic becomes tricky is deciding, as the masses, when to show forgiveness and when it is justified to show disdain.
In my opinion, if it’s properly justified, I find no problem in people “canceling” or taking a hard stance against someone’s problematic behavior. When a celebrity uses a racial slur or an athlete makes a homophobic comment, I think it’s acceptable to call out their error.
This isn’t to say they should be bullied or threatened if they make an insensitive remark, but their actions and words shouldn’t go unnoticed either. If people are never educated and held responsible for their actions, the cycle of abuse against the marginalized will never end.
If we as a society don’t hold others, and ourselves, accountable and educate them on why their behavior is an issue, then how can we ever expect to grow as a society? By letting people get away with unacceptable behavior rooted in racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia or any other kind of hate, we are enabling the patterns and cycles that keep marginalized people in the margins.
One of the strongest examples of educating rather than simply pointing out someone’s fault is Chris Hemsworth. In 2015, pictures of Hemsworth showed him at a New Years’ Eve party clothed in traditional Native American dress for a “Lone Ranger” themed party. Fans quickly called Hemsworth out for using culture as a costume and explained in the comments why his actions were hurtful and disrespectful.
It turns out that Hemsworth actually listened to those trying to help because he later posted a photo showing his support with the protestors of Standing Rock. By learning from his mistakes and genuinely taking criticism to heart, Hemsworth was able to use his platform of privilege to shed light on an important topic for his millions of Instagram followers to see.
There’s a fine line to walk between immediately joining an online mob to flood people’s notifications with equally hateful words and staying silent and purposefully ignorant. But, without people being held accountable for their disrespectful actions that ultimately continue to feed into a cycle of oppression, progress will never be seen.