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Myth of Reasonable Conversation and Reality of Cancel Culture

Myth of Reasonable Conversation and Reality of Cancel Culture February 16, 2021

Follow Your Dreams
Original image by Chris Devers/Creative Commons via flickr

“Maybe I could get a raise if I just said I identify as a poor black man.” This was said to me by a former boss. She was a middle aged white woman who lived in a nice home and was the director of our facility. I was silent and uncomfortable. She decided to go on. “Doesn’t bother you that people can just say they identify as a different sex and suddenly they get more rights than we do?” I took a deep breath. There was fear. I loved this job. I was a curator surrounded by art, history, culture and people all over the world daily. I said in measured words, “Please don’t make jokes like that. My child is transgender and I don’t think black jokes are appropriate either.”

There was a pause. She told me that I need a sense of humor and she walked out the lobby to meet the mayor for lunch. For the next few days, there was passive aggression on her part that was hard to pin down, but it was obvious that it was there. I contacted HR in Washington D.C. and there was a very non report report of the incident. They told me they would contact her. A few weeks later I was placed in a position to either face possible termination or resign for an “unrelated matter”.  I resigned from a space of fear.

My job was cancelled for having a transgender child and not laughing at trans/black jokes. What if I had put this on social media?  Would I still have my job? Would this story have turned out differently?

Reasonable conversation and assertion of rights in the system does not work for too many people. “Cancel Culture” may be the only way to see justice the way the cards are stacked in favor of the powerful.

On Wings Denied and JKR

When my child and I were denied service at a Buffalo Wild Wings, many readers were ready to name and shame them. My child wrote a guest column speaking of more productive ways for people to use their energy to change rights.

I recently brought up that episode to my child and this is what they had to say about it now. “Seeing how much worse things have gotten since Trump got elected, I wish I hadn’t interfered. It’s not that I want people hurt, but corporations and people in power don’t stop hurting others until it affects their income flow. And even then they try to eliminate the trouble makers in PR instead of doing a moral policy pivot.”

JK Rowling in her continued assault on transgender people has zero remorse for actions. Various groups have tried to reach out to her to have reasonable conversations. She refused them. After refusing them, she doubled down on more harmful statements. When enough voices raised up to say her behavior is unacceptable, she used her power to lead the charge in a Harpers Bazaar article that made her the victim in this story. She scared other celebrities of this mythical beast called cancel culture to join her in a co sign. Some of those powerful people recanted their positions and apologized for co signing it. Those people faced her scorn and her wrath.

She is currently in the process of inking a deal with HBO and her opportunities are soaring.

I still have to hope that my online presence does not offend perspective employers or clients. There are over 20 states in the US where my child can be denied a job, the opportunity to be a foster or adoptive parent, and other legal rights and protections accorded other citizens. Is she really a victim?

The System Doesn’t Work and Good Ol Days

If the system worked, we would not have to say Black Lives Matter. Women would be paid as much as men. 20 million would not be facing eviction right now, LGBTQ rights would be human rights, and I would never have been fired. These days of civility where men wore smoking jackets while sitting in the parlor disagreeing civilly never existed. It was just a bunch of white people sitting in a room discussing the rights of women, black people, queer people and others. There may have been a man who was afraid to speak out in that parlor for fear of harm to their family or friends, as well as themselves.

We the common, we the oppressed, we the scared, we the disenfranchised do not get to be heard. There is only one thing that can make a person in power stop and reconsider. The fear of loss. Loss of money or loss of fame.

When the rest of the people stop buying, stop watching, stop consuming and there are consequences to oppressive actions, that is when it stops.  Civil discussion and reporting violations fail the people suffering too often.

If you want cancel culture to stop, if you want protests to cease, and if you want businesses to make more money, there is a simple way to accomplish that. Give people real equality and real opportunity. Let healthcare, food and housing scarcity be a thing of the past. I wish that could be done in reasonable conversation. History shows that human rights do not advance without protests, raised voices, bloodshed and ultimately threat to power and economic bottom lines. When the dust settles, we continue oppressing other people who have not risen up yet.

Closing Thoughts About Cancellation

When power to oppress is unchecked and their speech and actions cannot be challeged or have consequences, there is a cancellation by default.

-As has been shown, my job security is cancelled.

-My child’s safety and equality is cancelled.

-Black Lives are cancelled.

-DACA dreamers are cancelled.

-Women’s medical rights and rights to agency of their body is cancelled.

Like the Banksy graffiti above, our dreams are cancelled. It not only all right to push back, lives depend on it.

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