Anti-Racism Homework 2: Cancel Culture

For today's homework, let's have a look at what is commonly called 'cancel culture'.

Cancel culture is the new name for the wave of firings and cancellations of significant executives and celebrities when evidence is found that they have been racist, sexist or abusive. Think Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, R Kelly, Iggy Azalea, Lana del Rey, Alison Roman and various powerful editors (I almost wrote 'idiots' which may be more apt) of the New York Times and other publications.

I've seen a lot of powerful people recently talking about how afraid they are of 'cancel culture', how scared they are of 'making one tiny mistake and losing everything they've ever worked for'.

Cancel culture, however, is a myth, and it's important to understand why.

There are statistics to show that less than 20% of racist incidents at work are recorded (despite being reported). When studying prominent corporate executives that have lost their jobs in 2016-2019 from racist incidents, each executive had an average of three unique prior complaints made before action was taken. There are statistics to show that it takes approximately eight reports of domestic violence made before charges and a conviction will be made. There are statistics to say that of every 1000 sexual assaults reported, four thousand sexual assaults were actually committed, only three perpetrators will be convicted, only one will serve more than three months jail.

Anecdotally: Every single woman I know, for their own safety, has quit a job, avoided a job role or left a community place (such as a gym, library, medical centre or tertiary class) because of unavoidable verbal, sexual or physical harassment.

Every single BIPOC (that is, Black and Indigenous People of Colour) that I know, for their own safety, has quit a job, avoided a role, or left a community place because of unavoidable racism, ostracision or discrimination.

Every single LGBTQI+ person I know, for their own safety, has quit a job, avoided a job role or left a community place because of unavoidable homophobia, discrimination or harassment.

In short: The victims, not the perpetrators, have been forced to 'cancel themselves' out of income, promotions, education, and opportunities, for many decades, in order to escape abuse and mistreatment. I have, more than once. (I would stretch this too to include BIPOC and minority allies who often become targets for abuse after supporting victims).

Cancel culture has been running rampant and unabated for a long time in our offices, our classes, our creative industries. The only thing that has changed in modern 'cancel culture' is that it is the people that have, statistically, committed multiple acts of racism, sexism or abuse before being caught, are the ones losing their immense and not-deserved privilege.

There is a saying 'to whom much is given, much is expected'. It's not unreasonable that an editor (on a salary of $163,000 p/a, more than six times the average national salary) in charge of a newspaper that reaches 130 million people monthly, should be held to a reasonably high standard of fairness and behaviour.

Cancel culture is not to be feared. For every op-ed bemoaning 'cancel culture', there are thousands of BIPOC or LGBTQI+ or female journalists with skills and stories to tell. There are thousands of musicians, thousands of would-be politicians, businesspeople, interns, singers, dancers, yoga teachers, sportspeople, writers, hospital staff, retail workers, chefs and every type of human being that is more than qualified, capable and ready to step into those roles without being abusive, racist, sexist or discriminatory.

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