Ever since George Floyd died in May when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, the Black Lives Matter movement and the injustices it seeks to rectify have been …
Ever since George Floyd died in May when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, the Black Lives Matter movement and the injustices it seeks to rectify have been pushed to the forefront of the national dialogue. Issues that have been ignored for far too long are getting the attention they deserve. That’s a positive development.
However, “cancel culture,” as it’s called, has become an Orwellian mob of thought police, and with the growing attention for Black Lives Matter, it’s gained significant clout.
In one example of how mainstream its insanity has become, the Washington Post reported on an incident from 2018 when a woman wore a costume that included blackface to a Halloween party hosted by a Post cartoonist. She was criticized for the understandably offensive costume and left the party in tears. She apologized to the host the next day. Somehow this incident, which didn’t seem important enough to report on at the time, produced a 3,000-word hit piece last month that got the woman fired from her job.
Gary Garrels, senior curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, resigned this month after a petition circulated by museum employees demanded his removal. They argued he had “toxic white supremacist beliefs regarding race and equity.” What did Garrels say that suggested sympathy for hate groups? In talking about diversity in its collections, he said the museum would still collect works by white males.
These are just a couple recent examples of the absurdities infecting discourse on race issues, and they have created a tyranny of their own that is harming people, including the Black Lives Matter movement. The fanaticism of these mob actions drowns out legitimate grievances African Americans have toward ongoing injustices in America. It drives a reflexive defensiveness that loses sight of some important issues the Black Lives Matter movement raises.
Consider arguments about the high rates of homicide committed by African Americans against other African Americans. The argument asks, if Black lives matter, why do nationwide protests erupt over a handful of deaths at the hands of police while thousands more violent deaths fail to get the same reaction?
This is comparing apples to oranges. Police are granted the authority to detain and kill people. The vast majority of officers use that authority to serve and protect their communities. But when the bad apples abuse their power, needlessly resulting in citizens’ deaths with little accountability, it’s very different from citizens who commit murders for which they can be and often are prosecuted. There’s certainly a conversation to be had about criminal violence, but it’s a different conversation occurring in an entirely different context.
There is also the All Lives Matter chant, which is another defensive posture that misses the point. When people cry out that hungry children matter, no one responds with a corrective argument that all children matter. The cancel culture mobs actually encourage this kind of thinking. If mobs were publicly shaming parents of well-fed children and ripping lives apart over insensitive remarks about kids in need, people who would otherwise feel charitable might become resentful toward movements meant to help kids who don’t get enough to eat.
The tyranny of “cancel culture” should be, well, canceled. There are signs of pushback, and hopefully this sad chapter in American history will soon be put to rest. Until then, don’t let the insanity of it all be an excuse to ignore inequalities in America. It’s worth remembering, for all the self-interested, sanctimonious crusaders out there bent on shaming people for tweets years ago, there are many more sincere people protesting real problems. They deserve to be heard.