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We are finally awake, Generation Z. Whether it be microaggressions, misogyny, climate change, or capitalism, our generation has gained traction taking a stand against injustice and intolerance.
Some, however, may think that Gen Z is fostering a toxic cancel culture, perpetuating a society where those who make mistakes are immediately shunned, and cultivating an environment where your actions of the past taint your present and future. Many from my generation, however, argue that in order to have true equality, we need to take forceful action to hold each person accountable for any injustices they have committed, whether they took place 10 years or two days ago.
I, however, disagree with both of these extreme stances. Today's cancel culture often falls short of punishing individuals who commit the worst offenses whilst targeting those who deserve this punishment the least.
There are multiple case studies that explore this phenomenon. We can look at Natasha Tynes, an author who was canceled on Twitter for writing an offensive tweet about a Washington, D.C. Metro worker eating on the train, which the Metro Authority prohibits. Afterward, Tynes’s publisher canceled her upcoming book deal. She also received numerous threats and suffered a nervous breakdown that sent her to the hospital.
While I could agree that Tynes’s tweet was uncalled for and unnecessary, I could not agree that her entire life should be destroyed by it.
Furthermore, at the same time that we attempt to eradicate any up-and-coming author such as Tynes who has made rude comments, we often overlook more widespread injustices that are not only offensive to a few individuals but systematically damage communities.
One of the most significant cases of this issue is the theories surrounding Black pain. During the 19th century, physicians wrote several papers that Black people experience a lower pain tolerance than white people. These essays still influence the enormously disparate treatment of Black patients today. If we feel the need to focus on the writings of authors, this is where we should turn our attention.
I believe in holding people accountable for their actions, but I also remember the unfavorable things I have said. Moreover, I remember remaining silent in the face of harmful words that my friends and siblings may have said or words my parents and elders definitely have said. From my experiences, I’ve reached a decision; you can objectively conclude that someone has done something wrong without wanting to destroy that person’s livelihood. Cancel culture attempts to bring particular individuals to justice when what we need is equity across whole systems.
While we are able to end a common citizen’s life from a single tweet or offensive comment, those who genuinely need to be held accountable often escape their situations with little to no repercussions. We’re ridding ourselves of the Harvey Weinsteins, but what about the dozens who stood behind him? We’re locking up the Derek Chauvins, yet allowing the police strongholds that created him to stand firm. We have Western universities continuing to withhold Native American artifacts and remnants of their culture when many of these same universities and their leaders played a crucial role in destabilizing Native Americans’ livelihoods. Our own institution is expressly guilty of this act.
Cancel culture has made some progress on these issues such as sexual assault and police brutality that desperately need drastic change. Nonetheless, the perpetrators held accountable through cancellation are but a drop in the bucket when the entire system needs reformation. We can continue to move at the pace of holding individual people accountable for every wrong action they committed, rather than remaining complacent. One could argue that it’s a step in the right direction, but how long will it take to arrive at our destination? Moreover, when we finally do arrive, will the path we created behind us lead to a more sustainable future?
Removing the systems that amplify our society’s injustice is what we need to prioritize, not everyday people who make a few individuals upset on social media.
Our generation has been awakened to many more injustices than our predecessors. But we cannot fight every battle in the hopes of winning an infinite internet war. Instead, we can remain vigilant, act upon harmful systems to improve our collective well-being, and fortify the change we need for the future.
Chrystal O. Aluya ’24, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Adams House.
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