Is Cancel and Call-Out Culture Hurting the Social Justice Movement?

In her new book, Detroit author adrienne maree brown discusses how cancel culture may not be the answer to addressing harmful behaviors and problems in communities involved in activism, feminism, social justice, and others.

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Gant Studios
Gant Studios

Detroit author and activist adrienne maree brown wants to have a conversation.

Not just any conversation, but one that’s nuanced, requires patience and often can be difficult. 

The conversation began in July when brown wrote an essay containing what she called “unspeakable thoughts” about the social practice of cancel and call-out culture. 

The essay has now become a book called “We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice.” 

“I’m a fan of call-outs in the context I initially learned about them (as a way to hold people in power accountable),” brown says. “We have a culture of being completely unaccountable for causing all kinds of different harm, so inside of that… it’s really helpful to have a practice of naming, shedding light, and bringing attention to those (behaviors).” 

In her new book, brown discusses how cancel and call-out culture may not be the answer to addressing harmful behaviors and problems on a smaller scale, like in communities involved in activism, feminism, social justice and others. In fact, cancel culture may instead be taking individuals away from the major struggle at hand: How to build a better, more just post-COVID-19 world.

Cancel and call-out culture has ramped up with the rise of social media, even prompting criticism from a famous former community activist, President Barack Obama.

brown says, “I feel like more and more people are starting to have a conversation around ‘how have we misunderstood what social media was and wasn’t’? and what it can do to our communities… How easy it is to use it to disrupt the core connectivity of a community.” 

Click the audio player above to hear brown discuss her latest work, which offers solutions to how we relate to each other, online, in person, and as human beings. 

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