When a girl at my school was caught spewing racist remarks online, she was canceled: People immediately blocked her on social media and ignored her at school. The girl was suspended for five days, but more important, the episode sparked a movement to stomp out racism at my school. The message: Offensive behavior will be condemned by students and administrators alike. Now if someone does something inappropriate, they’re likely to be confronted by another student or sent to the principal’s office.
This is the power of cancel culture: being able to publicly “call someone out” gives students an effective tool for fighting social injustice in their communities. What’s more, canceling empowers individuals to stand up for themselves with the support of allies. Victims of bigotry may feel more confident telling their stories if they don’t have to speak out alone.
One criticism of cancel culture is that it doesn’t leave room for someone to correct their mistakes. This argument may hold true for celebrities who lose sponsorships and suffer financially when they’re canceled, but it doesn’t apply to non-famous people. If a person genuinely wants to make amends, there are plenty of ways to become “uncanceled.”
For instance, in the case of the girl at my school who posted racist comments online, the Black Student Union invited her to a meeting to give her the opportunity to make amends. Being canceled might be painful, but, at least among teens, it doesn’t have to be permanent.
Even if the person being canceled is unwilling to learn from their mistakes, cancel culture is beneficial for its potential to make people think before they act. Social media makes it dangerously easy to post something without considering the consequences. The threat of being canceled encourages people to post and act responsibly online—a reminder all of us can use. With its power to combat injustice, empower individuals, and promote online civility, cancel culture is one of the most effective tools my generation has for bringing about change.