Another paper from my Multiculturalism class.
I have often wondered why someone would use the term “cancel culture” for something that truly needs to be a cautionary chapter in a history book. Why we, as a society, tend to drape the First Amendment around us like a cloak of immunity in order to continue to display objects that are part of an oppressive past or voice disparaging remarks against another social group. Isn’t the First Amendment about freedoms? Not just freedom for one particular group of individuals but every person residing in this nation. In 2020—in part in response to George Floyd’s death and the growing issue of white supremacy showing its ugly façade—symbols of the Confederacy started coming down in the United States. The cries that Southern heritage culture was being cancelled not only bellowed across the lower tier of the United States but in the White House itself. Robert E. Lee was a great military hero, right?
What was so wrong about eliminating statues and flags? An era of the United States where brother bloodied brother over wanting to own another human being just because the color of their skin had historical significance. The problem is we don’t see Germany with statues of the Third Reich or Hitler in their country. Even Italy makes a concerted effort to stamp out the remains of the fascist Mussolini. If they can learn that glorifying a horrific period in history is morally wrong, why can’t we? Perhaps it’s because we’ve tried so hard to erase the cultural differences of everyone who has immigrated here—along with the First Peoples—that we’ve clung to symbols uniquely our own. The fallacy of the melting pot that never existed. We revel in that multicultural divide trying to make ourselves above every other culture that pours across our claimed borders. Instead of embracing diversity, we continue to disparage those of darker skin tones all cheered on by the highest office in the land. The echoes of the reason behind the South fight to secede from the Union still whispering in the halls. The horrible history of our past that should have been a stain of embarrassment has now become something that has to be displayed for all to see. We forget that the last bloody battle on these lands ended with toppling a statue of King George III. Was this not the tyrannous heritage we embraced without question at one time? The phrase cancel culture didn’t exist then and I can’t imagine the Framers of the Constitution would have thought tossing kingly rule out of the colonies as that.
Regardless of our past, the buzz phrase of this decade will be cancel culture. Its usage will be off-base and without understanding but it will exist nonetheless. Lost your job because you used a derogatory term? Cancel culture. Banning General Robert E. Lee’s battle flag from being flown in the inner circle of NASCAR? Cancel culture. The most surprising measure is that the phrase is an engine of a white society. So much of history had white society as the dominant force that now the mere prospect that they do not dictate the course is a harsh reality. I think the problem stems from thinking that being white is a culture when it’s simply not true. Our ancestors did not start in the land we live today if we have a pale skin color. Sure when I fill out an application, I’m checking the box that says “white”. It’s the default cookie cutter one size fits all from Europe descent option. Should it bother me? It bothers me that I have to check any of those boxes, honestly. It’s not an “I don’t see color” nod. It’s more along the lines that by having that on as a requirement could lead to bias.
Perhaps I should not worry about the effects of having Confederate mementos in parks or in front of a federal building. Gettysburg is a stone’s throw away from where I live and statues depicting persons from both sides of the Civil War are along the battlefields. My ancestors weren’t here during the war and I have no blood ties to the North or the South in that regard. In the context of my location and the history involving the Civil War, I cannot fathom why anyone would glorify the losing side of a war that didn’t even last four years and cost 620,000 American lives. By comparison, the Revolutionary War lasted seven years and 6,800 Americans died. More than a half a million people dead. One side fought to preserve a socially constructed racial hierarchy and the other wanted, for the most part, equality.
Regardless of my feelings, this issue isn’t about me. While I balance between that line of discrimination—being a woman—and privilege—being white—I will never truly know the horror of my darker skinned brethren. I can, however, know the difference between what is cancel culture and what is a sect of society that has nothing to lose but their bullying posture over statues that cropped up during the Jim Crow era in our history. That they started coming down in 2020 with fervor should be celebrated not reviled. We cannot say we are a multicultural society if we cling to things that say otherwise and you cannot cancel a culture that never really existed in the true sense. Symbols of racism are not a culture. They are a construct that continues cite that one race is superior to another. In my opinion, it is an old prejudice that needs to be buried in the past and never repeated or allowed to live in breath within our society.