Kanye vs. Issa: 5 Things to consider before you “CANCEL” your fave
Kanye vs. Issa: 5 Things to consider before you “CANCEL” your fave
This week has been a particularly busy one on Black Twitter, mostly due to the antics of one Kanye Omari West.
Since the resurrection of Yeezy there have been devastating declarations, questionable philosophical musings, a few gems of wisdom and some flat out offensive tirades.
And now in the wake of that instantly viral TMZ meltdown, most of the Black community (and a vast majority of their white liberal friends over the age of 35) have thrown up their hands and announced, “Kanye is cancelled!”
Because apparently that’s what we do in this day and age when someone we consider a “fave” suddenly takes a sharp left into “What The Hell Did You Just Say?” territory. We send out clips and snippets of what they said or did that renders them undesirable, tag all our friends, create brilliant memes, and then laugh them into a corner where they will forever be treated as a punchline.
Even though I’m not usually a fan of public shaming, even I can admit that for some folks it literally takes all of that for them to admit they did something wrong. But sometimes, like in the case of Issa Rae, instead of using our collective voice to hold problematic folks accountable, we take things too far and just become an angry mob looking for their next victim.
Below is a checklist of 5 things to consider before throwing your favorite celebrity in the scrap pile.
1. Were their actions offensive, or just stupid?
Lets be real, talent and intellect aren’t always synonymous, and as a result sometimes your favorite singer, actor, athlete etc may excel in their field but be a bit dimwitted otherwise.
Which is why I always warn people against canceling someone for simply being stupid. And to be fair, even brilliant, civic-minded celebrities sometimes have a momentary lapse in judgement.
A perfect example of this is Chance the Rapper, who very foolishly inserted himself into the Kanye-West-loves-Donald-Trump scandal by tweeting out, “Black people don’t have to be Democrats.”
Black people don’t have to be democrats.
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 25, 2018
On the surface there is nothing wrong with that statement. But Chance’s timing was the very definition of stupid. And Twitter swiftly swatted him on the behind and told him to sit down within seconds of that ill advised post.
We’ve seen this time and time again. When celebs jump in to “cape” for their friends during a media firestorm, it rarely works out in their favor (unless they tread super lightly). Unfortunately, Chance didn’t get that memo and had to issue a ton of clarifying tweets and a full blown apology to get people off his back.
In his case, where redeemable stupidity and misplaced loyalty seem to be the true culprits – it may be premature to cancel him just yet.
2. Is there proof and context?
They say “perception is reality” but with the increasing popularity of Instagram celebrities, the truth is often filtered beyond recognition. Add to that the hyper charged landscapes of the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements and suddenly it becomes a bit tricky to separate fact from fiction.
Whenever we get a whiff of injustice and/or racial discrimination, even the most noble of us can find ourselves having a knee jerk reaction to grab a pitchfork and burn down the comments section of whoever we think has done wrong.
But context and evidence matters.
A great example of this is the case of Aziz Ansari. When the news first broke that a woman he’d once dated had shared a #MeToo story about him many of his fans felt instantly betrayed and some categorized him as a rapist without even reading his alleged victim’s stories.
It wasn’t until the facts of her interview were revealed that folks realized that while his actions may have been incredibly creepy, uncomfortable and traumatizing – Aziz (as far as we know) is not a rapist.
This story, which fell pretty squarely in the grey area, forced a lot of us to have nuanced dialogues about rape culture, consent, and the difference between sexual misconduct vs sexual assault.
Of course we want to believe women and to never contribute to an environment that shames victims for speaking up – but we also need to tread lightly and make sure we get our facts straight before destroying someone’s reputation.
Some people have now backed off and said Aziz is fine. Others will always look at him with suspicion in their eyes. Whichever side you fall on, just make sure you aren’t jumping to conclusions.
3. Would you be upset if a man or white person did the same thing?
The intersections of misogyny and racism have an impact on most things in this world especially when it comes to the court of public opinion.
Whether you want to admit it or not, in this country there is an unofficial food chain when it comes to desirability and credibility.
On the desirability scale Black men are towards the top and black women are at the very bottom. And on the credibility scale Black people in general come in last.
Which is why when Issa Rae jokingly wrote in her book that black women and Asian men should cut their losses and date each other since they’re often seen as the least attractive demographic groups on dating sites, many Black women laughed and kept it moving.
A subsection of Black men though — particularly those from the Hotep contingent — got a hold of Issa’s book years after the fact, and suddenly started calling on the rest of us to cancel her.
This case easily falls in the, “Request Denied” pile due to one simple fact: If a brother said the same thing, they wouldn’t care.
Black men watch other black men date and marry non-black women all the time without batting an eyelash, so the hypocrisy of calling a sister a “bedwench” just because she jokingly suggested Black women explore other options so they don’t have to die alone – is silly.
Whenever you find yourself wanting to cancel someone who is lower than you on the proverbial food chain, check your privilege and make sure you aren’t coming at this from a place of bias and entitlement.
4. Did they sincerely take accountability for their actions?
Not all apologies are created equal, and some people are so bad at apologizing you almost wish they’d said nothing at all. But we still have to admit that apologies matter. There is something to be said for a person who can look you (or in this case – the camera) squarely in the face and admit they were wrong.
As much as we all think Yeezy has betrayed our community, a part of me feels like, if he sat down with Oprah, shed some real tears, and apologized for all the hurtful rhetoric he’s been spitting out lately, many of us would consider taking him back into the fold.
But that’s partially because Kanye tends to come off like a mischievous little kid who means no harm but just doesn’t know when to shut up.
In other incidents, like in the case of Tyrese, who repeatedly made a spectacle, apologized, and then created a whole new mess — words don’t mean all that much. That’s when improved behavior is the only apology anyone will take seriously.
Be it through words and/or actions, we need think twice before discarding celebrities who’ve shown they sincerely want to do better.
I’m not suggesting we fall into the trap of being the overly forgiving negroes who are quick to let manipulators get away with murder. But maybe pause for a second and remember that even celebrated people — are still just people. And therefore honest mistakes are to be expected.
Conversely, if you’re dealing with a vainglorious repeat offender who never takes responsibility for anything – feel free to drag them!
Folks like that are often too hardheaded to learn any other way.
5. Have they caused any real harm?
Cancelling someone for having an opinion you don’t agree with is a personal decision, but some things are just universally messed up.
So if your favorite celebrity has a twenty plus year history of victims coming forward with allegations of abuse, sexual misconduct, assault or any other blatantly illegal nonsense – you might need to hit pause on your fandom and let your basic human decency kick in.
YES – I’m talking to you R. Kelly and Bill Cosby sympathizers.
I don’t care if you watched Cosby Show reruns every day after school and chose to “Step In The Name of Love” at your wedding. WRONG IS WRONG. And I doubt you’d be so forgiving if one of their victims was your daughter or someone you loved.
Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric
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