OPINION: We need to cancel ‘cancel culture’

Two hands hold a pink book covered in doodles and lipstick prints based on the "burn book" from the film Mean Girls. The word "canceled" is written on the cover in irregular script.
Graphic by Eloise Magoncelli

I remember the first week of classes like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my dorm with a couple of friends, talking about classes, fellow Orientation Adventure-goers, how so-and-so was doing and things of this nature.

“Oh, he’s canceled,” one of my friends would tell me whenever a given person came up. “Her? Oh, yeah, she’s problematic. She’s canceled.”

I sat there, totally perplexed. It was like I had just awoken one morning to find myself in an alternate reality, one in which the status of a friend was as precarious as that of my favorite Netflix series.

As a transfer student from a non-residential community college, I had never been exposed to cancel culture before.

Little did I know that this conversation was just an introduction.

Friends were dropping like flies: He made a classist remark, she slipped up on someone’s pronouns, they didn’t open the door for a person of color … Canceled. All of them.

My friend group became more and more sparse, and within a week I wasn’t sure if the literal apocalypse was upon us or if I just went to Pomona College. 

On at least one occasion, a student was canceled for insinuating that a friend of hers was being difficult with regard to buying plane tickets. He was unable to buy them due to family circumstances that she didn’t even have knowledge of

But that didn’t matter. She was dismissed as “classist,” and, as a consequence, canceled. She lost all of her friends and ultimately left Pomona.

That is more fucked up than I can convey in a single TSL article.

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Reader, let this idea be something more than an obscure Mitski reference: We are just tall children. 

Sorry to break it to you, sweetie, but not everyone is as quick to become a fake Marxist as you are, so cut people some slack.

Consider context. 

Context is everything; ask any psychologist. If somebody makes a “problematic” comment, remember that not everybody has had exposure to progressive ideals. Some students come from incredibly conservative backgrounds (I know I did), and, as unfortunate as it may be, some have had little to no exposure to people from different socioeconomic strata, or even to people of color. 

First-years usually come to Pomona fresh out of high school, and oftentimes the only ideas they have been exposed to are those of their parents and classmates. While Pomona (and more broadly the 5Cs) tries to foster critical thought, we all have to start somewhere.

We are bound to stumble and fall. As decent human beings, we owe it to one another to help each other back up, to learn the ropes. Abandoning people in teaching moments is in no way constructive, and if anything, it adds to the problem. 

You aren’t “mature” for canceling someone when they make a mistake; you’re a dick.

Granted, there are exceptions to this claim. Another person’s aversion to learning or changing morally questionable behavior (racism, sexism, transphobia or tendencies toward sexual assault, to name a few examples) is entirely out of your control.

If somebody doesn’t want to change, you can’t help them, and in those instances it’s important to take care of yourself and limit toxic interactions.

I also do not mean to suggest that one must task oneself with “educating” all people who slip up. All I mean to suggest is that we are growing, developing human beings. 

Remember that the next time you think about throwing out a peer like your three-day old Chipotle leftovers. We are here to learn, and cruelty is not an effective teacher.

Cameron Tipton PO ’20 is a textbook Tepid Take™ testifier. They appreciate their non-toxic roommate Adam, who is definitely not canceled.

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