|Sarah Gusky Kemer|
There is a lot of talk in our society nowadays about “cancel culture.” Sometimes, it is a valid argument. Immediately dismissing someone without giving them a chance to explain, apologize, and change is worrisome. Oftentimes though, what some people call “cancel culture” is actually “accountability.” We should all be holding ourselves, and our government representatives, accountable for our actions, particularly those that are harmful.
To be “canceled,” one has to have an isolated incident free of context. We have context here. We have previously racist comments and a freshly racist one. Using the N-word is not negotiably okay—it is always hurtful, harmful, and racist. The context is racism.
To be “canceled,” one has to not be given the opportunity to apologize. There have been opportunities aplenty, and considering the visible position of government, there are always ample opportunities to have selectmen voices heard. To state that one is unapologetic for their remarks, instead of reflecting and learning why they may be harmful, is indicative of a lack of personal responsibility—a lack of self-awareness of the effects one has in their own community.
To be “canceled,” one has to not be given an opportunity for change. There has been ample opportunity for change. The N-word email was sent in 2010; I suppose we could look at it as progress that a racial slur was not used on camera in 2020, but that would be setting the bar far lower than our town deserves. The onus of showing change should always fall on the person needing to change. Others, particularly those harmed, cannot give the benefit of change without evidence. There is no evidence of change here, only defensiveness. Clearly, the offender in this case is unwilling to change, reflect, or grow.
So there is no “cancel culture” here. It is only accountability. A racist comment was said during a town meeting by someone with a history of racist comments. The person was given multiple opportunities to comment, apologize, and grow. They didn’t take a single one of these opportunities. Our town deserves leadership for each and every citizen. An unwillingness to hold oneself accountable, an unwillingness to acknowledge hurt and change, is not that leadership.
In addition, please read up on the radical history of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who also said “…I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…” (Letter from a Birmingham Jail). This is an informative space for learning more about how Dr. King was deeply more than the white-washed quotes thrown around in January, or in defense of color-blindness.
May we all lean more towards a just society, embracing the tension that comes from accountability, that is required to have a government and society free of bias against any citizen.
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