P.S: This article was originally published on December 9, 2018 by Pulse Nigeria. It is getting republished with the perspective of Canadian singer, Daniel Caesar and his ongoing problems with the 'cancel culture.'
Over the past year, we have seen call-out culture hit a high with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, against sexual harassment by highly placed individuals — mostly men, using their positions to perpetuate evil. They got fingered in the court of public opinion and made to pay for their crimes against humanity.
Another shade is the calling out across social media to even average individuals. This year, Nigeria has seen a #MeToo version on Twitter NG, calling out men with a history of sexual impropriety. Other times, we have seen celebrities like Linda Ikeji or more recently, Kevin Hart get called out for ingrained wrongness they perpetuate.
‘Call out’ culture has been in full swing. While it is not faultless and prone to abuse, it has mostly been positive, creating a better world and making people see the powers of inclusion of minorities and oppressed demographics or see the beauty of positive and non-derogatory language. Its major offspring; which usually comes after getting ‘called out’ and convicted in the court of public opinion is the 'cancel culture.'
ALSO READ: After the Naija Twitter storm, what's next?
‘Chimamanda has been canceled’
You must have heard that earlier today after news filtered in; seasoned, award-winning writer and renowned feminist, Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie again repeated her stance on trans-women on not being women and why she does not care much for feminist texts, despite being a feminist. She also referred to some criticism she earlier got on a comment towards trans-women as “trans noise.”
Nigerian Twitter has been a dead-rudder of improperly oiled friction since, with people from the Nigerian, nigh African or even western LGBTQ+ community taking offense to what the writer said. Despite her quip on trans-women only being a repetition - the first in May 2017 - Nigerians have been angry.
Some Twitter users have even advised her to quit responding on transgender issues and stick to writing and feminism. Others were simply disappointed that such an icon and a voice for the minorities they have hitched their wagons of speech to; someone to whom they look for strength knocked them down so easily without a trampoline to save the inevitable crash — the disappointment could be felt in their tones and voices.
ALSO READ: Chimamanda says trans-women are not women
Therein lies the first problem
Asides Chimamanda herself saying, “we are on the same side” when questioned about feminist and transgender, it is a known fact that a lot of feminists show up for LGBTQ+ communities, probably because they share the same plight and have the same need to be seen, appreciated and heard for who they are.
Most feminists are activists for LGBTQ+ and one can say that Chimamanda is no different, so how she could be so misinterpreted or interpreted so literally when so much meaning lies between the lines and depth of what she said is slightly disheartening from an analyst’s or commentator’s perspective. She at least deserved the benefit of the doubt to be understood as most well-meaning neutrals would have.
She meant well and nothing about saying trans-women can’t truly understand the plight of those who were born women is wrong. Male privilege is entrenched and people with the semblance of men enjoy it either they want it or not. But then, it arouses a second issue;
You can have heroes, but you need to form your own thoughts, you're an individual and that’s power
As I went through Twitter Nigeria to see the outrage while trying to understand the entire core of the outrage, I stumbled upon this thread by a very sensible Twitter user and feminist who tweets @BaddieMimz;
From inference, one can see that the root of ‘cancel-culture’ is an emotion; at the root of real emotion is offense. One can only take offence like Twitter users and feminists have to Chimamanda’s opinions — despite being factual — if one is so invested in what another preaches.
Daniel Caesar: Passion and pain from oppression are also no validation for hate and bad behavior
On March 20, 2019, while responding to yet another controversy involving supposed ‘culture vulture,’ Yesjulz, Oshawa, Canada native and R&B talent, Daniel Caesar stated something on his Instagram live feed - albeit, alcohol-inspired.
He said, “Why are we being so mean to white people right now? That's a serious question. Why is it that we're allowed to be disrespectful and rude to everybody else, and when anybody returns any type of energy to us... That's not equality.”
Now, he is courting backlash. Black people and other racial minorities who have been on the wrong end of racism want his head on a spike. He is getting dragged and of course, the inevitable ‘Daniel Caesar is cancelled’ is in full swing.
Yes, white racism/supremacy is one of the ugliest things humanity has witnessed. It birthed colonialism and it continues to inspire some of the most infamous hate crimes around the world, simply due to victim profiling on the stereotype of race and the madness of paranoia.
Black people and other supposed minorities and racial demographics, still getting on the wrong end of white supremacy and abuse of power have a right to be angry. In fact, it is only human. But mind you, as I am black, I can only speak for blackness. Daniel Caesar has a huge point.
Black racism predates the point that racism exists to the extent that the victim takes offence. The world literally does not operate on the concept of hate speech against white people on the subject of race.
Black people have a lot of derogatory descriptives for white people, Asians and even Latinos, that when we suffer any equivalent, the world punishes those of lighter skin because we really bore the brunt of slave trade and other ugly happenstances. It’s understandable.
It works on the concept of power. Also, some of these derogatory languages from black people to the people of lighter skin tone have no historical root in pain, derogation, oppression, blood and death.
Thus, even the ones getting abused never really see the wrongness of the derogation. It's why a black man can abuse an Asian of having a ‘small organ,’ even jokingly. It’s also why a black man can call a white man ‘cracker’ and force stereotypes on him without any threat of backlash.
Imagine a person of lighter skin tone abusing a black man – even jokingly – of having a huge nose, or tough hair. Imagine what will happen if a white man said the very dirty 'n-word.' The world will be on fumes from inferno set by black people with no possibility of an arson charge in the court of public opinion.
Black people display dislike for people of lighter skin tone openly without ever being subjected to the possibility of rebuke or anger from those people. Oppression is not an excuse for bad behavior.
We should strive for equality, not to be elevated to a level of importance because we were once oppressed on a higher scale, lest we become the concept and people fight against like we are already are, with nobody calling us to order.
We black people continue to do some intrinsically bad things to people of lighter skin tone, and get away with it by offering excuses like, ‘they have done it before,’ or ‘they did it before us on a grand scale.’
Bad things have a start and if you don’t know, having an excuse rooted in pain for bad behavior helps no one and two wrongs never make a right. But maybe people lie Daniel Caesar and I just have pipe dreams, but it does not invalidate our worries.
That was Daniel Caesar’s point, but instead of stopping to actually agree with him and see reason or at least look passively, we are all over him to cancel him.
Where is the individuality?
Going back to this thread;
Groupthink is a problem responsible for some of the greatest atrocities the world has seen and some of the most avoidable problems the world is yet to see. We can have heroes, but sometimes, it is good to only use messages passed by our heroes as instructive message, on which we can build our own ethos.
Accepting only what our heroes say as overwhelming truth is setting ourselves up for heartbreak and disappointment because no human being is perfect and sometimes, they will say things we don't agree with. The beauty of freewill is also that, we don't all have to agree.
We all have flaws, it is then inevitable that our heroes will 'disappoint' us if we place our entire onus and principles of living on what our heroes hold true.
When we discovered the imperfections of our parents should have been when we realized human imperfection and the need to compartmentalize perspective.
As individuals, we are imbued with significant powers of thought to know wrong from right and bad from good. We are not sheep, we know the things we need to change. Laziness of thought is the only reason we let our heroes do our thinking for us and it’s not fair on us or them (our heroes).
We are all humans trying to figure life out. Sometimes, we change, other times, we bend; and other times, we just simply discard our own values. A few times too, we slightly deviate from accepted patterns of passing messages to pass even deeper and better messages.
That is why keeping an open mind and understanding our individuality is key to always see through everything, so emotion doesn’t erode our thought when our heroes even have a semblance of deviation from the path they have led us on. Sheepish followership also creates unrealistic expectations of our heroes.
You would only have wanted to ‘cancel Chimamanda’ because you took offense with what she said. The offense could only have come from emotion, and emotion could only have come from failing to utilize your individuality in having heroes. It is neither fair on you, nor your hero — in this case, Chimamanda.
Blindly following heroes creates a loyalty and unrealistic expectations and sometimes, even good messages that seem wrongly put together appear wrong by default and that’s exactly what happened today with Chimamanda. She presented a good message that supports feminism but was wrongly worded albeit too absolute an opinion, that its true meaning got lost.
Is Chimamanda wrong or right? Are you wrong or right? Honestly, if we all utilized the powers of individuality as a unit of creation or existence, we wouldn’t be canceling anybody. We would all realize that Chimamanda is only expressing her powers of individuality. You can express yours, we don’t all have to agree, there are different ways to do the right thing.
Equally, two things can be right, even though they disagree on the path of one thing. Equally, oppressed demographics and social justice movers who yell ‘cancelled’ at every instance have to realize they cannot always be right, especially when it comes to things like identity, race or sexuality that ignite passion.
‘Cancelled’ should not always be a weapon of warfare that loses relevance because it gets a terrible overkill and application to unnecessary scenarios. It should be a powerful tool of activism that will overwhelmingly mean something.
Motive should be used in gauging when the cancel culture should be effected. But it's almost like the court of public opinion immediately judges people with remotely adverse opinions as bad people and convicts them accordingly because there's only one thing to do and agree with; side with oppressed demographics.
That is a severely problematic viewpoint. Some issues are more complex than 'A' or 'B.' We all need to understand that.
This could all have been water under a bridge.