New York Times - November 1, 2019
"What members of older generations now dismiss as “cancel culture” — or, as Mr. Obama put it, “being judgmental”— is actually one of many modern-day iterations of protests they took part in when they were younger. Students at the University of Pennsylvania using social media to push for the cancellation of a campus event including a former Trump administration Immigration and Customs Enforcement director is not totally unlike college students using bullhorns to criticize apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s. Hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter, #MuteRKelly, #MeToo and others that were created by black women online aren’t all that different from the picket signs and petitions our parents used to demand racial and gender justice. Of course, we take part in more traditional activism, too. But today we have additional tools. Why wouldn’t we use them?"
... the former president’s disdain for the kind of criticism that has become popular to dismiss as “cancel culture” (which is a term that, as Osita Nwanevu wrote for the New Republic, “seems to describe the phenomenon of being criticized by multiple people — often but not exclusively on the internet. Neither the number of critics, the severity of the criticism, nor the extent of the actual fallout from it seem particularly important.”) is misguided. His eagerness to dismiss one part of what happens when young people stand up for what they believe in as “casting stones” is a reminder of a largely generational divide about whether it’s impolite to speak out in favor of the most vulnerable among us and the world we’d like to live in. While there’s some debate about which generation Mr. Obama belongs to, he’s solidly in the older camp.
Boomers and Gen-Xers, along with a handful of younger people with more regressive views, have been agitated by the way many young Americans — and especially young people of color — use social media, the only platform many of us have, to talk about the causes we care about.
But they are going to have to get over it.
The issues that my fellow millennials, along with even younger people in Gen Z, tend to be “judgmental” about are the same ones many of our parents and grandparents have been debating for decades. Being outspoken about climate change, women’s rights, racial justice, LGBTQ inclusivity and gun control — and critical of those who stand in the way of progress on these issues — is work that’s been left to us.
As a millennial who has participated in using digital platforms to critique powerful people for promoting bigotry or harming others, I can assure you it wasn’t because they had “different opinions.” It was because they were spreading the kinds of ideas that contribute to the marginalization of people like me and those I care about. It was because I didn’t want them to have a no-questions-asked platform to do this.
... It’s telling that it’s the powerful and privileged people in society who are most agitated by this form of online activism, and most convinced that it represents unnecessary evil that is tearing away at our civil discourse. The group that Mr. Obama joins in his scolding of outspoken young people is dominated by white straight men, far-right conservative talking heads, and celebrities who feel entitled to audiences who appreciate their art and dutifully ignore their missteps. It’s no surprise that Fox News fretted that his comments were “snubbed” and didn’t receive sufficient coverage from broadcast television networks. ...
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