Being “Woke” is Used as an Excuse to Stifle the Free Speech of Others
The Randolph, New Jersey Board of Education vote to remove the names of all holidays from the school calendar and replace them with “Day Off” illustrates how far down the black hole the cancel culture has gone in the name of political correctness. The action started when the board changed the name of the Columbus Day Holiday on the school calendar. The reason is that Columbus Day highlights Western imperialism and the conquest of Indigenous peoples.
The board meeting at which the vote was taken to change the name of holidays was met with raucous members of the community, most standing up against the change. Some spoke about the importance of Columbus Day to Italian Americans, while others debated the truth or falsehood of how some historians portrayed Columbus in a negative light. Some spoke about how Italians have been discriminated against in the U.S. in the past. Some of the speakers had to be escorted from the room.
The cancel culture is at work in the decision. Objections to holidays such as Columbus and Thanksgiving, which is also associated with Western imperialism, were used to justify the change of calendar as being sensitive to all points of view. The fact is when you try to be sensitive to all points of view you end up losing the element of fairness which is judgment of comparability. For example, what’s wrong with Veterans Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and so on?
The cancel culture gained steam after the shootings of unarmed black Americans in several cities. It was an expression of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement to cancel the offending party – the police – that led to cries of defund the police. Few, if any, would deny the wrongness of the police actions in these cases and the BLM movement is a valid attempt to sensitize society to the ills of social injustice in our society. However, the way to deal with it is through dialogue and a comprehensive view of why these overreactions occur. Canceling the police doesn’t raise awareness.
Political correctness is behind the cancel culture. In the minds of board members, changing the holidays to the generic day off illustrates how “woke” the board is. The board uses its awareness of the objections of some to certain holiday names as the pretext to make the change. Even if we assume the cancellation is justified, the way to deal with it is not to stifle thought but discuss why there are objections to Columbus Day.
The change in calendar also illustrates the “thought police” at work. One group of people seeks to tell others what to think; how to act; and what might happen if they don’t change their ways.
Supporters of the cancel culture claim it aims to hold certain people or groups accountable for their actions while opponents claim it stifles free speech. The question is who is being accountable for the change in calendar? The calendar itself? A growing intolerance of opposing views exists, and the cancel culture seeks a platform for public shaming and ostracism. The cancel culture has nothing to do with criticism or debate, and everything to do with silencing opposition so there is no debate.
This does not mean the cancel culture is all wrong. Holding others accountable for offensive speech or actions, such as Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, is a good thing. It illustrates egregious actions that should be met with a stern reaction that affects their ability to carry on as if nothing has happened.
The problem with the cancel culture is it attempts to stifle free speech under the guise of wokeism, a concept that is spreading across America like a wildfire. The offending parties take to social media and post on Facebook or tweet on Twitter their dismay bringing on supporters along the way. It’s easy to use social media and remain anonymous to minimize backlash.
So, what is the answer to the cancel culture run amok? From an ethical point of view, it requires us to return to the days where kindness and empathy for others were core values in society. Instead, today people and fractions act in their own interests unaware of the consequences of their actions and how they are leading American society down a black hole from which we may never get out of. The result is civility no longer exists in American dialogue. We have lost the ability to disagree with each other without being disagreeable.
Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, The Ethics Sage, on June 14, 2021. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ethicssage.