It seems that with each passing day, it’s becoming impossible to disagree with someone without them finding some way to call you a Nazi.
You may remember the recent story about Leighton Grey, the local lawyer accused by government and judiciary experts of being a racist, sexist, anti-semite, and a whole bunch of other wholesome titles, but on the off-chance you haven’t, he was cancelled after sharing some inflammatory videos on social media about the Black Lives Matter movement.
For anyone that’s unclear of what it means to be “cancelled,” the simple explanation is that it’s an act of public shaming, which usually includes the goal of having the cancelled individual’s lifestyle or career upended completely.
The whole concept makes me want to pull my hair out.
Not because I agree with Grey, but because once he went and said something that the court of public opinion deemed to be ignorant, all pretence of civility and decency were cast aside and the situation became all about “proving” just how inarguably “wrong” his ignorance made him, rather than making any kind of effort to remedy or delve into the issues.
I’ll reiterate, I don’t agree with Grey, and I especially don’t agree with the content that landed him in his current predicament, but just because I disagree with him doesn’t mean I’m going to try painting him as the antichrist.
So what is it about Grey’s cancellation that irks me?
The CBC article that was put out on Grey just could not stop talking about race.
Mentions of professors from Nigeria, African-American professors in Toronto, and Grey’s own status as Indiginous were punctuated in just about every other line, and that was all it seemed to care about.
It didn’t even bother mentioning Grey’s work as a lawyer, which you don’t have to do much digging to find examples of.
Groups of people love to think they have some kind of moral high ground. I’ve found that’s especially true in the case of cancel culture, and make no mistake this can come from every angle a person could find themselves against: abortion, welfare, taxes.
Someone will be more than happy to tell you just how much you don’t understand and wrong you are about any of these, and if it happens more than once you get cancelled.
But what’s the source of this moral authority? Why are we so eager to shoot down dissenting opinions and raise questions about the quality of someone’s character? With creating a strawman rather than seeking the opportunity to understand their point of view so that we can then introduce them to our own?
Now please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that if a public figure says or does something you find offensive that you should just sit around with your mouth shut, I’m just raising the question of why the immediate reaction needs to be one of teeth-bared hostility.
I place great importance in forming an understanding of another person’s perspective. When people jump down each others throats, especially over something that everyone’s got an opinion on, only one thing is being accomplished–making an adversary, and when that happens the opportunity to build bridges across gaps in knowledge almost certainly becomes impossible.
Should we as a society seek to purge the repugnance of prejudice from our world? Of course, but to accomplish this we need use the proper tools; discussion of difficult topics in a thoughtful manner, explanation of our thoughts and opinions with clarity, and understanding that the logic of another often won’t align with our own is how we accomplish this goal.
When we allow ourselves to fall prey to mob mentalities and paint in broad strokes, over any kind of good or noble act that might have been done, all we succeed in achieving is entrenching the scourges of humanity into everyday life and give fuel to the fire of conflict.
So the next time you’re online, and you hear talk of “some ignorant jerk that needs to know just how much of a jerk they are,” take a second to really consider what it is you want to see accomplished, and take the steps to make it happen.
Leave others better than when you found them, because the world does not exist in black in white, it is in shades of Grey.