“Sometimes people do stupid or mean things.” “Cancel culture” is a term we hear often but what does it really mean? Michael Harriot explains the reality behind the concept and proves why it’s nothing new.
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[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.
Michael Harriot [00:00:05] Hello and welcome to another episode of theGrio Daily. You know, I’m so glad that you tuned into us because I’ve said some controversial things here which might get me cancelled. Well, not that I believe in cancel culture, because cancel culture is a myth, right? There’s really no person who anyone can point to who’s ever been canceled. And the belief that, you know, people get canceled is something that somebody just made up because they want to say stuff that they can get away with. Aside from that, today we’re going to talk about, you know, cancel culture as you can probably guess, right. But what we’re going to talk about is not specifically cancel culture, but what people believe cancel culture is. And that’s why I want to welcome you to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that is going to dispel the three biggest myths of cancel culture. I’m Michael Harriot, world famous wypipologist, and this is theGrio Daily. So first, before we even get into cancel culture, we need to define cancel culture and cancel culture is defined as, I don’t know, whatever you say. Like there’s really no definition for cancel culture. You know, if you ask ten different people, you might get ten different answers. Some people say it’s when you know Black people or the “woke” left or the liberals or people in general decide to end somebody’s career because of something that some people don’t like. Some people say it is just, you know, ignoring people. Some people say it is a collective action. Some people say it is a bunch of individuals. Like really cancel culture, really doesn’t have any real definition, which is why when someone asks me why someone was canceled, you know, I always ask what you define cancel culture? Because depending on who you talk to, it could mean a bunch of different things.
Michael Harriot [00:02:26] And I did a little poll on my social media and I asked people, how does one go about canceling people or canceling someone? And nobody had an answer. Right, a real good answer. You know, there were, you know, nebulous things like you just got to start hating on them or you just got to end them. Like, I don’t know how you do that. And so today, we’re going to talk about the three biggest myths. The first myth of cancel culture, besides the idea that council cancel culture exist, is the idea that, you know, people can collectively decide anything, right? Like Black people. We’ll tell you that we need to unify. We want to. Why all the white people vote Republican and all the Black, Hispanic and Asian people vote Democrat. We wonder why we can’t collectively unite against white supremacy, but for some reason, we can all decide collectively, unanimously, to cancel someone. How is that possible? Tell me what sense that makes. Right.
Michael Harriot [00:03:42] So the first myth is that cancel culture is a collective action. Now, what cancel culture probably is, is that sometimes people do stupid or mean things. And when some of these people do stupid or mean things, people say, you know, that was so bad and go F with them no more. And they got themselves, quote unquote, canceled. And while that may be some people’s definition of cancel culture, the reality is like, if that’s true right, then cancel culture has always existed. Cancel culture exists on every level, in every form of media, entertainment and politics. Right? Like the reason that we stopped messing with Milli Vanilli nearly was not because we cancel them, but because we found out that it wasn’t Milli Vanilli, which was so bad that we said, you know, why listen to their music? The reason that nobody still listens to, you know, what’s your favorite one hit wonder? Oran “Juice” Jones. That might be over. Yo, yo. I don’t remember when I saw you standing in the way, but. But take your favorite one hit wonder, right? Like, why is rapping Duke? Okay, that’s not. That’s too old, too. But why do some entertainers fall off? Because people stop listening to their music.
Michael Harriot [00:05:17] So in a sense, like we dislike what they did, they didn’t stop making music, we just stop listening to it. Is that canceling? Or if a show gets bad and people stop watching it like The Walking Dead, y’all hear me, The Walking Dead is terrible. Why does everybody have to leave the camp and go chase? Like I got to run out and save so-and-so. Like, that’s how everybody on The Walking Dead dies is like the walking people on the Walking Dead of the characters on The Walking Dead don’t know what’s going on on The Walking Dead. But anyway, you know, when a show gets that bad, we start watching it. Is that canceling because it’s still on TV, the audience just stop swiping it. So in a sense, cancel culture exists in every medium and has always existed. Right? The reason that we didn’t vote for Donald Trump for a second term is because more people voted for the other guy, which means Donald Trump was kind to cancel or what we call democracy. Unless you or a MAGA and then you believe that, you know, the vote was stolen and dead people voted.
Michael Harriot [00:06:27] The second biggest myth of cancel culture is that we don’t have that because some kind of right wing thing that is something that liberals do, something that woke people do. And not, you know, conservatives or some people who are, you know, not so sensitive or quote unquote, snowflakes. They don’t they never cancel people. Well, how about the Dixie Chicks, though? Like what happened to the Dixie Chicks after they called out George Bush about the Iraq war? That don’t count. Right? Or how about any Republican politician who believes in abortion besides Herschel Walker, because, you know, Herschel Walker has normalized abortions. Right. Because first of all, that like more abortions than Harriet Tubman freed slaves. But in a sense, both sides sometimes decide to stop associating with an individual or a movement or a business or anything because of the things. And listen to important part, the things that people do. It’s not like people get canceled for things that they never did. Right. We didn’t cancel Bill Cosby because of the rumor until Bill Cosby’s career ended, because he went to jail for something that he did. Same thing with R. Kelly. Same thing with, I don’t know, pick your poison. Right. Like people start messing with him because of things that they did or said.
Michael Harriot [00:08:07] And I know you’re asking well why people ain’t cancel Kanye? Well, here’s the thing. That’s the third biggest myth: that anybody can be canceled. Nah, anybody can be canceled. See, people still mess with Kanye, not cause misogynoir or because we hold him to a different standard than other people. Nah, people don’t cancel Kanye because they listen to his music and he’s entertaining. And I don’t mean entertaining in the musical way, but in the sense that he’s a train wreck. Right. Like, you know, even people who dislike what Kanye says kind of want to look at the train wreck that he is. Right. And so, in a sense, Kanye is uncancelable because he keeps getting into train wrecks and we want to watch. And the same thing is true with other people who we haven’t canceled. Which brings me to the one person who everyone said was canceled, and this is the only example that people will ever bring up. And her name is Chrisette Michele. Chrisette Michele was canceled, so they say, because she agreed to perform at Trump’s inaugural ball. And then everybody canceled her, which is not quite sure.
Michael Harriot [00:09:31] See, here’s the reality. Chrisette Michele made her first album, and it sold about 400,000 copies. And she made another album and it sold about 500,000 copies. And she was on tour with with Mary J. Blige, and she was a big star. And then she left a record company, and then she made another album, which sold about 133,000 copies, according to Billboard. Wait, she she was declining. And then she went on a reality show and then she left the reality show. And then she made another album that sold a few thousand copies in its first week. And nobody paid any attention. And then she started doing a gospel playing version of Love Jones in small towns in theaters because no one was paying attention to her. And then she released another album, and absolutely nobody paid attention. And this was in June 2016. And because no one paid her any attention then she decided to go and perform for Donald Trump. And then she said Black people canceled her. But they weren’t buying the albums before she agreed to perform for Donald Trump. Her career was waning, much like everyone else’s career. And if Black people did decide not to support Chrisette Michele, it is because of something she did and not just something she did, something she did that affected the people who were buying Chrisette Michele’s albums.
Michael Harriot [00:11:27] So she did something that was against her fan base. So her fan base, so she said canceled her when in reality they just had already stopped listening to her music. Chrisette Michele’s cancelation is one of the biggest myths and the lure of cancel culture. And that’s why there are three myths that need to be dispelled because cancel culture doesn’t exist. And it’s also why you need to download theGrio app. It’s why you need to subscribe to this podcast on every platform you can. And that’s why you need to follow us and check us out and tell your friends about us. And that’s why we leave you with another Black saying: Let’s just agree to disagree that we should listen to Chrisette Michele. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app, subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at theGrio dot com.
[00:12:41] You are now listening to theGrio Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified.