WE WILL NOT CANCEL US by adrienne maree brown
Cancel culture addresses real harm...and sometimes causes more. It's time to think this through.
"Cancel" or "call-out" culture is a source of much tension and debate in American society. The infamous "Harper's Letter," signed by public intellectuals of both the left and right, sought to settle the matter and only caused greater division. Originating as a way for marginalized and disempowered people to address harm and take down powerful abusers, often with the help of social media, call outs are seen by some as having gone too far. But what is "too far" when you're talking about imbalances of power and patterns of harm? And what happens when people in social justice movements direct their righteous anger inward at one another?
In We Will Not Cancel Us, movement mediator adrienne maree brown reframes the discussion for us, in a way that points to possible paths beyond this impasse. Most critiques of cancel culture come from outside the milieus that produce it, sometimes even from from its targets. However, brown explores the question from a Black, queer, and feminist viewpoint that gently asks, how well does this practice serve us? Does it prefigure the sort of world we want to live in? And, if it doesn't, how do we seek accountability and redress for harm in ways that reflect our values?
With an Afterword by Malkia Devich-Cyril.
adrienne maree brown is the author of Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds; Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good; co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements; cohost of How to Survive the End of the World and Octavia’s Parables; and founder of the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute.AK Press says:
"The world needs a book tackling the thorny questions of cancel/call-out culture, from a perspective that sees both sides: the need for an egalitarian way of addressing abuse and inequity and an understanding that how we're doing it now, while it may give immediate (if vengeful) satisfaction, does little to actually redress harm or support healing. Once the brouhaha over the recent Harper's letter erupted, the need for a book like this was even more clear. -Then adrienne maree brown wrote a blog post that recast the whole debate in a manner that made it seem possible for a real discussion to take place. She wrote it from a position within the milieu that has been doing the "cancelling," not as an outsider complaining about it, or powerful figure worried about it coming for them. She put into words what many on the left have been feeling: that we are tearing one another apart and actually weakening our movements rather than strengthening them. Sidestepping abstract moral questions or hollow debates about "free speech," she simply and honestly asked: Don't you think we can do better? -Within hours of her publishing the blog post, we had her permission to turn it into a small book, along with two other short pieces she had written on the topic, a foreword, a graphic overview of steps to take before doing any call-out, and a list of resources."