I’ve been thinking a lot about cancel culture this month, partly because, as I write this, it’s currently pride month, but I’ve been taking a close look at the anti LGBT+ reactions to local libraries having pride displays around the United States, hoping the attempts to cancel these displays will vanish. I’m on the hunt for new canceled authors to read. I’ve started reading more canceled authors, personally, which has made me take a real hard look at this way of life some people still say doesn’t exist.
I’ll admit, I’ve never understood that conclusion and probably never will. Many say, even to this day, that cancel culture doesn’t exist. It’s worth noting that, perhaps for some artists, writers, and creators, they never had their art challenged or taken off the shelves before. They’ve probably never been discriminated against as a minority or have really felt the silencing of a minority by refusing to publish their diverse art in the first place.
Since I’ve started reading more canceled authors, which is almost always a BIPoC or LGBT+ or Disabled author, I’ve began to see cancel culture in a different way.
Cancel culture is all around us and it affects who gets to be the outstanding minority and how many status quo authors overpower diverse authors trying to break into traditional publishing.
A recent incident of cancel culture really got me thinking about the discourse and also how prevailing it is in our society. Atthis Arts is an inclusive small press that publishes proudly diverse fiction and nonfiction. Their latest Kickstarter about a diverse fairy tale book got hijacked by an anti LGBT hate group. The anti LGBT hate group funded the Kickstarter before funds were distributed. Just before the deadline, everybody from the hate campaign yanked their funding, leaving the project in danger of failing. It was funded, but still, this incident was a close call I’ll never forget.
Public libraries are hit with cancel culture the hardest. For example, a few years ago, librarians got death threats because they had drag queen story hour. This didn’t happen in 1999. This happened just a few years ago, in 2018. A county sheriff told a library they wouldn’t respond to 911 calls because the library promoted Black Lives Matter books. People continuously cut funding from libraries that promote LGBT books or otherwise.
Cancel culture doesn’t just extend to presses and libraries. It also targets many minority authors. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was banned. It still is banned in many schools. Kosoko Jackson never got to publish his debut book because it was antisemitic. He is a Black and gay author; one I’ve started reading more of after hearing about his canceled book. Isabel Fall is a trans writer that was harassed off the internet for a transgressive story.
Canceling minorities is nothing new. Ever since Black songwriters coined the term, canceled, in reference to canceling someone, white people in power have found ways to cancel diverse authors so they are harder to find and support. One great example of this is financial cut offs. People know if they just don’t give diverse writers money, for example, then they can’t publish any more books because they will be too busy surviving, not thriving. If diverse authors thrive, that’s a problem for privileged publishers because then, they’d have to be taken seriously and not used as a token.
The point of canceling someone is to hold them accountable for their actions. While I think cancel culture has strayed from its initial purpose, it’s frustrating to see conservative’s and or Republicans try and tell people that cancel culture is running loose, and, therefore, should be dismissed. It’s surface level thinking and doesn’t solve any problems. I do, however, think that there is no good discourse that can come out of social media mobs, period. I think that, by the nature of the social media platforms themselves, quick bursts of engagement are supposed to be ideal over critical examination.
The main reason why I’ve started reading canceled books and canceled authors, especially LGBT books that are banned regularly, is not to prove a point. I truly believe anybody can change if given the chance. I don’t really care that someone made a mistake in the past, as long as they’ve really learned and grown from the experience.
I don’t think hiding problematic elements helps people learn and grow. The lesson should be that these books are bad, Let’s talk about why they are bad in terms of our white structure we live in as Americans. Let’s talk about how this book looks through a heteronormative and abled society and how this could be problematic, and what can the author do to broaden their horizons and grow from there. I want authors and readers alike to openly discuss harmful books with the purpose of advancing past a particular harmful trope, so the trope shrinks, and then, finally dissipate completely.
As I’ve said before, I have my limitations. For example, for personal reasons, I’ll never read American Dirt. I just don’t want to give that book the time of day. It doesn’t sound like a book I’d enjoy. I’ve heard all the arguments for and against it, and I don’t want to give it the time of day, but this book was published because the author could pass for the status quo, while other minority authors, especially Black Disabled authors, can’t hide who they are and are never given a chance to tell the stories they want to tell. that’s a prime example of cancel culture giving power to the status quo, again, and it’s not good to let it continue to silence writers that don’t fit the everyday.
Cancel culture is in our society firmly, which is why I don’t participate in Twitter mobs anymore. It doesn’t help the author grow if people harass them for clout. Besides, what everybody sees as cancel culture is so minuscule that they are completely missing the true cancel culture. It’s a culture that disenfranchised writers and authors have to battle every day just so that someone, somewhere, will hear their voices.