Karmen Jones

Our university is no stranger to the trend of publicly shaming members of our Volunteer community, but have we gone too far?

The term “cancel culture,” also known as “call-out culture,” can be viewed as act of holding our leaders accountable for their actions. Students even feel the need to remind organizational leadership where their loyalty should fall, but we often forget that these leaders are students, and more specifically, people with actual emotional states. College is the time where we become “self-made,” and mistakes are inevitable to our personal evolution. Only you can decide who and what will become your sources of nurture.

Canceling someone is not only a poor attempt of permanent dismissal, but it also disqualifies the individual from growth. It sends the message of one being undeserving of forgiveness and correction.

Mistakes have been made by administrators and student leaders, whose intention did not match their impact, but canceling these individuals has an undeniable factor of laziness. It is child’s play to create a not-so anonymous Twitter account, identify those who are problematic and be a bystander in the spectacle, but the act of “calling-in” those who have committed the worst offenses requires a higher amount of integrity and character that some of our Volunteers are missing.

Social media is only a fraction of a person who was conditioned by society and family to obtain a certain way of thinking. Most socially unacceptable actions are a result of a pattern of generational privilege, ignorance or trauma. The limited space of 140 characters does not fully address or acknowledge the complex development of human character.

Our generation has the privilege to identify “cancel culture” as a form of virtual protest or boycott, but these actions lack the same amount of empathy and strategy of President Trump’s random tweets of diplomacy.

We have seen moments in our culture that place our own moral capacity into question. In October of this year, Amber Guyer, the ex-police officer who murdered Botham Jean in his own home, was embraced by the victim’s younger brother. Yes, we cancel each other over minor and major offenses, but this moment is an example of our moral responsibility to apply grace.

Martin Luther King Jr. did not break down systemic racism through a tweet. Historical moments such as the sit-ins formed by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee required them to come face-to-face with racism and death. The 1969 Stonewall Riots were a direct rebellion against violent police raids. None of the activists behind these progressive moments had the privilege to hide behind a small electronic screen.

The simplicity of a tweet will never compare to the endless work of those who came before us. Until we are willing to match this level of unity and sacrifice, our words will only hold insignificant weight.

Karmen Jones is a junior majoring in English rhetoric with a minor in Africana studies. She can be reached at kjone169@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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