Woke-ness, cancel culture, and zero-tolerance-for-intolerance in the digital age

Alexi McCammond. Michael S. Schwartz/Getty Images

A disclaimer: before I start, I should let you know that I am with many Americans referred to as a bleeding heart liberal. Some describe me as “woke”. Others Mays call me politically correct. Others may see me something of a social justice warrior. I believe in equal rights for all, and some conservative, white Americans tend to look at me and wonder why.

Having said all that, last months parting of ways between Teen Vogue and its newly-hired editor Alexi McCammond still rings fresh on my mind.

For those of you who don’t know, or didn’t bother to click on the link , the twenty-seven-year-old McCammond resigned from Teen Vogue for a handful of tweets she made 10 years ago. The tweets in question have been deemed offensive to Asians. I will not repost them here, but a quick Google search will lead to screen captures of them.

Just to be clear: McCammond was 17 when she made these tweets.

Personally, I’m glad that I am not a kid in the age of social media. The truth is, I said a lot of stupid things when I was a kid. Things that the 47-year-old me of today would not agree with. Things that would probably be considered inappropriate, offensive or even racist altogether. Just to be clear: I never uttered any of these things to other persons, but I would be lying if I said that such words didn’t pass my lips. The thing with me is that I’ve grown and changed a lot over the last 30 years. I’m willing to bet that Alexis McCammond has changed a lot in the last 10 years.

As humans, we are creatures capable of evolving and changing. With time and experience often comes wisdom. The problem with The Internet is not that it’s written in ink; it is written in concrete. McCammond‘s tweets were deleted from Twitter about two years ago, but people who were savvy enough to create screen captures have them forever preserved. Make no mistake about it: Alexi McCammond was fired from Teen Vogue for things she said as a child.

While I think being culturally sensitive is important, I think we also need to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are capable of growth and change. In today’s ultra politically and socially sensitive climate, we tend to hold people in contempt for the dumb things they said or did a lifetime ago.

I’m not making excuses for McCammond‘s tweets. They were inappropriate then and they are inappropriate today. but I’m also willing to assume that she’s not the same person she was as a highschooler. I’m sure today, McCammond would not utter, let alone tweet, the things she did as a 17-year-old girl.

Has cancel culture gone too far? Are we to appoint that in preaching compassion and tolerance, we have become completely intolerant? Do we no longer allow people the opportunity to learn, evolve and grow? Are we to be forever condemned for things that we say in ignorance or with a lack of understanding; never to be allowed the opportunity to change?

Given the choice, I would much rather allow a person and opportunity to grow and change their ways, rather than condemn them forever for some thoughts or words they uttered as an ignorant child.

My final thought on this matter for anyone even considering a life in the public eye: for the love of God, scrub, scour, and sanitize your social media accounts! Or better yet, and delete them altogether, before you become famous.

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