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What do we do with Cancel Culture? Facilitator Discussion

What do we do with Cancel Culture? Facilitator Discussion

This is a recording taken from our May 5, 2022, DEI Facilitator Discussion about cancel culture on LinkedIn Live. Follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe to our newsletter to find out more about upcoming LinkedIn Lives and other events.

This is a transcript of our May 2022 First Thursday DEI Facilitator Discussion on LinkedIn Live. Please join us every month for DEI-focused conversations and panels with our DEI Facilitation team. This month, the SGO DEI facilitators came together to break down the incredibly complex and nuanced topic of Cancel Culture. Fatima Dainkeh, Rachel Sadler, and Kia Rivera discussed:

  • Where did Cancel Culture come from?
  • Who gets canceled, who gets rewarded?
  • What does accountability look like, and who decides?
  • What comes next?
  • And a whole lot more!

Find out about upcoming events and webinars before they happen on the events tab.


Vienna:

Hello everyone, and welcome to She+ Geeks Out on LinkedIn Live. We are here with our first Thursday DEI team talk. We have a facilitator discussion today and we’ll be talking about what do we do with cancel culture? It’s been in the news a ton, people are claiming cancel culture where maybe there isn’t really that example. We’ve been talking a lot about the first amendment. There’s been a lot of other conversations that have gotten tied up with this. And it’s a pretty big tangled mess that I would love to give it to the SGO DEI facilitators to begin to unravel for us. So with that being said, my name is Vienna DeGiacomo. I use she, her hers pronouns. I’m the content marketing manager for SGO, and I will be talking to some of these lovely folks today and getting to, to hear everything they know. So if we could just quickly introduce ourselves, I’ll throw it over to Fatima.

Fatima:

Awesome. Thanks so much. Fatima, pronouns she, her, hers. Currently the learning and development manager and I’ll pass it over to Kia.

Kia:

Hi everyone. I’m Kia Rivera. She, her pronouns and I’m one of the DEI facilitators on the team and I’ll pass it over to Rachel

Rachel S:

Everyone. My name’s Rachel Sadler. I’m a DEI facilitator here at SGO. She, her pronouns. And we’ll toss it back to Vienna.

Vienna:

Thank you so much. Well, so I’m really glad to be here with you all right now. And potentially before we get started with our first questions maybe we could take a second just to do a brief land acknowledgement. Fatima, do you wanna take that on?

Fatima:

Yes, absolutely love that idea. So at SGO, before we sort of get into content or dive into a specific topic, we’ve been practicing land acknowledgements. And while we recognize that land acknowledgement isn’t the end-all be-all, when we’re talking about indigenous folks in this country, it is important to just name like how are we here. Right. So we’re all in different locations. Our wifi is plugged in somewhere and it’s important for us to accept the fact and also name the fact that, Hey, I’m here because I am currently on stolen and colonized land, right? And specifically for SGO, we were founded on the original homelands and, and traditional territories of the Patucket and Massachusetts tribe. And so just wanna a hold space and honor that. And for folks who are tuning in, you know, if you all are interested in learning more about landing acknowledgement, we’ll go ahead and share some info on that as well. So thanks for being here.

Vienna:

Awesome. Thank you so much. So, you know, we’ll get right into it. I would love if maybe Rachel, if you could lead us through a little bit to know the historical background of cancel culture, maybe some context where it comes from. It definitely feels like something that popped up very recently in the news, but we know that it wasn’t. Can you talk us through that a little bit?

Rachel S:

Yeah. So the original term canceled kind of came about as a misogynistic joke that Wesley Snipes made in a film. I believe it was in the 1980s or 1990s. Right. And it’s kind of been articulated through the black community as kind of a, a way to say that we are just kind of like not dealing with the anybody anymore. You say that person is canceled. And as we see over time where we have populations, that kind of co-opted language, so you see canceled, you see woke, for example, being taken completely out of the original context that was meant for, and now it’s part of our language that we really can’t use anymore because it’s been used in these ways and inflammatory ways I would say, and re-articulated it to mean kind of opposite what it was originally intended for, you know, within our own language.

Vienna:

Yeah. That makes sense. Thank you so much. Does anybody have anything else that they wanna add just to help round out our foundational definition, how we’re defining cancel culture for the sake of this conversation?

Fatima:

I love how Rachel gave us that historical background and at least thinking about the first time we’ve heard it. And as we’ve been talking about it, we also recognize that folks define cancel culture in, in various ways. Right. And so if you’re tuning in now or watching this video later, it would be helpful for folks to also think about what’s your understanding or what comes to mind when you hear that phrase cancel culture. So I think it’s one thing to hear how Rachel has helped us understand the foundation of it. But it’s another thing if you’ve never heard that historical context, right. And you’ve interpreted in a different way based off of some someone else experience or your experience and whatnot. So I thought it’d be interesting to just add that layer as well.

Kia:

Yeah. I love that Fatima, or think about how it’s changed in the media, whether it be like on social media or within news and journalism, how folks use canceling someone or that, that person’s been canceled or what is cancel culture within the term of wokeness, things of that nature and how it’s used in the political divide as well.

Vienna:

Thank you so much. Yeah. That’s a really interesting idea to come into this with too, right? Like we are recording this video for everyone in 2022. And if we take that time capsule approach to it, what would this conversation have looked the like two years ago and two years in the past, it changes so quickly. So I do appreciate all of that context behind it. So the first question I have thinking about what cancel culture is and what is a reflection of. One question is, is cancel culture in 2022, a reflection of power over? So whether that’s white supremacy culture, whether that’s other forms of oppression or just power dynamics that be is that what cancel culture is?

Fatima:

Yeah, it, it’s such an interesting question. Right. You know, Rachel has given us an insight of like the first time people have probably heard this phrase and then we get into a space where people are now using it. And it almost feels like it has a negative connotation, right? Like who wants to be canceled or it doesn’t feel good as a human to hear like, oh, I’ve been canceled. And one of the things that we’ve been reflecting on is like, who gets to decide, first of all, who’s canceled, but then also what, what are the consequences, right? And this language of canceling, or, you know, not being connected to someone anymore or being unforgiven. There’s, there’s a lot of room to unpack that because on one hand, people do commit very harmful things and it has to be said, and accountability has to be taken.

Fatima:

And at the same time, this idea that people are disposable is hard to, to sit with, especially those of us who are practitioners in DEI space or activists, or however we identify, it’s really difficult to sit with it because it’s like, okay, is there a room for grace? Is there a room for growth? Is there a room for compassion or are we also perpetuating the very systems and ideas that we’re trying to dismantle? Right. So white supremacy culture, you named it. When we talk about white supremacy culture, it’s really this umbrella term or phrase to describe various characteristics that impact our day to day within a Western society specifically, what is now known as the US of A right. And so that might look like perfectionism, for example, what does that mean? Well, you can’t make mistakes. You have to always be right there.

Fatima:

Only one way of thinking other characteristics include power hoarding. Right. And this could look like you having power over a certain type of knowledge. So it’s just you, or like worship of the written word where it’s like, if something isn’t written in a certain way, or if it’s not written at all, then it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t count. And so, as you can see, like lot of this is binary thinking, right? And so when someone makes a mistake, if someone says something harmful online or in the workplace, when we cancel them in some ways, shape and form, we’re also aligning with some of the binary thinking that we see within white supremacy culture, right? Like you can either do this or do that. And there’s no in between. What do other folks think? I’m, I’m so interested.

Kia:

I love that question of like, who decides who’s canceled and what does that like account? What does canceled mean when it comes to accountability that Fatima brought up a little bit and that room for grace and how either in the workplace or in social media, those lines feel very blurred of like, oh, this person in my workplace, I’m gonna show up their email that they sent to the company and like, have people on Twitter, attack them and cancel them. Or if you happen to do something in public, there’s always that fear of being videotaped, those sort of things and how those people are canceled or held accountable. But I also wonder, like when we think about celebrities and those folks that are supposed to be, if we wanna use white supremacist language, like the perfect folks, the people we idealize, what does accountability look like for the masses for them? Because they’re idealized in a way that they’re supposed to, to showcase like how society is working. So those are some of the things I’ve been, I was thinking about while Fatima was speaking.

Rachel S:

Yeah. Also just wanna add the point about like how capitalism has co-opted cancel culture. Right? So who is actually canceled? The people that we say are? They’re still making money, they’re still celebrities. They’re still in positions of authority. And then when it gets down to your average, everyday folks, you know, that’s where it starts to kind of have a personal impact if folks lose their job, because they said something inflammatory online, or they posted something or somebody took a video of them. And then what impact does that have on them? So we still see a divide between who do these things impact in real life. When we talk about that, and then if we’re gonna talk about grace, how are we giving that to everybody? Because as you said, we’re not perfect. We’re fallible. We make mistakes, we make missteps something that we’ve said 15, 20 years ago, you can grow and learn and change in that time. And then if you haven’t, then that’s a different conversation, right. But if you have grown and matured and that’s not who you are anymore, then you know, why are we holding people to such account for those things?

Vienna:

Yeah. I, I think what you started to bring up, that was really interesting. Maybe we could talk a little bit more about it is around the difference of what happens to different people, right? So there’s, you know, a big conversation around people like Will Smith, like Dave Chappelle. And I know even part of these conversations we’re talking about teachers who were in getting fired and these are all very different scenarios, very different levels of privilege, of public platform. And we’re using the same umbrella language of cancel culture to describe what’s happening to all of them. It seems like there’s a lot more nuance to it. How can we be begin to dig into that and, and approach that when we’re just, you know, lumping them under the same umbrella. Kia, do you wanna start us off on that? I know, I know it’s a big one and I’m basically sitting here asking you to figure out everything that at this entire country’s been talking about for years.

Vienna:

So, you know, 30 seconds on the spot, how, what is it?

Kia:

Fatima, when we first started talking about this and not on video, was talking about like community accountability. And I think that that is a way I would love the world to move into is like, if we’re talking about a celebrity, the people closest to them are the people who hold them accountable. If we want to use Will Smith as an example, that could be one person. And then talking about teachers that are being fired for various different things, whether it’s saying something completely racist or being more liberal or progressive, and being fired for those beliefs who, who is holding either the institution accountable or that teacher accountable and making sure they’re following through with that change that Rachel spoke to about even if it was 15 years ago, who’s ensuring that these people are actually doing the actions that they say they do when they are doing these apologies, thinking back to Will Smith and others who have made similar apologies, are they actually doing the action items that they say that they’re going to do? And have they actually changed over months, years, time, and who is coming back and checking back in with them. Cause I think that’s the one thing for better or worse about social media, it’s at five seconds of fame of like this person’s canceled, we’ve all moved on to the next person, but has someone check back in on with that person to see if they’re being held accountable for their actions?

Rachel S:

Yeah. And you know, this is where we’ve had this conversation before, where I get it tripped up. Right? So we have a conversation for example, about, let’s say a teacher has a red solo cup on her Instagram and you can assume what would be in it. And then the school system fires her because they’re assuming there’s alcohol. But is that person always an extension of their work? So are we just laborers 24 hours a day, even when we’re not in the workplace? So what happens in my personal life is my personal life, right? It doesn’t have anything to do with work, but then when you think about people who say racist or inflammatory things, and you don’t want that to be a reflection of your organization, it’s kind of the same conversation, but that person’s at home and their personal life. And that doesn’t reflect the values of the organization.

Rachel S:

Organization has kind of a right to say that we don’t wanna be affiliated with you and people wanna talk about like your first amendment, right. To freedom of speech, you know, that just limits the government from coming in and telling you, you can’t say this, that or the other, and can’t be punished for it. But individuals and organizations can take certain actions. And so that’s, to me where it gets kind of sticky because on the one hand, if I’m at a party and I have something, I have water, but you’re assuming something because of the social context around that particular artifact. Right. But if other, or I’m saying something explicitly derogatory, and then people want to remove money from me or whatever have, and the impacts of that. And once again, back to what I said earlier, you know, everyday people that affects differently than like, you know, a celebrity who has a comedy special on a platform that says something egregious and they leave it up there and people are upset about that because that’s providing a platform for hate speech essentially. And if we don’t hold them to account, then we’re saying that that’s okay in putting it out there. And whereas what kind of effect does that have on that person versus the people that live everyday lives that aren’t celebrities?

Fatima:

Mm that’s so rich from both of you. And I would to continue growing from the points y’all have made where, you know, the idea of council culture, isn’t new, right? Like as humans, someone does something that’s problematic, harmful, we’re all giving side eyes. Perhaps, maybe it’s even more than side eyes, right? Like you are no longer part of the community. Part of the village part of tribe, as we think about how folks have evolved. And one of the things that sometimes is difficult is trying to help people understand to what Rachel just said is that certain statements and behaviors it’s not just in one container, right. Context matters. So sometimes it might feel like people are ostracized folks because of one small comment that they’ve made. But if you understand the impact of that comment and how it can be inflammatory to folks of that community and how you can think about hundreds of years of oppression and how you can go back to the stats and data and see how that one statement or that one behave year is part of that pyramid of oppression, then the reactions that you get once you put it in that context might be warranted, right?

Fatima:

We can’t control how people respond to certain comments or certain behaviors depending on, or based upon what their experience has been at, especially as a marginalized identity. So fi your question, even bringing up some of the celebrities like Will Smith and, and other black men, like, let let’s double click on that is we were talking about this offline. We were saying how hard it is sometimes for those of us, with marginalized identities to witness an another person with a similar or different marginalized identities being called out or canceled. Not because they shouldn’t be held accountable, but because we know <laugh> what it feels like to be ostracized and how folks can do the same exact thing or something even worse and not get the same consequence. Right. And so we even made a joke around like with the Will Smith thing, like, yes, there, there are so many arguments of why it’s problematic.

Fatima:

Should he have done it? Violence is not the answer beyond those conversations. There is a communal feel for a lot of folks within the black community that you just wanna huddle and be like, come on, like, let’s just have this moment, like what was happening is going through your head, this isn’t okay. And then how are we gonna talk about immense, right? Like what was happening inside of you? And I think we forget that we’re humans, right? Like we are humans. And so if we use this same type of ideology that has been passed on us, that like, you can’t be human and you can’t be expressive and how dare you be aggressive and how dare you do X, Y, and Z. And as a woman, you can’t speak up and as a, this, and as right, like we’re doing the same exact things to other people.

Fatima:

And the nuance there is when you have a identity that’s privileged, it feels like you should know better because historically you’ve been giving the opportunity to make many mistakes and that’s really what it is. Right. So when you see some of us playing in with power, even if you think it’s wrong, it’s the fact that, where do you have power elsewhere? Right. So if my power is on social media, and that’s the only time I can call you out, because if no one else will, then that’s what I’m going to do. Right. So I, I think there’s that nuance of not necessarily about whether something is right or wrong, but sort of understanding the context of how power over can be exercised and how different people are called in called out canceled, depending on honestly how people like, sort of interpret what’s happening to them.

Rachel S:

For sure. I also wanted to, like, when you said about, you wanted to like bring them in, you did notice that the elders kind of pulled him to the side, which was like Tyler Perry and them to talk to him after. So that moment did happen. But then it’s also like violence is always the answer until it’s black or brown people in acting violence. Right. So we look at colonization and colonial, right? Like when we have white enactment of violence, then that is normalized and that is acceptable. But then when you see black and brown people do it, then it’s all, everybody’s all in dismay about it because that’s inappropriate or what have you. So then who gets the privilege to enact quote unquote violence? What constitute violence, what cultural norms are we talking, talking about when we are addressing issues and all of those things that, that come into play when we’re talking about methods of communication, right.

Rachel S:

Not saying right wrong or otherwise, but we do have different cultural ways that we communicate certain things. And our friend, Chris rock has mentioned those things in his past comedy shows about what happens when you say something derogatory about somebody’s family or what have you. And then that consequence happens. And everybody acts like there’s shock in awe. And now we wanna cancel somebody who has kind of been like this squeaky clean, you know, person to represent the black community, but like this, this is a person, this is a human being. And we cannot put the weight of the expectations of an entire group on this one person. Number one, cause it’s not his responsibility to hold it. Number two, that burden is too great to bear.

Kia:

Yeah. I just one plus one what Rachel just said, because I know that that’s a big point. We’ve been talking around this topic when it comes to, to who is allowed to be violent or show their emotions and protect one’s family or whatnot. And it shows that stepping over that line opens you up to whatever cancel culture is for particularly for white folks, to be able to judge that and hold someone accountable for something. And I, I also think it’s interesting that like, Will Smith still sat the rest of the Oscars? Like he was still there. And if someone else we had talked about this offline, like I think Rachel had said like if little Wayne was there, would he have even made it back to his seat? And like also that kind of like placement, I don’t wanna say too whiteness, but like the perfection of like being a seen as like the perfect black person in Hollywood and like what that looks like when it comes to cancer culture and being held accountable.

Vienna:

Absolutely. Those were really great points. And something else that came to mind is <affirmative>, you know, when we are looking at these folks who are the people who get to come back from being canceled too, right? Like I can pretty much guarantee that there are people who have done very similar things, maybe not an Oscar stage, however, there’s other celebrities that we’ve forgiven that we’ve given passes to. There’s Robert Downey Jr. There’s Mark Wahlberg and listen, I don’t know anything about their personal lives. They may have made amends for their, you know, their history along the way. But there’s violence in their past, and from what I know have not been faced with cancellation the same way that these two black men that we are speaking about now potentially were. So I think that I would love to hear a little bit more about who who’s really, who becomes the victims of it, of cancel culture. Right? I mean, when we look at like, who was the victims of, of the will Smith of other incidents, like like Dave Chapelle or any other people that we want to add to this list who are the victims and who what’s the difference then and how they’re treated and reprimanded?

Rachel S:

I would argue that in the celebrity space, there is no cancellation. And because it’s tied in again to capitalism, right? Like they are part of the moneymaking machine. Like we saw, what was it, Louis CK, like he had all these sexual assault allegations. He’s still out here telling jokes and making people laugh and it’s no big deal. Right. And so even somebody, the egregious acts of either Bill Cosby or R Kelly there, people are still downloading there. I think it said that it, when R Kelly was tried that his music received more streams than it ever had before. Right. And so the reality is nobody gets canceled. It’s just something that people in the entertainment space and political arena throw around as kind of like a revictimization of the person who did something wrong to it’s like a, a buzzword, right? So it’s this call to action.

Rachel S:

Action never happens. What actually does end up happening are the people we talked about before the lay people that are just going about their daily, their daily lives, and they wanna get on Beyonce’s internet and, you know, be Twitter warriors and say all the things. And they have different consequences because they don’t have capitalism backing them up in the same ways. And so they suffer cancellation consequences that we need to revisit talking about. Like Fatima said, like grace and growth and all those different things. And also we are, are not pieces of labor 24 hours a day. So if you are at your job doing one thing and you go home and say all these crazy things behind closed doors, as long as you don’t bring that to the workspace, then part of me is kind of like, well, what is there to be quote canceled for? Because folks do that. Folks come and sit and smile on people’s faces and they go home and say, and you horrible things, but we don’t know about that, but somebody gets on the internet, we can see it. And now that person is kind of the person that we’re holding accountable for it. But there’s all these other people that go do the other things as well. And they’re not being held to the same account.

Kia:

Yeah. I love that link between capitalism and like, and with elite folks and celebrities, like you talked about with Louis CK, continuing to have tours. I think Chris rock ticket prices went skyrocket after the Oscar. So who then is like losing money even with Will Smith pulling himself out of movies or not being able to be up part of the academy for a few years, it, he has enough money to continue to live his life and do what he needs to, even though he is been quote, unquote canceled. I like the, the thought of like lay people who don’t constant, who aren’t constantly on TV or on social media. We don’t have that proximity to what they’re doing all the time. So who’s who is holding the them accountable. And once they are held accountable, what does that mean? And that tie to labor again, Rachel, I think you did a great point of like saying we aren’t just people who go to work. We’re, we’re nuanced human beings and we have nuances and different ways that we interact with different types of people. And, but I, I think it leaves me with this question of like, like a and like, yes, but, and like, what do we do when people do say things in like wrong racist, homophobic, whatnot, and how, how do we hold them accountable? And like, how do we move beyond like cancellation? And that can definitely be a ping that we come back to, but I that’s just like, I think where my brain is going right now.

Fatima:

I mean, let’s go there. Let’s flow there. I it’s, it’s, it’s a hard question because I, I don’t think there’s one way to call someone in or out or counsel them. And, and, and I wanna say cancel. So, like I said, counsel, and I wanna say that there are folks who are doing intentionally harmful things, right? Mm-Hmm <affirmative> so I think it’s important to recognize that because you know, there’s a lot of articles that have gone out where, beyond what Rachel mentioned about when folks remembered or when the word cancel culture or the phrase cancel culture was used in mainstream media, we can also look back to like civil rights movements around how canceling might have been used. And even if cancel wasn’t the word, but it can be like to boycotting, right? Whether it’s a business or a person. And if we bring it back to the workplace, part of the, the problem here is there are folks who kind of need to just like take a break from being in the workplace or in their <laugh> in their communities to sort of just reflect on some of the harm that they’re doing.

Fatima:

And accountability for them might look like, how do I sit with what just happened without one automatically being defensive without two feeling like I’m being attacked, which attack might come up depending on how people are responding to you. But I think most importantly, if you are committed to change, if you are committed to liberation, if you are committed to justice, when you have that mindset, then you can probably be able to see why and where the feelings, the thoughts the, the statements are coming from. I’m not saying it’ll be easy. I’m not saying that it’ll be nice or kind, but I think where the issue lies is that folks are depending on their celebrities to have a critical lens of anti-oppression <laugh>. And it’s like, that’s not what folks signed up to do. Like I didn’t sign up to be an actress to be the spokesperson on other forms of isms.

Fatima:

And so people get disappointed when they’re like, oh my gosh, my favorite artist, or my best friend at work just said this. And it’s like, well, what were the assumptions and expectations that you had about this other human? And then also, what are the assumption and expectations that you have about yourself? Where one, you’re saying this person can’t be imperfect <laugh> and two you’re saying that you are never gonna be in the position in which you’re gonna make a mistake. Right? And so there’s this accountability piece around calling people in versus out, which we’ve heard these phrases before. I think honestly, either of those can be used depending on the type of situation. So we say calling in is usually a framework that we use if someone is committing harm, but maybe this is the first time they’ve said something problematic and, or, you know them enough and trust them enough and, and feel like the intention wasn’t to create harm. And then calling out is something that you might do in the moment, because the harm is unbearable and, or this person has done this so many times and it’s like, they’re not learning. Right. And so you might have more of assertive and more, you know, intense reaction or response because of that. So depending on what you’re witnessing and where folks are, that’s a framework that folks can use as they think about, well, how do I hold this person accountable?

Vienna:

I think a question that comes up for me as you’re bringing up, calling in, calling out versus straight up canceling, right. Is, is where, what does accountability look like under each of these? Right? So if with canceling society would hold someone accountable by, they would cease to exist, right? We’ve removed their humanity. We, they, it’s very dehumanizing. We say the world’s better off without you being publicly known. What does accountability look like under calling and, and calling out? Obviously we’re not just gonna, like, Thano snap them from the planet under those model. Do they have, like, what does growth look like and change?

Kia:

I think it always comes back to that community care piece that Fatima has brought up of like, what is the community asking you to do? And like how, how does that promote change within yourself and change? So people can learn from someone actions if we wanna use the celebrity as a case point or even at work. I think that, that’s what I think like calling in and even calling out is in a way, if something is happening in a meeting, it’s a way to show community care. If we want to use the people on this call, as example, if something’s happening to Fatima and I have to call out Rachel for X, Y, and Z reason, it’s showing that we have this trust amongst our group and that community care that like, this is the line, please don’t step over it. And how can we continue to care for one another? Cause it’s not only care for Fort, but care for Rachel to, to make sure that she knows that whatever step that she’s doing is an act it’s an act of, of, and like, again, that community care piece of correcting and being able to show folks that that line. Yeah.

Vienna:

I love that. Does anybody have anything else they wanna add there before we move on?

Rachel S:

I think there’s this part of like atonement. So when we example healing circles, right. And there’s something that’s, someone has harmed someone else and how do they make that? Right? And so if you have said, there’s not something that’s caused harm, how do you go about making that? Right? And if you are not explicitly trying to make that right, then there’s a loss of something that comes with it. So I think when we talk about people being canceled and for particular, in a celebrity spacer or political space, it’s loss of influence, loss of resources, lots of opportunity, because these things happened and these people will harm. So therefore you have to lose something as a result, as this kind of like human need for atonement. And I don’t necessarily think that’s bad. Because if we don’t atone for things and are not held to some account, then that’s permission to keep doing the same things without recourse. And that’s permission to keep doing the same things over and over again. So we can speak to this being like embracing people and, and so forth. But I also think there’s a part of it where we want to seek some sort of atonement for wrongs,

Fatima:

Plus one to both you at and, and Kia. And I, I come back to the workplace because like I know with the celebrity piece of things, it can feel very much like, okay, we all have thoughts and ideas and, and things to say. And then some of us that might be viewing this video or witnessing this video in whatever way you’re witnessing. It might be like, okay, but like, what if I get fired? Right? Like what if I say something? And my boss is like, Hey, Kia, unfortunately you said this to Vienna, Rachel. We’re not having it here at our company culture. You gotta go. And when I think about accountability in the workplace, one of the things that’s really important for folks to build is trust and trust is not a perfect formula. Like I can’t be like at two and a half years with a little bit of three meetings and two team meetings, right?

Fatima:

Like, you’ll get the equation of trust. Like that’s not how it works. And we have to recognize that people are coming into spaces with their own life experiences, with their own as assumptions. Maybe they had a really horrible experience in another workplace. So when they’re to you like, Hey, Rachel, I know you’re my manager. And you’re telling me to share all these things, but I don’t feel comfortable with you because my last three jobs were completely different. And my manager like called me out when I tried to give feedback. Right. And so if there’s someone in the workplace that is like on the side of struggling with understanding some of these concepts, but you feel like the intention not be too harm, like what does it mean to really invest in the learning in the workplace? We can’t assume and expect everyone to know everything.

Fatima:

Right. And I know it’s like 2022, there’s Google. I know I get it. And like, if it’s not my job, if like we’re notDEIi facilitators or like, I’m not on the frontline being an activist, how often am I going to engage with these concepts? How often am I going to know what the new term is? Or gender pronouns and, and how we’re evolving as a society. Right? And so there is an opportunity for workplaces to ask themselves, where are we going? And how are we moving? How are we building a culture of accountability? Right. Because if you don’t have the trust and then the culture of accountability, folks don’t know what to say when to say. And most importantly, they don’t know what’s gonna happen if, when they say stuff. So you hear people saying like, I’m so scared. I don’t know what to do.

Fatima:

I feel like if I say anything, it’s gonna be taken wrong. If someone is feeling that way in the workplace, then perhaps there hasn’t been a culture of trust and accountability. Right. I love this piece that you all mentioned of like, I love you enough to let you know when you’re wrong. Right. And I know James Baldwin has a prettier quote, but I can’t remember what is it <laugh> but he talks about like loving America enough to say, like, when we are doing something horrible, like yeah, we might be doing great things, but like, if I love you, then I must also tell you when you’re not doing something great. And if we’re coming in with that perspective in the workplace, like, what does a work plan look like? Okay. Like maybe you might wanna get a coach for the executive director that keeps saying problematic things during team meetings.

Fatima:

I’m just saying like, the person has been an executive director for 20, 30 years. Right. And nobody has ever had to call the man out. And now we’re like, sir, you gotta use this and that. And he’s like, I’m getting it. I’m trying. But like, who’s gonna support him in his growth, cuz it shouldn’t be on the burden, you know, or the backs of people who are usually frontline staff who are usually level staff and most often people with marginalized identities. Right. And so the, the question is, if you are interested in DIA work or equity work or justice work, whatever terms you’re using, you have to ask yourself, how are we building this culture? And then how can we lovingly be accountable when we need to? And if folks are just like not learning and that’s another conversation at least, you know, that you’ve tried, there’s a process you’ve done what you have to do. And maybe they need to transition into another role or, or another company.

Kia:

Yeah. Wow. Plus one Fatima, to everything you just said, that was like magical. And I love and just wanna add the piece of like mirroring actions and like relationships. So like making sure people have the tools and are able to like mirror that behavior when it comes to colleagues, supervisees supervisors. So it’s creating that like cultural culture of accountability and something that people are witnessing day in and day out. And it’s not just a workshop it’s continuing after a workshop.

Vienna:

I love that. And I’m gonna throw something at you that might be a little tricky. So we’re talking about, you know, maybe a scenario where in a workplace, there’s someone who keeps saying harmful, problematic stuff that that’s a problem or, you know, a teachable moment, there’s something solve there. You can bring in a coach, you can bring in trainings, however you’re able to support that person. I was hearing from somebody in our community recently that given the other days news about Roe V Wade she does not feel comfortable in her current team. She she’s sort of the only one on one side. And it, it might be the side that we agree with more generally, you know, and when that person also faces the same fist of cancel culture that could come down and it’s sort of looking at it from the other side, I think that’s part of the nuance to this topic. That’s really hard, right. When we agree with one side versus the other how can an individual on, on, in that scenario sort of grapple with what she’s looking at as cancel culture and where her fear is in that?

Kia:

That’s a tough question. Vienna <laugh> you like really got me with that one, but I think that’s something I think we all somewhat fear not like with this work or being a facilitator, going into a space, maybe leading one way either politically or with the way we talk about DEI. I definitely got something I fear and have feared in other workplaces to some extent of, Ooh, am I gonna say the wrong thing? Cuz I seem to go against the grain of, of folks, but I don’t necessarily have a solution this person. I think it goes back again to, to Fatima’s point of like, what does the culture look like? Like how do, how can you build a culture of like value within your team to have differing opinions? But if it’s something that’s rocking this person to the core about fundamental rights for folks, I, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna give advice, so I I’m gonna maybe step away for a second. <Laugh>

Vienna:

Yeah. And I think it’s important just to, to note that like these are questions that really don’t have clear answers, right? If it was clear, obvious answers, we wouldn’t be having such a hard time with it and it wouldn’t be such a big cultural issue. So I appreciate it. And I do wanna say I don’t think anybody here today is expecting us to walk away with the answer. I mean, it’d be great if we could just like solve it and wrap it up during our hour and then like everything solved, but, and also to the community at large, like if you have ideas or thoughts about this, please, like this is a conversation, let us know we are to, to talk more with y’all. So yeah. Anybody else wanna chime in on that one? I know that was a hard one and it’s just pretty top of mind based on some conversations that have been going on in the SGO community or the past few days.

Fatima:

It it’s a, it’s a difficult question. Cause my, my heart wants to say connect with us and we’ll try to find you another job.

Kia:

<Laugh> OK. Fatima said it. That was my thought <laugh>

Fatima:

Because yeah, it it’s, it’s, it’s important to be real, right. I live in a home in an intergenerational home, meaning like I have folks that I live with from late sixties to teenagers. And every day in real time, I see the difference in understanding and perspective. And I have come to peace or come at peace with recognizing that there are certain things that my folks, they gonna die with. Like they’re gonna die with certain ideologies and concepts, even if I come and bring next book, the next video. And they have grown in, in, in other ways. And I think if I can be honest with myself in my own growth, in some of the areas that I’m still struggling with, there is an opportunity to hold space for folks who aren’t on the same page for you, depending on how much space you can hold.

Fatima:

This is a very introspective, you know, sort of process that only one only you can go through that none of us can tell this person like, so where you at? Like, where’s your capacity? Where’s your threshold, right? Like you have to assess that for yourself. And when you feel like you are not safe any longer within a workplace, especially Roe V Wade, like we’re gonna keep talking about this, right. That bears the question of like, is there anybody in the workplace that’s an ally or that has a similar thought process as you. So that’s the first group or person that I would try to rally up and talk with. If that doesn’t exist. The second piece is, are there people who are neutral enough to be open, to understand how the impact of folks being on majority one end is impacting your ability to show up?

Fatima:

So that would be the second group or person that I would rally up and, and try to connect with. Then the third one is like, if there’s no one, like you’re like Fatima that’s that’s, none of those are options. Right? is there an opportunity to give feedback and have this conversation with your direct manager? Right. We talk a lot about the impact of managers within the company because they really hold the, the culture, but also they have moments and insights that other folks don’t have. So for example, one-on-one meetings and team meetings are a perfect way to gauge where your folks are coming in. And so let’s say you’re in a meeting and someone brings up something like, how are you? Right. Do you feel okay? Enough to share? Okay. And perhaps I don’t feel comfortable sharing what I’m not okay with. Right.

Fatima:

And is there an opportunity to see if folks are interested? Are they interested in learning more? Are they interested in being more open to, to that feedback? Because when people are all on one side, it might feel like if you say something totally different, they’re gonna like shut you down. But there is a, a way to think about where are the moments and little opportunities that I can jump in or ask questions and then how can I come back and see like what it is that I can do? And if none of those options don’t work, I’m serious. Like we have a recruiting event coming up around jobs. I’m just like, let us know, like, or brought it or go to that event.

Vienna:

Yeah. Thank you. I think that, that was a great point and a great plug. So I appreciate you saying that. We’ll make sure to drop the link to register for the, the job summit in June, be there. But I, but I also really liked what you brought in there that I think it’s really easy for maybe some folks to say, well, why does it matter if you’re the only one who feels this way at your workplace, right? Like you don’t need to work with people who agree with you. You don’t need to be best friends with everybody, but you did a great job bringing up the point that it’s not about working somewhere where everyone agrees with you and thinks the same as you. It’s about being able to show up authentically and to be engaged in your workplace where you are and to feel that psychological safety, because, Hey, there’s a business case for it, right?

Vienna:

If you feel like you belong, you feel respected and valued at work. You are going to be more productive and do better work for your team. Definitely a business case there. So thank you for bringing that up. Believe it or not. I have a question for you. That’s even harder than the last one. <Laugh> because this is where I give you like six minutes to solve all the world’s problems and ask what comes next. You know, we, I think we’ve gotten to a really unsustainable place. Ansel culture is, do we just stay on this precipice forever? Does it keep getting worse? Is there a way that an individual or collective of individuals can take this somewhere better? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that. I will start, I’ll throw it over to how about be like, no <laugh>

Fatima:

Wow. <Laugh> so there’s no solution <laugh> comes now. I think it’s really important to reiterate that like harm is being done. I don’t think when we think about black Twitter, for example, and we think about folks on the ground and we think about grass roots organizations when you don’t have political power canceling can be seen as the next best option. And I’m not saying it’s the right one. And I’m saying it’s perfect, but it’s important to understand why it is still practice, right? If a company, a system or organization or structure is not doing anything about something that is literally deeply, eating us, killing us and destroying us, then you, the, the consequence of that is something like cancel culture, right? And so whether we agree with the statement that’s being made or not, the context is important.

Fatima:

So what comes next is one asking yourself, like, am I capable of being open in learning? Like, just start off with yourself. <Laugh> right. Like I introspective powerful questions are so important because when one has more awareness about who they are as a being, then you have more awareness about what it means for another human to be human. Like not even on the same page as you not feeling like you just human. And even if they can’t give you that grace, when you have that understanding, you can split this up into two to say, is there hope? Is there hope for me to talk to Rachel, Kia or Vienna about this one way I can assess that? Well, how do they feel every time when I give them feedback or when someone calls them in or out, are they defensive? Do they shut the people down?

Fatima:

If the answer is yes, calling out or transitioning into a different space might be your best bet. And then if they are in the space of growing and learning because you’ve witnessed that and or because you have trust or because you don’t know, so you’re gonna try it out. Anyway, the, the steps that come after that is like calling someone in and then giving them the opportunity to make amends. And I love, I think Rachel and KA mentioned this earlier. Amends looks different for each person. The feelings of shame and guilt are very real feelings. Like when I’m called out in, however you wanna call it, I, my heart almost feels like it’s gonna stop. My palms sometimes gets sweaty. <Laugh> because I don’t want to cause harm. Right? Mm-hmm <affirmative>. But if you’re thinking it’s a personal thing and you start, you let your ego expand, then there’s no moving forward. I no longer can hear that person. Right. And so taking an opportunity to understand what triggers you asking yourself. What’s to making me get defensive right now, where is my room for growth? What do I need to learn more about? And what am I still struggling with? It’s okay. If you don’t understand what white supremacy culture is, or if it feels really uncomfortable for you, this work isn’t meant to be comfortable. That’s great. In fact, you’re on the way. <Laugh> right.

Fatima:

It’s okay. And keep pushing through, keep, let the feelings come through, allow it to process through your body and don’t try to push over it because then you won’t get to the space of like doing right. You’ll just get stuck at feels. Right? So how do you hold space for feelings and let it pass through and then start thinking about action. And sometimes you wanna jump into action. <Affirmative> you wanna shut down emotions? We wanna say, this is horrible and I can do it, but you’re gonna always, you know, reach a stopping point because you haven’t allowed yourself to feel,

Kia:

No, I love that Fatima. I think you just, you say things so beautifully, like, and capture like this part of myself else that I wish I had of like being graceful and like hopeful. Cause I think when we first talked about this, I was like leading on the side of like, I just wanna burn it all down. I have no hope in so many things- in the systems and the structures and I just wanna completely start over. But when you burn everything down, you can’t control where that fire is like, who it takes out, what it takes out. So I don’t think that’s the best approach by any means, but it’s definitely the one that sometimes aligns with how I’m feeling, especially after a week, like this week after our news on Tuesday. So, but like burning it down and starting all over and being able to, to create a culture that we want instead of a harmful one, I think is helpful.

Kia:

But it also feels like in a way perpetuating harm to when it comes to being able when it comes to canceling. So I don’t have a perfect solution, but there’s definitely, I lean more towards the like burn it down, take everything away and start all over and build what we want, but that does create its own harm. And isn’t just like a perfect solution or rainbows or butterflies by any means. But I am trying to lean more towards like Fatima’s approach. Cause I think it allows for a lot more grace <laugh> than necessarily burning everything down and everything that goes with it. So yeah, those are my thoughts.

Rachel S:

I mean, cause you always know that I’m ready to like light the match that starts to fire to burn it all down. But I could be more specific. And when we talk about burning it all down in particular are white supremacy culture, right? Because it’s the defensiveness and the passive aggressiveness that allows these things to kind of perpetuate and continue people. Aren’t taught how to have conflict and, and meaningful conversations, candid conversations, if you will. Right? The whole idea of putting a bunch of people together in the same space with different ideas of how things should be means that conflict is going to be normal and natural and part of the course, but how do we approach those in meaningful caring ways instead of deflecting and projecting and being defensive and feeling attacked as opposed to I did something wrong, I have to atone for that.

Rachel S:

I have to make it right. I have to stop acting as Fatima, likes to say, raggedy. People don’t wanna be friends with raggedy. They don’t wanna work for raggedy companies. They don’t wanna have raggedy politicians, right? So we want to have people be able to take in information like the constructive criticism sandwich and then move forward with it. Instead of just completely knocking said sandwich off the plate and saying that I do anything wrong and you guys are attacking me and revictimized and turning the victimization back on themselves and reentering themselves as opposed to who was harmed. So that system, yes, we can burn that down and create a new one because I think that would be a healthier way for us to engage as human beings.

Fatima:

Speaking of burn things down fire, as you say that that was fire for both of y’all and you know what, both Kia and Rachel, I’m not going to act like I don’t be, I don’t wanna burn things down. I <laugh> catch me five years ago and you’d be like like organizing with BLM. You catch me on, on the mic, the, the, the for, and for those of us who are having marginalized identities, the repercussions of burning things down is really, we need people to wanna burn things down with us, right? When we choose to burn things down, we are the ones that suffer. I remember when I used to go to protest and my white allies, I love ’em. But sometimes they would say agitating things to the police officers. And I’m like, that’s cute. And who’s gonna get caught up in this, right?

Fatima:

Like, and so this is the, the piece of it where those of us who are doing allies work, wanna burn it all down, but are you really ready to burn it all down? When it, when it comes time to be in the same space as me, you know, are you willing to risk it all? And we, we talk about civil rights movement. We talk about the marches that used to happen and what people who did non-violence demonstrations. One of the key things for white allies specifically around racial justice was that in the marches in the front white folks had to put their bodies on the line that, and we, and it wasn’t about violence, but they had to put their bodies on the line because if we are gonna bring it down, whether it’s violent or not, depending on how you think about it you have to be the first to go because a lot of of us are going right.

Fatima:

And so burning it all down is a great strategy when folks are on the same page, but it’s hard for all of us, cuz I I’m drinking out a water bottle. It’s convenient, it’s problematic. Cancel me. Right. Like I might get my nails done and I might contribute to environmental injustice. Cancel me. Right. It’s it. We, if we burned it down, all of us, we’ll kind of have to like turn into ashes and like start off new because capitalism has us doing this work even in this way where we’re trying to hold space for so many people because we’re trying to keep the lights on in our homes too. So it’s hard.

Vienna:

Yeah. It is definitely hard. I I’m reminded of a conversation. I’d had the other day. We’re so aware that under capitalism, we’re at each other’s throats, right. As individuals at each other’s throats, and there’s a lot for the powers that be to gain by keeping us canceling each other and fighting over, who’s allowed to tweet what and who has to hide. And that’s, there’s a lot to wanna burn down there. All that, to say, I’ll bring the matches. I’ll I’ll see you all let the burn down. Yeah, I, I cannot believe how absolutely quickly this hour went by. I feel like we only scratched the surface of solving this entire problem. A little disappointed with that. I had about a million more questions I wanted to ask you. <Laugh> We are almost at time. Did anybody wanna have any last things they wanted to say that maybe we didn’t touch on yet? Or any final thoughts that you’re leaving this space with now?

Vienna:

Just burn it all down. Just burn it. We’re walking out with burn it all down selectively, right. Let’s try to keep the things that are good. Awesome. Well, thank you all so much for your time. Thank you to the community who joined us for this conversation. I can pretty much guarantee that this is not the last you will hear from these folks about cancel culture. There’s a lot more coming and a lot more conversations to be had too. We are, we are in the work of trying to make change that involves this team and this involves all folks in the community as well. So like I said, we wanna hear your thoughts and, and what you’re hoping to do, and maybe anything you took out of this that you’re gonna bring back into your life and maybe you make adjustments or just change your lens. Thanks so much, everybody have a great afternoon.


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