A mere one hundred years ago, men were beating women in the streets as they simply fought for the right to vote.
And only a little further back than that, men went to war with their own countrymen over the right to enslave people based on the colour of their skin.
For 1000s of years, we have been beating, alienating, and killing one another over just about anything that challenges our current societal norms and misgivings.
It seems to have no end.
And now today, while we shove the term “cancel culture” down each other’s throats like a defensive gag, leagues of brash internet users are taking to their keyboards to bang out angry comments on posts about obscure Dr. Seuss books and antiquated animations. They pepper our screens with accusations of stealing childhood memories and generations grown too soft and sensitive. Anyone who challenges this is labelled a “snowflake,” a whiner, or worse.
And how is all this indignation justified? How is there such a violent uproar over some children’s books most have never heard of and animated characters that predate the end of segregation?
Are childhood memories so precarious that they completely unravel when we revisit how previously consumed messages, though subtle, might be deeply inappropriate and offensive?
Is it so impossible to consider that for society to move beyond perpetuating stereotypes and outdated portrayals that we may have to look back at some cultural staples of our past and accept that they should no longer be permitted to hold space amongst that with which we feed our developing minds?
A question to which many would defensively reply, “But I watched all those shows and read those books, and I turned out just fine!”
Did you really? Because instead of pausing to consider how this is not about you, how you, as a white person do not have a say in what is offensive to your BIPOC community, you are vehemently endorsing fictional drawings and words, over real, live, suffering individuals.
Have you paused to consider just how many children have had their childhoods stolen because of the inherent bias that was born from not one painful stereotypical representation, but many, compounded messages that contributed to the saturation of racism and bigotry that still very much exists in our society today? What is truly worth your anger?
If you choose to be angry, then I beg you to choose to be angry for the greater good. Do not waste it on some outdated hand-drawn cartoons and written pages. Your outrage and anger could be such a precious gift.
Get angry when you hear someone make a racist joke and brush it off as no big deal.
Get angry when you see racial stereotypes in movies and media and watch others remain silent.
Get angry when you hear of incidents of domestic violence and see it swept under the rug.
Get angry when someone feels so privileged that they take to the internet to cry, scream, and rage that their distress over losing some animations is more valid than how racial stereotypes continue to do irrevocable harm in the here and now.
And to use the argument that there is far worse out there (i.e., video games, movies, apps, etcetera.) is like saying that because fire exists naturally in the world, we should just let a house on fire burn down. We put the fires out, one fire at a time.
Because the truth is that any character, story, joke, or other “entertaining” element that normalizes racism, abuse, or other forms of hate and discrimination should and must be cancelled.
There is nothing to learn from erasing history, but cancelling, whether by retirement, adding disclaimers, or sparking a conversation, is the only way to move toward reparation. Because the alternative of doing nothing is to perpetuate the assimilation of these stereotypes into future generations.
We must move past old beliefs, systems, and ideals, even if that is uncomfortable, especially if it is uncomfortable. And that may mean we must give something up to gain so much more.
Our BIPOC community members have been giving up far more than children’s books and cartoons for generation upon generation. Ask yourself what they have already sacrificed and suffered. Ask yourself why you believe that you should not have to sacrifice something.
Because this is not about you.
This is not about your childhood.
This is not about how you turned out.
It takes tremendous courage, fortitude, and emotional intelligence to be able to continually combat bias, oppression, and resistance to change. It takes extreme patience, perseverance, and grit to face the anger of those that would defend decades-old media rather than their at-risk neighbours.
So, I implore you, if you are white, please pause and consider the extent to which these necessary changes are not ultimately about you. That we, as white people, have made enough of history about us. We can give this up. We must give this up.
If, however, you want to continue to make this about you, that is your choice. If you want to consciously choose to join the ranks of those who not only refuse to look at just how deep we must dig to plant seeds of change but also those who fight against recognizing racism, bigotry, and hate in all its insidious forms, then that is also your choice. But I hope that you will choose differently. I hope that you will sit with all that you are feeling and take a moment to consider the ultimate impact of these changes, as discomforting as they may be for you.
Because there is a ton of sh*t out there that very much needs to be cancelled. What cannot be cancelled is the necessity to move beyond that which no longer serves the collective intelligence, empathy, and spirit of humanity. Because again, this is not about you, this is not about me, this is about the many.
And to fight a change that defends someone other than yourself is both a great act of ignorance and of terrible selfishness, neither of which are very in keeping with the spirit of Dr. Seuss and Disney.