Cancel culture addresses real harm...and sometimes causes more. It's time to think this through.
"Cancel" or "call-out" culture is a source of much tension and debate in American society. The infamous "Harper's Letter," signed by public intellectuals of both the left and right, sought to settle the matter and only caused greater division. Originating as a way for marginalized and disempowered people to address harm and take down powerful abusers, often with the help of social media, call outs are seen by some as having gone too far. But what is "too far" when you're talking about imbalances of power and patterns of harm? And what happens when people in social justice movements direct their righteous anger inward at one another?
In We Will Not Cancel Us, movement mediator adrienne maree brown reframes the discussion for us, in a way that points to possible paths beyond this impasse. Most critiques of cancel culture come from outside the milieus that produce it, sometimes even from from its targets. However, brown explores the question from a Black, queer, and feminist viewpoint that gently asks, how well does this practice serve us? Does it prefigure the sort of world we want to live in? And, if it doesn't, how do we seek accountability and redress for harm in ways that reflect our values?
With an Afterword by Malkia Devich-Cyril.
"This book offers much needed ground for those of us who 'are in the mud together' as Black feminists, abolitionists, co-strugglers, and everyday people. Through her own vulnerability, adrienne maree brown invites us to ask ourselves uncomfortable questions, to name our fears and terrors. She makes it clear that the solutions to our most pressing challenges squarely lie in how we relate to one another and to the tender spots that exist within our own-selves. We Will Not Cancel Us acknowledges humanity while inviting us to become more discerning, loving, and rigorous for the sake of collective liberation." --Charlene A. Carruthers, author of Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements
"As someone who wrote 'kill your rapist' on every surface I could find in the 90's and then went on to find other nonviolent solutions for transformation, We Will Not Cancel Us brings me face to face with my innermost conflicts about transformative justice. How do we align anger, believing and supporting survivors, with a values-based daily practice of accountability for those who harm us? How do we, as a loving community, stay with the necessary questions of abolition when we are aching for the pain and trauma to stop? In this book, adrienne maree brown gives us the space to sit with our discomfort and honors our process as a growing abolitionists. She gives us points to struggle with so that we can continue on our journey to the next best version of our community, our practice, our politics, and ourselves." --Shira Hassan, co-author of Fumbling Toward Repair: A Workbook for Community Accountability Facilitators
"adrienne maree brown urges us to go deep, sink down, struggle, and swim as we find language, spirit, ourselves, and each other in this time of chaos. I cannot say how grateful I am for this work of poetry and love that makes sense of my/our everyday state of confusion and shows us how we might live abolition--not as an absolute state but as a dynamic motion forward and together." --Mimi Kim, California State University, Long Beach
"This piece is part vulnerable inquiry, part loving challenge. adrienne risks in revealing both her unthinkable thoughts and the process of public grappling. Through this, she invites all of us into authentic reflection of our practices towards accountability and our commitments in them to both life and healing." --Prentis Hemphill, movement facilitator and former Healing Justice Director at Black Lives Matter Global Network
"Do we want to practice a politic of construction or destruction? This is the fundamental question adrienne maree brown is asking in this provocative and necessary book. We are in a moment of colliding crises of ecology, economy and empire, personal & political disorientation, because of a pandemic, growing global racist and patriarchal authoritarianism, and a re-alignment of left forces that are experimenting with new set of tactics and strategies. Amidst all of this, conflict, political difference, and confusion is going to happen in our movements, organizations and communities. She calls for radical and compassionate rigor in acknowledging, facing and challenging how we deal with harm and hurt. I believe principled struggle is a skill and politic to be trained in--adrienne inspires us to continue creating new forms of accountability that are not punitive like the state we seek to abolish. Transformative Justice is a living practice towards the new world we want to create." --Cindy Wiesner, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance and Rising Majority