Cancel Culture was suppose to be a form of social justice against wrongdoers and perpetrators who committed social infractions. It was supposed to give a voice to the voiceless. In theory, it was noble in its creation and often times in its practice. It was supposed to fight against the villains of society that plague our world. Unfortunately, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And that is precisely what happened to the concept of cancel culture.
The concept of Cancel Culture was to divest and withdraw support from a public figure that committed a social infraction. Also, these public figures would also lose financial support and opportunities as a result of public shaming and outcry. This form of social justice is carried out by the court of public opinion. They are the judge and jury. However, this form of social justice works mostly people of color and marginalized groups. There have been some cases of rich and powerful white men being cancelled, but their crimes are more criminal so it was taken a step beyond.
Malcolm X said: “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” This quote rings true to this day. Since Black women are on the lowest tier of the social hierarchy, they are the ones that can be disposed of the easiest. When they step out of their “role” in society, they are punished the harshest. This is due to the concept of misogyny: a unique form of misogyny experienced by black women. This discrimination is tailor made for Black women since the post-Transatlantic Slave trade. It is embedded in our American culture.
Who’s Holding Donna Now?
Donna Summer: The Queen of Disco and pioneer of contemporary Pop music. She has an expansive and incredible career that spans several decades. Her influence on popular music can be heard even today. During the post-disco era of career she was ensnared in a scandal. It was alleged by the Village Voice that Donna made some anti-gay comments during her 1983 concert.
When the news hit that Donna Summer had died, I was reminded of her little-known scrape with ACT UP, the AIDS activist group I joined shortly after its first demonstration in 1987. As many will recall, even though her music was hugely popular with the gay community, she faced an ongoing backlash after the Village Voice attributed some quotes to her from a concert in 1983, saying she slammed gays and claimed AIDS was a punishment from God.https://www.poz.com/blog/donna-summers-letter-to-act-up
There were reports of Summer reminding the crowd, “It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” a line I thought belonged to Anita Bryant. She reportedly told gays in her audience, “I’ll pray for you tonight.” And when questioned about gay rights, she is reported to have responded, “I’ve seen the evil homosexuality come out of you people… AIDS is your sin,” finally closing, “Now don’t get me wrong; God loves you. But not the way you are now.”
By 1989, various ACT UP chapters started protesting at Donna Summer appearances, including this Boston Gay Pride event, as reported by Gabriel Rotello in Outweek Magazine (July 3,1989)
New York Magazine wrote an article saying Summer was anti-gay and condemned the gay community. She sued New York Magazine, which they settled out of court. The publication would not write a retraction.
The 80s were a time when her career would not be as successful as the 70s. Some attribute that to this one scandal in her career. Her gay fanbase was splintered. To this day, people still believe that Donna is homophobic despite her saying the contrary. There are some very powerful closeted and out gay men in the music industry and they control the fates of many performers. Donna’s legacy does not get the same level of reverence and praise as her peers. One could speculate that this controversy has tarnished her legacy and has been irreparable. When we discuss black women in music, she’s usually left out the conversation. To this day, luckily, there are still those who champion her legacy and hold her in high esteem. You can read more about Donna’s incredible legacy in Record Redux: Donna Summer written by music historian Quentin Harrison.
Janet and Nipplegate
Janet Jackson was effectively cancelled in 2004 after her infamous wardrobe malfunction. But her cancellation was especially insidious as most of it happened behind the scenes. The public outcry didn’t last very long. But she would be punished for this accident for nearly a decade. In a scathing expose published on HuffPost, CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves had a vendetta against Janet since the now infamous Super Bowl incident.. Damages to CBS were upwards of $550K in fines by the FCC. Moonves banned both Justin Timberlake and Janet from performing on the 2004 Grammys. Justin would offer an apology a few days after gloating about the incident moments later backstage to Access Hollywood. Justin was allowed to perform at the Grammys while Janet was still banned even after issuing a public apology of her own. Moonves would spend years trying to ruin any chance Janet had in releasing her new music and subsequent promotional activities. Moonves ordered Viacom and all affiliates to stop playing her music and music videos.
CBS and MTV’s parent company Viacom, angered that an unannounced addition to the Super Bowl performance has now cost them all future halftime shows, hits back at Jackson by essentially blacklisting her, keeping her music videos off their properties MTV, VH1, and radio stations under their umbrella. The blacklist spreads to include non-Viacom media entities as well.
A decade removed from Nipplegate, former FCC chairman Michael Powell admits that the committee acted “unfairly” toward Janet Jackson following the incident. He tells ESPN that the FCC overreacted. “I personally thought that was really unfair. It all turned into being about her,” Powell said. “In reality, if you slow the thing down, it’s Justin ripping off her breastplace.” The comments are a complete turnaround from Powell’s own words 10 years earlier, when he called Nipplegate “a new low from primetime TV.”
Powerful white men have the ability to snuff out even the biggest and brightest star. Far removed from Nipplegate, Janet’s career saw a much needed resurgence with the release of her eleventh studio album Unbreakable in 2015. Her music was being played again on most Viacom owned outlets. Unlike other people who get cancelled, Janet was able to weather the storm and endure the years of silence. Luckily, that’s not how Janet’s story would end. Janet was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in October 2018. Janet is currently working on her twelfth studio album and worldwide tour Black Diamond.
Turning Her Music Off
Keri Hilson was one of the most promising new R&B/Pop acts in quite a long time. Keri was a member of the composer team The Clutch. They had written countless songs for some of the biggest artists. Keri was highly instrumental in the crafting of Britney Spears‘ 2007 Blackout album. Her breakout singles Turnin’ Me On and Knock You Down shot her into the top of the charts. But her popularity was very short lived.
On March 3, 2009, a remix of Turnin’ Me On featuring T.I. leaked online. It was alleged at the time that Keri would diss both Ciara and Beyoncé.
Allegedly About Beyonce:
“Your vision cloudy if you think that you’re the best
You can dance she can sing but she need to move it to the… (don’t do it em)
She need to go have some babies
She needs to sit down, she fake”
Allegedly About Ciara:
“Go-on and tell these folks how long I been writing your songs
I been puttin you on, just check the credits ho
And if you want me you can find me in the Decatur ho
Cause you’re turnin me off”
After the song leaked, Keri went on a press tour and denied that the song were about Ciara and Beyoncé. However, fans of Beyoncé would go on a decade long bullying campaign against Keri. But Keri added more fuel to the fire in 2013 when she refused to promote the latest issue of Juicy Magazine on the red carpet that featured Beyoncé and Jay-Z on the cover.
Keri’s career took a nose dive after these incidents. There’s no concrete evidence that the “unspeakable remix” was the sole reason for her cancellation, but one can conclude that Ciara and Beyoncé fans, who were also fans of Keri Hilson, definitely divested from her. The years to follow, Keri would not be able to recapture that lightning-in-the-bottle that she had when she debuted.
Recently, Keri sat down with Claudia Jordan for Out Loud on Fox Soul. She revealed candidly that her record label forced her to diss Beyoncé. She also revealed that she took a nine year sabbatical after the release of her sophomore album No Boys Allowed to work on her mental health. She cites the intense cyber bullying and the ending of her eleven year relationship as the cause of her mental deterioration.
Here is the 212
Azealia Banks could be the most infamous black female recording artist of this generation. To say that she is embroiled in controversy quite frequently would be an understatement. Billboard Magazine has cataloged her celebrity feuds in a lengthy expose. Some of her beefs have been justified like her ongoing feud with cultural appropriator from down under Iggy Azalea and spit-slinger Russell Crowe. The case regarding Russell Crowe was especially disheartening because no one believed her and RZA denied the accusations at the time, only to later admit she was telling the truth years later. But the damage to her credibility had already been done. When discussing Azealia, it’s difficult to separate the noble from the toxic. Unfortunately, her career took a huge nosedive after her feud with former One Direction member Zayn Malik in 2014.
Azealia accused Zayn Malik of copying her concepts and visuals for his solo project. Zayn had dismissed claims made by Azealia. She then responded back calling him a “sand n***r.” She also made homophobic insults towards Zayn as well. This was the point in which Azealia was seemingly cancelled by accounts. Her career would be halted completely. Regrettably, Azealia would go on to feud with other people being incredibly disrespectful. Azealia has no problem spewing hateful derogatory slurs at people. Most people would say that her cancellation was justified. It is hard to argue a case for her given her track record. However, when compared to her male counterparts, she isn’t given the same leeway that they are afforded. Azealia should be held accountable for her actions, but the consequences seem much more dire and the stakes are much higher. Even after she apologized for most of her antics, she was never given a second chance to redeem herself. Black women do not get a redemption arc.
‘Make America Great Again’ Music
Chrisette Michelle was one of R&B music’s crown jewels. With her incredible voice and amazing writing skills, she was on the rise. Her breakout single Epiphany. Chrisette would go on to be featured on Rick Ross’s smash single Aston Martin Music along with rapper Drake in 2010. Her public profile increased even more when she joined the cast of R&B Divas: LA in 2014 for their upcoming second season.
All of that momentum came to a screeching halt when Chrisette announced that she would be performing for Donald Trump’s Presidential Inauguration in January 2017. The backlash from this announcement was swift and severe. She released an open letter stating her reasoning for performing at the Inauguration. Chrisette lost fans, endorsements, and credibility. She later went on to release her spoken word No Political Genius, a response to the critics and the backlash for her choosing to perform at the Inauguration.
Chrisette was indeed cancelled by all sense of the word. Still, Chrisette remained resilient. She was able to pick up the pieces of her career and start anew. Her spirit still gleaming and bright. She stated on the Sister Circle that she learned a valuable lesson from that experience.
Black women have such insurmountable odds against them from the day they are born. And that only multiplies when they become a public figure. Black women are expected to endure great amounts of abuse and neglect while still being a beacon of hope. Black women do not get the space to make mistakes or figure things out. The expectation is that Black women are superhuman. They are supposed to possess the wisdom of 100 scholars and the foresight of psychic. Black women aren’t afforded any grace to evolve. They must be perfect creatures from birth. Black women deserve to be fully realized human beings.
With all these stories, Black men are completely absent. They do not defend black women at all. They do, however, condemn them quicker than anyone else. Black women are constantly mistreated and get zero support. Black women have to fall in line or else be exiled by the community. If Black women are suppose to be the saviors of the world, who will save them? Who do they call upon to help? It seems like no one will hear their cries until it’s too late.