Ye and the End of Cancel Culture

Here’s how this society is going to function. If it is unfair for Ye, a.k.a. Kanye West, to blame Jewish people collectively for the way he has been treated by individual Jews, it is unfair for people to blame Caucasians collectively for the way individual white people have treated them. We are not going to survive as a peaceful society if we abandon the biblical influence of respecting individuals as persons, not as units of tribal or other external identity markers. 

My Polish immigrant ancestors did not own slaves. They broke bread with their black neighbors and worked hard to overcome systemic anti-Polish prejudices and exclusion. If they had immigrated to Saudi Arabia instead of America, they would have been marginalized even more. It’s the same for black people. If my Polish ancestors had immigrated to Japan, they would have experienced alienation from insider privilege even more. If they had visited North Africa hundreds of years ago, they might have been enslaved alongside many other Poles and Europeans trafficked as slaves by African slavers. If we roll history back even longer, Neanderthal ancestors were systematically killed and literally devoured out of existence by homo sapiens who continue to use their name as an epithet of inferiority to this day.

Human hatred and in-group preferences snowballing into exclusion have been with us since the dawn of time. It is only through the Biblical inheritance of sacred personhood that we as a species have slowly begun to gain some self-awareness of our collective violence and correct course in fits and starts. 

So-called cancel culture is just an attempt to roll back the gains humans have made in protecting the individual from the collective, whatever color or creed that collective may have, in the name of vengeance for victims. It is fine to rebuke celebrities for racializing the sins of individuals but it can only be done when it is applied consistently across the board to all races and identities. By what standard can we expect a person to feel shame for historical or current actions done by those who share physical traits with them if that standard is only applied arbitrarily to one racial group—white people?

When “whiteness” becomes a synonym for universal in-group preference and systemic oppression, history is obliterated and the seeds of a future torn apart by racial violence and distrust will be planted. The biblical tradition of elevating the “slain lambs” of the world gives subconscious inspiration for the wealthy elites’ fixation on normalizing hatred and abuse of middle class and poor whites. They do this out of a desire to preserve their own wealth and power—they desire a scapegoat to kick and to inspire in them a feeling of superiority, but demographic trends and hyper-awareness of recent historical prejudices preclude them from fomenting such open disdain towards racial minorities as in the past. 

The only exception to this rule is if racial minorities speak independently from the hegemonic pantheon of Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Herbert Marcuse, Alfred Kinsey or John Maynard Keynes. If that happens, invective, threats, insults, and slurs are encouraged to rain down on race traitors who are in league with poor white people—branded supremacists for not accepting their role as society’s newest scapegoat. 

A lot of folks including Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have repeated the talking point that anti-Semitism is the world’s oldest hatred. A quick glance at Genesis dispatches this notion. The world’s oldest hatred happened when the figure of Cain murdered his brother Abel. He murdered him out of envy for the privilege he perceived his brother unjustly receiving in life. On that act of primordial murder, the Bible says the first city was established. 

Throughout history, civilizations, towns, temples, and bridges have been consecrated with the murder and immurement of a victim—a sacrifice to appease the gods or what was actually simmering bad blood in a community. The Bible offers a striking counter to this universal bloody political ribbon cutting in that the Genesis narrative repeatedly asks why Abel was killed and calls it an injustice. Contrast this to founding myths like that of Rome where Romulus kills Remus to establish the culture and the victim’s death is considered just and good. 

Our long exposure to the unique Biblical dialog of the voice of conquerors and the conquered, insiders and outsiders, winners and victims, has become the water of our fish bowl. Even when our dominant culture discards the metaphysical claims of the Bible, we are still haunted by the voice of the victim all around us.

It is in this context that we see modern discourse around cancel culture taking place. The Biblical recognition of the marginalized and downtrodden has informed our norms such that we no longer practice traditional ritual sacrifice or mob lynchings like the past. With the tools of the Internet and social media, however, we have found ways to virtually banish, expose, fire, and socially devour people who step out of line of the current social mores of political correctness. 

Haunted by a tradition that says God, or the ultimate standard of good, stands on the side of an innocent scapegoat crucified out of fear and envy, we are constantly competing over who is the most victimized by events, past and present. We recognize exploitation and alienation like never before but feel the need to off-load our share of guilt by blaming the correct tribe for the problems. This makes everyone tempted to miss the mark of empathetic personhood and default to self-righteous ethnic narcissism. Instead of rejecting all forms of scapegoating—blaming individuals for the tensions of a community or scapegoating a community, like a race, for the sins of individuals—we fall into defensive racial identity politics. We covet the martyr’s perch of Jesus on the cross and seek to present our group as the holy collective victim deserving of justice and retribution. 

Except Jesus does not seek vengeance on his persecutors. He offers forgiveness to his own people and the privileged Romans collaborating in his brutal torture. He then makes an anthropological observation of his tormentors possessed by collectivism: “They know not what they do.”

When we get caught up in language that seeks to place evil as more native to another identity group, we convince ourselves that we are truly right and noble in our cause. Yet unlike Jesus’ persecutors, we should know better because of the Bible’s deep impact on our culture. We know that we should forgive our brothers and hope for repentance—a change of mind to occur—that sees people not as avatars of their racial tribes but as persons made in the image of God. 

This is not a call for simple color blindness. People have cultural perspectives and heritage that shapes who they are. However, all of those attributes must be brought under the supreme identity of our likeness unto God. Forgiveness and changing hearts will break through the idolatry of race and the messianic complex that ignorantly envies the prestige of Jesus’ cross without being willing to bear its actual weight.

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About David Gornoski

David Gornoski is the host of the syndicated daily radio show "A Neighbor's Choice," which has been described as an "apocalyptic Mr. Roger's Neighborhood for adults." Subscribe to his podcast on Apple here. Email him at david@aneighborschoice.com. Visit his website here for essays, radio shows, podcasts, video documentaries, and interviews with world class leaders in politics, culture, and science.

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