The problem with the internet's 'cancel culture'
A few months ago, the internet latched onto its latest controversy: Kevin Hart's old tweets. In his posts from 2009 to 2011, Hart made homophobic comments and used derogatory language towards the gay community. The tweets resurfaced after the announcement that Hart would host the 2019 Oscars.
After the tweets began circulating, Hart tweeted a short apology for his "insensitive words" and stated that he would step down from hosting the show. The Academy asked the comedian to issue a formal apology to regain his spot, but Hart declined, claiming that he did not want to "feed the internet trolls" that shamed him for his earlier social media posts.
I found myself troubled for two reasons after seeing the situation unfold, the first being that I thought it was simply ridiculous that he refused to apologize for his past record of homophobic content in his comedy. I am upset by his normalization of scorning the gay community and believe his words absolutely warrant an apology.
At the same time, I recognize that 10 years ago the social and political climate was not the same as it is today; people were generally less accepting of the LGBT community. While this is not an excuse and does not make the tweets OK, it signifies that they likely did not come from a place of hatred, but of a lack of awareness and education.
Knowing this, I do not see issuing an apology as "feeding the internet trolls." It is recognizing that he has changed and is willing to admit that he was ignorant when he made the homophobic comments. Not only would he be giving an apology that the gay community deserves, but frankly, he would be doing his reputation a favor.
My second problem lies in the typical reaction of an outraged internet looking for another celebrity to "cancel." The act of dragging up a public figure's incriminating old social media posts and declaring them "canceled" is not something only Hart has experienced.
I agree that people should be held accountable for their past actions, no matter if their words were something more acceptable at the time. I also believe that people have the ability to grow as they become more educated. We cannot judge people completely on something they once thought or said.
Obviously, there is a difference between a consistent pattern of character and something said out of ignorance. A person known to repeatedly spit homophobic slurs is different than Hart's inappropriate and hurtful jokes that he has since stopped using. We have to understand this distinction and allow people to not be afraid to acknowledge that they were ignorant in the past, apologize for what they've done, and hope to be better in the future.
This online culture of canceling people is toxic behavior. It says that people do not have the ability to develop their character and that educating people on relevant topics is useless. We need to encourage people to progress with an ever-progressing society rather than punish those that were once ignorant and unaware.
Simultaneously, it's imperative that we not only recognize but accept responsibility for our past mistakes in order to heal what wounds we may have caused. I believe that if these two ideas can be accepted and practiced, we will be moving towards a more united and understanding society.
Calli Masters is a senior at West Linn High School.