we will not cancel us

but we must earn our place on this earth.

hey you,

I’m slowly getting back into a groove with ~le newsletter~ and as my spiritual mentor, Jerico, says “You’re exactly where you’re meant to be, honey.”

I’ve been thinking a LOT about cancel culture lately. Please learn from the experts here about how the term “cancelled” went from a black inside joke to a thing white people love to hate.

But I’m not really thinking about the political appropriation of canceling someone — although, the personal is always political so… what I’ve really been mulling over is how easy it feels to cancel someone out of my life just * like * that *

I’m thinking about how, for me, canceling someone feels like the nicer cousin to ghosting. Deleted! Muted! Dead! To! Me! And over the years, I’ve definitely been guilty of canceling some people out of my life… forever. oops. Instead of finding common ground + talking things out + reflecting + being a mature, messy human — I’ve just considered someone “gone and forever forgotten” and moved on from it. Or so I thought…

What I’m starting to realize is that canceling someone out of our lives doesn’t actually make the problem go away. Again, I’m talking about this in more of a personal, relationship sense — not a big, powerful political sense. But honestly (PLEASE DON’T CANCEL ME) I think this applies to both situations. What are we actually accomplishing when we cancel/banish someone who did something wrong, forever? Sure, it might feel really good and satisfying in the moment. But about five minutes later, it just feels… kind of shitty. And we keep bumping up against the same problems with different people, all over again! I’m speaking for myself, but I really do think we need to engage in more collective conversations about alternative ways to handle people’s wrong doings. As you can tell, I have no real answers here, just a lot of conflicting feelings and questions I’m putting out there, hoping the universe will deliver.

I recently finished adrienne maree brown’s tiny but oh-s- mighty book “We Will Not Cancel Us,” that’s all about being intentional and strategic in how we get those we care about to change their problematic behaviors. adrienne maree brown advocates for a practice of loving each other enough to allow each other to make mistakes, and participating in a process of radical unlearning every oppressive thought we’ve been conditioned to think. There is so much more to discuss here, but for now, I’ll leave you with one of her brilliant, inspiring essays from the book that gives me hope in a brighter future where we never have to hear the word “canceled” again.

WE WILL NOT CANCEL US by adrienne maree brown

We will not cancel us.

We hurt people.

Of course we did, we are human. We were traumatized/socialized away from interdependence. We learned to hide everything real, everything messy, weak, complex. We learned that fake shit hurts, but it’s acceptable.

Our swallowed pain made us a piece of shit, or depressed, or untrustworthy, or paranoid, or impotent, or an egomaniac. We moved with the herd, or became isolationist and contrary, perhaps even controversial. We disappointed each other, at the level of race, gender, species… in a vast way we longed for more from us.

But we will not cancel us.

Canceling is punishment, and punishment doesn’t stop the cycle of harm, not long term. Cancellation may even be counter-abolitionist… Instead of prison bars we place each other in an overflowing box of untouchables — often with no trial — and strip us of past and future, of the complexity of being gifted and troubled, brilliant and broken. We will set down this punitive measure and pick each other up, leaving no traumatized person behind.

We will not cancel us. But we must earn our place on this earth.

We will tell each other we hurt people, and who. We will tell each other why, and who hurt us and how. We will tell each other what we will do to heal ourselves, and heal the wounds in our wake. We will be accountable, rigorous in our accountability, all of us unlearning, all of us crawling towards dignity. We will learn to set and hold boundaries, communicate without manipulation, give and receive consent, ask for help, love our shadows without letting them rule our relationships, and remember we are of earth, of miracle, of a whole, of a massive river — love, life, life, love.

We all have work to do. Our work is in the light. We have no perfect moral ground to stand on, shaped as we are by this toxic complex time. We may not have time, or emotional capacity, to walk each path together. We are all flailing in the unknown at the moment, terrified, stretched beyond ourselves, ashamed, realizing the future is in our hands. We must all do our work. Be accountable and go heal, simultaneously, continuously. It’s never too late.

We will not cancel us. If we give up this strategy, we will learn together the other strategies that will ultimately help us break these cycles, liberate future generations from the burden of our shared and private pain, leaving nothing unspeakable in our bones, no shame in our dirt.

Each of us is precious. We, together, must break every cycle that makes us forget this.

artwork by iscreamcolour

with so much love,

Jesse