No One Was Trying to 'Cancel' Dave Chappelle | Opinion

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by Michael Harriot during a Newsweek podcast debate on Dave Chappelle and cancel culture. You can listen to the podcast here:

I can't find many examples of someone actually being canceled. So if we're talking about canceling, I think most of the conversations I've seen and heard are focused on someone where the public, or a segment of the public, objected to something that was said said. And the public is vocalizing its disgust or being offended by it.

And I think that's okay, right? Because if you speak something into a microphone, you have to concede that you're doing it for a reaction. Whether it is a comedian who's looking for a laugh or a singer who wants people to dance, by doing it and putting it out into the public, you're looking for a reaction. Now I think the disgust, or the objection, to cancel culture is the artist wanting to limit the public's reaction to the specific thing that they said or did. For example, if Dave Chappelle says something into a microphone, and instead of laughing, people say, "I don't like that" or "I think it offends trans people." Then that is the public's right as much as it is Dave Chappelle's right to say it.

Are they canceling Dave Chappelle? Well, let's be realistic. Dave Chappelle will still be able to sell as many tickets as he sold before this controversy. He'll still be able to go on any TV show he wants. Here's the interesting thing, right? Even if Netflix took down the show, as some people were asking them to do—and let's be clear, there weren't a lot of people asking Netflix to do it, but there were some and those voices were amplified. Sometimes, and oftentimes, they were amplified by the people who oppose cancel culture. They'll choose all the reactions. They'll choose the ones that are negative and say, "see, this is the cancel culture" because a segment of the population is offended by the thing that went out to millions of people.

Dave Chapelle attends the UK premiere of
Dave Chapelle attends the UK premiere of "Dave Chappelle: Untitled" at Cineworld Leicester Square on October 17, 2021 in London, England. Samir Hussein/WireImage

If they would've taken it down, Dave Chappelle would have still been paid, right? And let's be honest, it wouldn't have ceased to exist on the internet. You would still be able to consume it. It might take you a couple more clicks, but I don't know where there are real examples of cancel culture in America. Yes, I know I am a journalist and I work as a journalist, but my background is actually as an economist. I have a master's degree in macroeconomics. So before this career, I taught economics and that is the way I approach things. How do you stop the artists' supply of their product by objecting to it? That really doesn't happen.

The other thing about the cancel culture—what we call "cancel culture"—is we're acting as if social media spurned this when it has always existed.

One of the greatest examples is the movie, Gone With the Wind. This was in the 1930s, when it first debuted. The NAACP objected to the movie for its portrayal of slavery and for its portrayal of black people. Now, when people object to things, we think that it's cancel culture. An objection to Gone with the Wind isn't a new thing—it's always existed. So my point is that a lot of what we call cancel culture is just the majority—in some or most cases, white people—realizing that marginalized people objected to a thing that they always objected to. It's not that society is getting more sensitive. A lot of it is because white people or people who are in the majority are realizing—because with social media, we're all kind of more closely connected—that the thing that they thought was inoffensive was always offensive to some people. And they're just now realizing it.

Michael Harriot is a senior writer at The Root. Twitter: @michaelharriot.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.