Cancel culture is necessary

Public figures should be held accountable for their wrongdoings


By Tatum Elliott

After receiving backlash for her involvement in the Central Park Five case, former New York sex crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein has been “canceled” by the masses.

Tatum Elliott, JagWire editor-in-chief

Released on Friday, May 31, the Netflix Original “When They See Us” rattled the nation in its portrayal of the Central Park Five. The film enraptured its audience as the stories of five black men, wrongly convicted of rape, became a victim of the U.S. justice system. 

One woman to blame for the wrongful incarceration is Linda Fairstein, who at the time was a prosecutor for the New York sex crimes unit. Up until now, Fairstein was never held accountable for the harm she’s caused to Kevin Richardson, Antron McRay, Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam or Raymond Santana Jr., retaining her social status; she even won Glamour Magazine’s Woman of the Year Award in 1993. It wasn’t until the release of “When They See Us” that Fairstein faced sharp backlash from the masses. 

Almost immediately, the hashtag #CancelLindaFairstein circulated across social media platforms. Enraged voices called for the boycott of books Fairstein had written, encouraging her publishers to drop her entirely. In time, Fairstein had not only deleted her Twitter account but resigned from her position at Safe Horizon, an anti-domestic violence organization, and was dropped from Dutton Publishing. The voices of the people effectively “canceled” Fairstein. 

The direct impact people had in this instance represents not only the power of public opinion but the necessity of it with regards to holding public figures accountable. This is the “cancel culture” that our communities rely on: people raising their voices when someone is in the wrong, fighting for justice and proving to others that certain behaviors will not go unnoticed. 

Drawing the line between what’s right and wrong or who’s changed and who hasn’t isn’t always as straightforward as Fairstein’s case, and these blurred lines have led to the growing dislike of the term “cancel,” primarily on social media. Despite this, it is important to understand the positive effects that result from people standing up to voices that perpetuate falsities, discrimination and bigotry. 

Whether it be in our government, our communities, on our TV screens or our social media feeds, it is our job to make sure people with power are checked. The messages public figures and celebrities spread are heard by the world; they influence our communities in major ways, and it is up to us to make sure that these messages will bring positive change, not hatred. 

People may never agree about who should and who shouldn’t be “canceled,” but acknowledging that someone’s behavior is concerning is better than saying nothing. Don’t let the negative connotations of “cancel culture” fool you; it is a powerful beacon for change. 


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