When asked to discuss cancel culture, including past allegations of his sexual misconduct, Michael Eric Dyson likened cancel culture to a modern lynch mob and evoked the memory of Emmett Till. This came off as especially troubling and hypocritical considering arguments he made in his book.
In his book he writes “the problem of black girls and women being ignored, taken for granted, or abused is an ongoing plague we have barely addressed.” He indicates that R. Kelly may have been able to continue his misconduct, in part, because his victims were black girls and women. Dyson’s accusers are black women. They should not be dismissed so carelessly.
Since the event, I have thought a lot about whether it is fair to consider Dyson’s evocation of the legacy of lynching and Emmett Till as a “lean on race” as he described Bill Cosby doing when faced with his serious sexual misconduct allegations. Even if it was not, the comparison was of to things that are different in kind and scale. The purpose of lynching was racial terrorism. The purpose of cancelling someone is accountability for the wrongs they have inflicted on others.
If looking at cancel culture divorced from his own situation, I do think it is important to examine how race shapes who society listens to, believes or dismisses. How the stories of white women became the primary narrative of coverage of the # MeToo movement despite Tarana Burke’s founding of it; and how believable the public found Christine Blasey Ford as compared to Anita Hill; and the positively gleeful canceling of Jussie Smollett by the very conservative spokespeople that usually railed against cancel culture are a few examples that demonstrate this.