Barack Obama Blasts Cancel Culture: ‘That Is Not Activism’

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to guests at the Obama Foundation Summit on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology on October 29, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson / Getty Images

During a speech at the Obama Foundation in Chicago on Tuesday, former President Barack Obama addressed cancel culture and suggested that it’s not an effective means of achieving actual change, Business Insider reports.

“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff — you should get over that quickly,” he said.

The 58-year-old former senator said he believes that there is a belief among certain young people that being “as judgmental as possible” is an effective way of making a change in the world, suggesting that this belief is “accelerated by social media.”

“Like if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right, or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself because: ‘Man, did you see how woke I was? I called you out.'”

Obama told the crowd that the world is “messy” and contains “ambiguities,” highlighting that those would do positive in the world have flaws.

“People who you are fighting may love their kids and, you know, share certain things with you,” he added.

“That is not activism,” he concluded, adding that call-out culture does not achieve change, and suggesting those engaging in the activity will not get far in their pursuit of such change.

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Per Forbes, cancel culture is when individuals are punished for things they’ve said or done in the past that violate today’s social norms — even when said standards were not in place in the past. In addition, there have been numerous instances where the punished person was very young, sparking an argument about how responsible people should be for their past when they were immature and may have grown as a person since.

Obama isn’t the only one that has criticized the cancel culture that many have noted in the current generation of young people, although most are comedians that cite free speech concerns. Sarah Silverman previously revealed that she was fired for an old image of herself in blackface from The Sarah Silverman Program and suggested that the culture of holding celebrities accountable for past personas is “righteousness porn.” She went on to claim that the pattern has mostly invaded the left-leaning political realm, noting that right-leaning people imitate it.

Fellow comedian Dave Chappelle accepted the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday and used his appearance on the red carpet to address political correctness. Although Chappelle said such correctness has its place, he said people need to work together to come to an agreement on what the term means. The comedian, who recently took flak for his Netflix special, Sticks & Stones, also defended freedom of speech and said he’s not afraid of other people’s freedom of expression.