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Calling Out the Positive Force of ‘Call-Out’ Culture

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Call-out culture is a phrase that has many connotations that can vary from person to person. It’s typically defined as a phenomenon of calling out someone publicly, typically on social media, for something they’ve done in the past or a current behavior.

This can mean anyone from Dove to Kanye West. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you’ve done something bad in any form or fashion, Twitter will find a way to come for you. With this rise of this call-out culture, especially on social media, people are starting to re-evaluate what this means.

“Cancelled,” is a term younger people on social media sites like Twitter commonly use to describe a person who has done something problematic, who you don’t to wish to support anymore.

While “cancelling culture” can be an exhausting topic, the only thing worse than reading 50 million articles about why someone using a racial slur is actually something bad, is reading the 50 million more Op-Ed reactions that are going to come from the aftermath about how call-out culture is “toxic” because it’s a form of cyberbullying.

As with any topic, there will be times when certain people are going to abuse what can otherwise be a great educational experience. It often seems that society bases their stance on call-out culture on a few negative instances that blew up due to extensive media coverage.

For example, when a video of an 11-year-old boy named Keaton Jones from Knoxville, Tennessee, crying while talking about being bullied went viral, various celebrities, ranging from Demi Lovato to Chris Evans, reached out to his mother with positive messages and exclusive opportunities. It was later discovered his mother had posted many pictures of her family with confederate flags. After this, the support stopped coming in.

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Another example would be Justin McClure, a popular YouTuber known for his vlogs featuring his family, who came under fire when it was revealed that he had made various racial comments about black women, despite being married to a black woman and having three biracial children.

Instances like these are likely to garner more attention because the news media picks up on these incidents and fans/former fans add their opinions on social media.

But there many more instances where call-out culture has become a positive force.

Around the time “Black Panther” came out in February, there were racist trolls on social media claiming to be attacked by black moviegoers who allegedly told them they couldn’t see the movie because they were white. Twitter users were quick to debunk these claims by reverse Google searching these images to find out that they were stolen images.

The tweets were attempting to perpetuate a harmful stereotype that people of color, especially those who are black, are “aggressive.” Soon after these tweets were brought to the attention of the public, Twitter wasted no time in banning these users from the social media platform.

Companies can often be the target of social media call-outs due to certain ad campaigns or commercials they run. In 2017, Pepsi released a now-deleted commercial featuring Kendall Jenner observing a protest and then deciding to join and giving a police officer a Pepsi. Social media users were quick to point out how tone deaf the ad was. They claimed it was commodifying activism culture, and generally insensitive because the protest in the video was so vague. Other users pointed out how the ad seemed to try and recreate the picture of Ieshia Evans, a nurse who was arrested while protesting the 2016 killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. Even though Pepsi stood by the ad at first, they eventually deleted it, saying that they “missed the mark.”

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Whitewashing, the practice of casting white actors to play roles that are non-white characters, is one of the many conversations happening in Hollywood right now.

The concept is nothing new; however, social media has made it easier to let directors and actors know when they have messed up and show instantaneous dissatisfaction. In 2017, it was announced in the Hellboy reboot that Ed Skrein would be playing Ben Daimo, a character who is of Japanese descent, in the comics. Various Asian bloggers and social media users took to Twitter to share their disappointment with this casting, especially since it was following right after the disappointing casting of Scarlett Johansson, a white woman playing a Japanese character in “Ghost in the Shell.”

In a not so common move, Skrein stepped down from the role, citing that at the time of casting he was unaware of the character’s original heritage, and he encouraged the movie to recast the role more accurately.

So, when the next inevitable Twitter fire happens, whether it’s a celebrity doing something problematic or a company missing the mark on a campaign, before you try and question why people are wasting their time to call out this behavior, remember that the goal of call-out culture is to inform and educate others. There are instances where progress has been made. So, next time, don’t be so quick to call out call-out culture.

Lyric, 16, is homeschooled and loves social justice and animation.

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