Don’t ‘cancel’ people; hold them accountable, demand change

Logan Raschke, Senior Designer

Just because people have done wrong and are held accountable for their actions does not mean they should be stripped of the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and do better. Instead of promoting a toxic, ominous “Cancel Culture,”  we need to demand change and uphold our standards as consumers and audience members.

The phrase “Cancel Culture” is getting thrown around a lot lately because two influential creators on YouTube — Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star — are drawing a lot of negative attention from the public.

Racist content published several years ago by both Dawson and Star is resurfacing for a couple reasons.

On May 25, the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, reignited the Black Lives Matter Movement in the U.S.

The video of Floyd’s shocking death beckoned a flurry of outrage, following heaps of national coverage, conversation and contention about police brutality and racial injustice.

Since the issue of racial injustice is piercing the public’s attention, many people are apologizing for racially insensitive things they have said and/or done in the past and educating themselves.

On the other hand, another influential YouTube creator named Jenna Marbles (with 20 million subscribers) posted an apology video on June 25 in which she addressed several “comedy” videos she posted that included racist and/or stereotypical content.

Viewers were not demanding an apology, however; she did it on her own terms and said that she hasn’t been comfortable having offensive content on her channel for a long time. She also said that she would leave YouTube, either permanently or temporarily.

Dawson cited Jenna Marbles’ video and the racial tension from Floyd’s death as inspiration for publishing his own video the next day: “Taking Accountability.” He apologized for the racially insensitive content he published years ago and asserted that he is no longer the depressed, angry man he was during the early years of his YouTube career.

While he did mention some specific content that he can no longer defend, Dawson neglected to address multiple clips and pictures depicting other unjustifiable racial stereotypes, racial slurs and pedophile justification/sympathy.

For example, he never addressed the video in which he made inappropriate sexual gestures to a poster of then-teenager Willow Smith, Will Smith’s daughter. He also never addressed the countless pictures of him in blackface depicting racial stereotypes. Dawson also hasn’t addressed the audio clip from his podcast “Shane and Friends,” which ran from 2013 to 2017, featuring himself referring to a 6-year-old Instagram influencer as “sexy” and reducing pedophilia to a fetish rather than a crime, among other sexually predatory clips.

Dawson was an adult when he published all of this material. Dawson produced the podcast clip in his mid- to late-20s. As the days go on, more unjustifiable racist and pedophilic content is resurfacing, too.

These reasons alone are enough for me to completely retract any support I had for Dawson. Racist and pedophilic remarks are unjustifiable anyway, and the fact that he said and did these things just recently and profited off these heinous remarks is disgusting.

Star, a close friend to Dawson, is also facing backlash as several acquaintances and ex-friends allege Star has used and still uses racist and stereotypical language against a number of marginalized groups.

Some people who had friendly relationships with Star in the past, such as Tati Westbrook, a beauty influencer, and Ashlye Kyle, a YouTube creator, allege Star has blackmail against a number of influencers and content creators, which he uses to manipulate others.

Viewers have also used the Wayback Machine internet archive to track Star’s original attempt at a makeup brand: Lipstick Nazi. Star used Nazi symbolism, such as the swastika and Nazi eagle crest, in his promotional marketing for the company.

While Star did address his old company in a video, denouncing the imagery and use of the word “Nazi” as “vile” and inexcusable, many viewers were unsatisfied and demanded a thorough explanation of the pileup of inappropriate and racist behavior.

According to Dawson’s and Star’s social blades, Dawson’s YouTube channel has lost 1.1 million subscribers (going from 23.2 million to 22.1 million) in the past 30 days and Star’s YouTube channel has lost 500,000 subscribers (going from 18.2 million to 17.7 million) in the past 30 days.

Unless both of them thoroughly address everything wrong they’ve published in the past as well as any serious allegations against them currently, there’s no telling how many more hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of subscribers they’ll continue to lose.

There is still so much racist, inappropriate and predatory content coming out of the woodwork against these two. It’s too much to include in what should have been about a 500-some-word column, but here I still am typing away at 800 words.

It’s all so overwhelmingly bad, and it’s enough for me to never watch their content, buy their products or support them ever again.

Still, something needs to be addressed: Cancel Culture.

OK, what is Cancel Culture?

According to, it “refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.”

Well, that doesn’t sound very bad. People do this often anyway: If people don’t support what a company’s CEO is doing, for example, they often stop putting money into that company. They find another company with products just as good around the same price range to avoid supporting someone they don’t agree with.

What’s so wrong with that?


The issues with Cancel Culture start and stop with sensationalism and misinterpretation.

The phrase is used so often now that its rudimentary meaning — withdrawing support for people who have done offensive or objectionable things — is lost.

A more current connotative definition for Cancel Culture is probably “destroying someone’s wellbeing and career for some problematic things they said a long time ago.”

It’s not that watered down, but that’s how a lot of people are defending Dawson and Star. They’re using this definition instead of the legitimate one.

Additionally, when people hear “Cancel Culture,” they often interpret it as a final point in someone’s career; there’s no coming back from it. That person is done, over, ruined and canceled for good.

That’s just not right either.

Many celebrities and influencers who have been “canceled” in the past, like James Charles, another beauty influencer, for example, hit rock bottom and worked their way up to gain respect back from the community. Charles has millions of subscribers today even though just a year ago, he lost about 3 million in a span of days when he got “canceled” (for reasons which are certainly debatable and suspicious, and it all deserves a whole other column).

In my book, the only time people ever get really “canceled” is when they are sent to prison for life. Even then, people in prison still have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and lead fulfilling lives.

I’m not a big fan of “canceling” people. I’ll withdraw my own support if I feel that I need to, but everyone else has the right to do whatever they want.

When it comes to these people’s apologies regarding racism, that isn’t even my apology to accept anyway. While I do find that content offensive and deplorable, I’m not directly targeted because I’m not black.

The victims of Dawson’s and Star’s racism have the choice to accept or reject their apologies, and that’s it. No one has the right to demand the black community to accept their apologies. That’s up to every black individual.

Even still, the publication and profit of this content shouldn’t be condoned on YouTube or any platform. Period.

Also, holding people accountable instead of writing them off as “canceled” is such an important distinction to make.

This is a telling time for Dawson’s and Star’s viewers: They need to decide if they will truly hold these individuals accountable for their actions and demand change.

No one should wish ill will on anyone. I know Dawson and Star are both going through some very emotional and fearful hardships right now. Their careers could fall off a cliff in the coming months or weeks. I want them to make good, healthy decisions.

I also hope they’re seriously considering how to address their viewers’ concerns and requests for information. Remaining silent is unacceptable.

Dawson and Star have a lot of power right now, too. They could do what they’ve continued to do since they started losing subscribers: stay silent, effectively demonstrating that they really haven’t changed.

Or they could use this loss as a learning experience and earn back some of their fans’ trust and respect.

They could demonstrate improved behavior by giving back to these marginalized groups by donating the proceeds they made from the racist content to BLM and other civil rights organizations, after removing the content for good, of course. They could educate themselves and spread that valuable education to others. They could advocate for marginalized groups. They could gradually build up positive communities, fostering peace and justice.

I really hope they do.

Until then, I’ll keep holding them accountable and demanding change.

Logan Raschke can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]