SNL recently announced three new cast members for the upcoming season including their first (full) Asian cast member, Bowen Yang. Among the trio was Shane Gillis, who recently caught some not-so-positive attention on social media for racist comments he made on a podcast that he co-hosts. Between him and his co-host he was the milder racist, not that it makes it any better. He later made a response to this whole thing by defending his brand of comedy as “risky.” As noted by much of the Twitterverse, the tropes that Gillis plays off of are tired and far from cutting-edge in the comedy world. Popular opinion was against Gillis, and much of the social media world called for his “cancellation.” SNL soon after cut ties with Gillis as is there right, though likely a PR move not a social justice move.
Presidential candidate Andrew Yang (no relation that I’m aware of to the SNL freshman) also condemned the comedian, but also invited Gillis to a discussion regarding his past comments. Many people were upset by this, saying that racists don’t deserve redemption or can’t be reasoned with. I feel like that is a common attitude in this day and age (and has been for a long time), and one that needs to change.
I don’t think racism in any form should be tolerated or condoned, but “cancellation” is not the solution. Everyone one is human, and grew up with different experiences, many genuinely do not know the extent of the impact that their words and actions have. Though even assume the worst intentions by Gillis, cancel-culture is just lazy. It says, I recognize a problem, and I am going to generalize about it, and push it somewhere else (humans are really good at pushing hard to deal with problems out of sight).
Injustice must be dealt with appropriately. Whatever consequences occur, especially in the court of public opinion are deserved. Gillis got what was coming to him, but I don’t think that he should be thought of as beyond redemption. Cancelling is not an effective way to get someone to change, understanding is. Understanding why someone thinks its ok to use certain language, or understanding why some hates Swedish climate activists. This is harder than anything because it feels like you must compromise your beliefs and often has little to show for it. But going to the root is what makes people think, and little by little attitudes and cultures can change.