Barack Obama calls out cancel culture: ‘That’s not activism, that’s not bringing about change’

'People who do really good stuff have flaws'

Sabrina Barr
Wednesday 30 October 2019 13:04 GMT
Barack Obama highlights why cancel culture is not activism

Former US president Barack Obama has called out cancel culture on the Internet, saying that it is not an effective form of activism.

On Tuesday, Obama attended the third annual Obama Foundation Summit in Illinois, Chicago, an event that featured a range of high-profile speakers including former US first lady Michelle Obama, director Ava Duvernay and Pose star Billy Porter.

While in conversation with actor and activist Yara Shahidi for a segment titled: “What can I do where I am?”, Obama spoke about the detrimental impact judging people too rashly on social media can have.

“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 world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.”

Former US president Barack Obama speaks with actor and activist Yara Shahidi during the Obama Foundation Summit (29 October 2019)
Former US president Barack Obama speaks with actor and activist Yara Shahidi during the Obama Foundation Summit (29 October 2019) (AP)

Obama stated that the danger of being too “judgemental” of people on social media is something he sees “particularly on college campuses”, and has been “accelerated by social media”.

“There is this sense sometimes of, ‘The way of me making change is to be as judgemental as possible about other people.’ And that’s enough,” the 58-year-old said.

“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. ‘Cause, ‘Man, you see how woke I was? I called you out’.”

Obama added that in his opinion, the form of behaviour described is not effective when a person is trying to make a positive difference.

“That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change,” he said.

“If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.”

Several Twitter users praised Obama for his stance on the subject.

“Wise words from former President Barack Obama on the cancel culture vibe,” one person wrote.

“It’s so important to remember that we can be good people AND we can make mistakes.”

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“I am glad to hear Obama explain so clearly how cancel culture and wokeness is not productive for bringing about change,” another stated.

A number of people also remarked that Obama seemingly ”cancelled cancel culture”.

“Obama attempting to cancel cancel culture is a very 2019 thing,” a Twitter user said.

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