'Not Activism': Watch as a Smackdown on the Toxicity of Woke/Cancel Culture Is Delivered by ... Barack Obama

Former President Barack Obama speaks to Democratic supporters at Genesis Convention Center, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Gary, Ind. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Barack Obama

Former President Barack Obama speaks to Democratic supporters at Genesis Convention Center, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Gary, Ind. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

It’s not just conservatives who have written about how woke/cancel culture is bad news for society. Comedians and other entertainers of either liberal or no particular political persuasion have done so as well, including Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Bill Maher, Ricky Gervais, and Marlon Wayans.


One person I would not have expected to speak out on cancel culture is former President Barack Obama. After all, cancel culture came to prominence under his watch, and sometimes at his direction.

Accordingly, the main offenders when it comes to “canceling” people for speech they find offensive are the activist left social justice warriors on his side of the aisle who in some cases get paid to whip up online outrage mobs into a feeding frenzy of harsh judgment and ridicule, oftentimes over something irrelevant, meaningless, and/or harmless.

But call them out Obama did during a talk he gave yesterday in Chicago, as Fox News reports:

During a discussion at the Obama Foundation Summit held at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the 44th president explained that the world is more complicated than people realize and urged politically active Americans to be practical if they want to be effective.

“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,” Obama said. “The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids, and share certain things with you.”


Obama zeroed in in particular on college campuses, noting they are a hotbed for this type of behavior:

“One danger I see among young people, particularly on college campuses,” he continued, “I do get a sense sometimes now among certain young people — and this is accelerated by social media – there is this sense sometimes of the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that’s enough. Like, if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or use the wrong verb, then I can feel pretty good about myself, ‘cause man did you see how woke I was? I called you out.’

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

Watch his full remarks on the topic below:

His comments, while on point, were self-serving to some extent considering how some hard-left members of his own party are treating both him and his former veep Joe Biden as if they are not “woke” enough to be able to credibly speak about issues deemed urgent by social justice warrior mobs. So to a certain extent, what he said was an attempt at legacy preservation.


But even with that said, the best way to change the minds among a group of people is when it comes from within and from someone they trust and respect. Conservatives can talk all day long about the dangers of the left’cancel culture obsession, but having similar pushbacks come from their own side is more likely to have an impact and, if we’re lucky, make some of them think twice.

Let’s hope so, anyway.

— Based in North Carolina, Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 16+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter. –


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