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We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice

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Cancel culture addresses real harm...and sometimes causes more. It’s time to think this through. “Cancel” or “call-out” culture is a source of much tension and debate in American society. The infamous "Harper’s Letter,” signed by public intellectuals of both the left and right, sought to settle the matter and only caused greater division. Originating as a way for marginaliz Cancel culture addresses real harm...and sometimes causes more. It’s time to think this through. “Cancel” or “call-out” culture is a source of much tension and debate in American society. The infamous "Harper’s Letter,” signed by public intellectuals of both the left and right, sought to settle the matter and only caused greater division. Originating as a way for marginalized and disempowered people to address harm and take down powerful abusers, often with the help of social media, call outs are seen by some as having gone too far. But what is “too far” when you’re talking about imbalances of power and patterns of harm? And what happens when people in social justice movements direct their righteous anger inward at one another? In We Will Not Cancel Us, movement mediator adrienne maree brown reframes the discussion for us, in a way that points to possible paths beyond this impasse. Most critiques of cancel culture come from outside the milieus that produce it, sometimes even from from its targets. However, brown explores the question from a Black, queer, and feminist viewpoint that gently asks, how well does this practice serve us? Does it prefigure the sort of world we want to live in? And, if it doesn’t, how do we seek accountability and redress for harm in ways that reflect our values?


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Cancel culture addresses real harm...and sometimes causes more. It’s time to think this through. “Cancel” or “call-out” culture is a source of much tension and debate in American society. The infamous "Harper’s Letter,” signed by public intellectuals of both the left and right, sought to settle the matter and only caused greater division. Originating as a way for marginaliz Cancel culture addresses real harm...and sometimes causes more. It’s time to think this through. “Cancel” or “call-out” culture is a source of much tension and debate in American society. The infamous "Harper’s Letter,” signed by public intellectuals of both the left and right, sought to settle the matter and only caused greater division. Originating as a way for marginalized and disempowered people to address harm and take down powerful abusers, often with the help of social media, call outs are seen by some as having gone too far. But what is “too far” when you’re talking about imbalances of power and patterns of harm? And what happens when people in social justice movements direct their righteous anger inward at one another? In We Will Not Cancel Us, movement mediator adrienne maree brown reframes the discussion for us, in a way that points to possible paths beyond this impasse. Most critiques of cancel culture come from outside the milieus that produce it, sometimes even from from its targets. However, brown explores the question from a Black, queer, and feminist viewpoint that gently asks, how well does this practice serve us? Does it prefigure the sort of world we want to live in? And, if it doesn’t, how do we seek accountability and redress for harm in ways that reflect our values?

30 review for We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    What can this lead to in an imperfect world full of sloppy, complex humans? Is it possible we will call each other out until there's no one left beside us? This little book felt like a healing balm. I hope so very much that others will listen to Brown, even if they don't necessarily agree with her beliefs on everything. What I like most about Adrienne Maree Brown is her love and empathy for other humans, and it comes across in everything she writes and does. Here, she asks us to question what What can this lead to in an imperfect world full of sloppy, complex humans? Is it possible we will call each other out until there's no one left beside us? This little book felt like a healing balm. I hope so very much that others will listen to Brown, even if they don't necessarily agree with her beliefs on everything. What I like most about Adrienne Maree Brown is her love and empathy for other humans, and it comes across in everything she writes and does. Here, she asks us to question what we are really achieving when we "cancel" a person, especially when we do it quickly, gleefully, without asking any questions. She points out the contradiction between activists fighting to abolish or reform the way we punish criminals in society, while simultaneously dealing out unquestioned, unrestrained public shamings online. often things are turned into public campaigns of shaming and humiliation before it is even clear if the thing is a misunderstanding, mistake, contradiction, conflict, harm, or abuse. Many of her observations here are a huge part of the reason I have been drifting away from social media and Goodreads over the last couple of years. I've gotten so tired of it, guys. So tired of this wonderful open-minded liberal pro-LGBTQ+ pro-BLM community just fucking eating itself over a desire to be perceived as the most moral. Salivating with excitement over the latest call-out, often of queer bloggers, or those of colour. Performing for a crowd, basking in the shares and likes as we take down a fellow blogger or reviewer. Is it improving our lives? Is it making us happy? I truly wonder. Brown is not the first person to critique cancel culture, but her perspective on this is especially important because it comes from a "Black biracial queer fat survivor". She understands the necessity of call-outs. She acknowledges the importance of using your voice online to hold someone accountable when society's justice has failed you. BUT. I have felt us losing our capacity to distinguish between comrade and opponent, losing our capacity to generate belonging. *** Right now, call outs are being used not just as a necessary consequence for those wielding power to cause harm or enact abuse, but to shame and humiliate people in the wake of misunderstandings, contradictions, conflicts, and mistakes. Brown wonders, as do I, why we seem to be enjoying it so much. When it gets to a stage where we are reveling in a takedown, enjoying seeing another person humiliated, are we really in the right? She spoke with many people who admitted they avoid speaking up or defending someone out of an unspoken fear: "when will y'all come for me?" And nobody should be afraid of speaking up for what's right, or asking questions, out of fear for themselves. That's not liberation. Who knows if Brown's words will penetrate the din? I hope so, but for now it was enough to hear such a prominent amazing black woman echo some of the thoughts giving me anxiety each day, in a far more eloquent way, of course.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Leila

    I appreciate the author's stated intention to work through and reflect on criticisms from survivors of abuse that came in response to the essay as it was initially posted in July; I won't rehash those criticisms here. However, the rush to publish without taking time to deeply consider and incorporate those criticisms made this book unhelpful at best and actively harmful at worst. Including lines like "I am not speaking of survivors naming their abusers" isn't the same as integrating our experien I appreciate the author's stated intention to work through and reflect on criticisms from survivors of abuse that came in response to the essay as it was initially posted in July; I won't rehash those criticisms here. However, the rush to publish without taking time to deeply consider and incorporate those criticisms made this book unhelpful at best and actively harmful at worst. Including lines like "I am not speaking of survivors naming their abusers" isn't the same as integrating our experiences into the analysis, and if anything, it created many new contradictions in the book. The use of "we" ("we are afraid and we think it will assuage our fears," "we love obsessing over and punishing villains" -- we who?) leads to many projections and assumptions about the experiences and goals of survivors and others who have used callouts to organize for accountability. One of the most triggering parts of this book is when the author compares those who use callouts as a strategy to organize for accountability to COINTELPRO. This is particularly painful when reflecting on the fact that multiple leftist organizations doxxed survivors this year in retaliation. Doxxing organizers feeds the state and harms our movements, and it seems worthy of condemnation and more comparable to COINTELPRO than people speaking about their experiences of abuse. And yet survivors' organizing work toward building safer, more accountable movement spaces is not seen as valuable and impactful. Instead, the same trope ("but they do good work!") is used to excuse patterns of oppressive behaviors by organizers with large platforms and more established organizations. The book contains no specific examples of situations that escalated to callouts and demonstrates no curiosity about the reasons why or the outcomes sought. For survivors who might stumble upon this review: There are many resources that I found helpful in navigating healing, safety and accountability after abuse. Some are anarchist zines like "What about the rapists?" and "Betrayal." I also worked with comrades to create the zine "Learning to Exhale." All of these zines are available for free online. Some books that I found helpful are: The Revolution Starts at Home and Beyond Survival -- both anthologies that gather different experiences, strategies, reflections, and considerations in navigating interpersonal violence in organizing spaces. For more resources specifically about finding our own agency, which comes up as a theme throughout this book, I recommend Shannon Perez Darby's work and writing on self-accountability.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bren

    “If I can see the ways I am perpetuating systemic oppressions, if I can see where I learned the behavior and how hard it is to unlearn it, I start to have more humility as I see the messiness of the communities I am part of, the world I live in.” We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice I did not realize how short this was w hen I went to read it. This book was a Christmas present. I had been wanting to read it. As you may have guessed, it is about today's "cancel culture". “If I can see the ways I am perpetuating systemic oppressions, if I can see where I learned the behavior and how hard it is to unlearn it, I start to have more humility as I see the messiness of the communities I am part of, the world I live in.” We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice I did not realize how short this was w hen I went to read it. This book was a Christmas present. I had been wanting to read it. As you may have guessed, it is about today's "cancel culture". And how damaging it can be. I really do not want to do a long review on this one until I have read it a second time. I want to mull it over a bit. I am sure most people who are internet users have laughed at or even participated in memes or jokes about various hapless victims of this culture. I freely admit I have.As a never Trumper I have been a bit wicked about it too. But this short book is more about the pervasive nature of cancel culture in regards to how we , as a society, allow ourselves to enjoy or even revel in, someone else's misfortune. And how the whole herd mentality and group think behavior can turn us into people we'd perhaps rather not be. As someone who loathes sheeplike behavior I can say with confidence, that does not negate the fact that I too have participated in some of these behaviors. I thi nk this book is quite educational and though it is short, one can really get much from it . I will add on to this review when I have read it for a second time. But I do want to strongly recommend it. You do not have to identify with everything in it. I didn't. But it is fascinating and not only pushes the reader to look at othe rs but also themselves. Excellent read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Poppy

    "We Will Not Cancel Us" is an argument for trying other things before we call one another out about our missteps, especially publicly. The theme of this book is extremely welcome in this cultural moment, for obvious reasons I won't even bother itemizing. The author is a conflict mediator who works within social movements to help people get through interpersonal problems among peers. Though she doesn't list the exact movements in which she works, she makes it clear that we are talking about left-w "We Will Not Cancel Us" is an argument for trying other things before we call one another out about our missteps, especially publicly. The theme of this book is extremely welcome in this cultural moment, for obvious reasons I won't even bother itemizing. The author is a conflict mediator who works within social movements to help people get through interpersonal problems among peers. Though she doesn't list the exact movements in which she works, she makes it clear that we are talking about left-wing movements broadly. It is comforting and reassuring to read the words of someone who has chosen this specific role, of building up instead of tearing down. There are some very quotable moments in this little booklet, which started out as a viral blog post. Brown is talented with words and -- I suspect -- talented at spotting where conflict can turn to compassion. Where the book is limited, its limits seem intentionally self-imposed. The author happily labels herself many times over, often reminding us that she is liberal; an "abolitionist" (in this context, that appears to mean she believes in abolishing the formal legal-justice system); a "Witch" (I'm not certain what that means here, but it's brought up a few times) and "a survivor" (again, I am not certain of-what she survived, and I don't assume a right to know, but the word is mentioned many times, and without that clarity, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to take from it). I always worry about labels. When movements label themselves, they limit themselves. Each label is just another axis against which you might judge me as someone-other-than-what-you-are, which just gives you more ingrained biases for me to work against. I eat vegan food, but would rather not call myself vegan. I don't believe in God, but derive no identity from the word "atheist." I think critical thinking is the central driving force of a more-moral world, but I hate the word "skeptic." I find these conversations are infinitely harder to have when someone views me as a member of some group of people already taking a stance with which they don't already agree. I would rather the guy next to me at Subway try the veggie patty because a girl he relates to is also trying it, rather than put him off by a VEGAN hoodie. Why do we feel this need to name our movements and the people within them? I don't get it, and maybe that's just me. But as I am the one reading the book and writing the review, just me is what you get. From a writing analysis standpoint, this little tome lacks the kind of specifics and examples that could really drive the points home. She speaks almost exclusively in broad generalizations, bordering on philosophy, while rarely giving a specific example and breaking it down. I fear everyone could read this book and say they basically agree with the principle, then go about doing all the same things they did before, because there are no particularly challenging examples to stack ourselves against. A bigger problem is that small asides and exceptions are peppered throughout the text. Asides and exceptions which seem to undo the bravest parts of this book. And it is clearly intended to be brave. The author calls her thoughts "unthinkable," and expresses the harrowing fear of being publicly shunned by your movement peers (a feeling I and many of my friends know well). She essentially tells us she is being brave, and so I believe her that she is (what is courage accept overcoming your own internal fears no one else can really know?). But that courage seems undone when she spends a sentence or two nodding to the times when (she says) social outcasting is a perfetctly legitimate way to handle things. In particular, she states that publicly acknowledging your abuser or rapist is a perfectly legitimate way to handle having been raped or abused, and that circumventing the legal apparatus is not a bug, but a feature, of this approach. This is offered as such a quick aside, it reads as a given: "of COURSE we all know THIS kind of call-out is fine." But do we? One of the lessons of the last several years seems to be not just that rape and abuse are everywhere (I am of the mind that these things are, indeed, extremely common) but also that they can be extremely grey areas of human interaction, wherein a rapist may not know they are a rapist, and an abuser may not know they are an abuser. Likewise, human memory is notoriously horrible, and a single person's word can't be taken and "believed" with no outside corroboration. Yet this author says we should "believe survivors." How will I identify them? How will I spot survivors of abuse without knowing they were abused, so that I might then believe them? Doesn't that just set us back where we started? The only way I see to support survivors -- at least the ones who want to name their attackers -- is to help them document what happened. Blindly believing them seems, at best, condescending. I recall once sharing something that had happened to me, and receiving a chorus of "I believe you"s in response. I felt not held or supported, but sinking. I didn't want to be believed because I had spoken; I wanted to be asked, to be understood, to be questioned, so that we could figure out together what is really happening in this society in which we can harm one another so easily. Blind belief made me feel invisible. I don't have a solution for this quicksand of a situation. But as I finished up this book, I felt that the author didn't either. To her credit, she says as much somewhere in the beginning. That she is about asking questions more than answering them. With this, I identify more than anything else in the book. Questions are often more useful than answers, especially in the early stages of figuring things out. But the way those questions are written, at least here, makes them sound like answers. And that's its major downfall.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Derek Minno-Bloom

    This book could heal our communities and the left and bring us together to fight for collective liberation! I couldn't recommend it more! This book could heal our communities and the left and bring us together to fight for collective liberation! I couldn't recommend it more!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Traci at The Stacks

    I really enjoyed this book. It gave me lots to think about. I need to discuss with a person and work through the ideas. Really good though slightly self conscious.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    WE WILL NOT CANCEL US is a small booklet borne out of adrienne maree brown's essay over the summer grappling with cancel culture and abolition dreams. I love seeing how thinkers think, learning their process, their missteps and edits, and so I appreciated the way she tackled this book as her thoughts and language surrounding cancel culture are emergent. I'll say firstly, I don't believe cancel culture actually exists in the way that the right talks about it, but I have seen internet and intraper WE WILL NOT CANCEL US is a small booklet borne out of adrienne maree brown's essay over the summer grappling with cancel culture and abolition dreams. I love seeing how thinkers think, learning their process, their missteps and edits, and so I appreciated the way she tackled this book as her thoughts and language surrounding cancel culture are emergent. I'll say firstly, I don't believe cancel culture actually exists in the way that the right talks about it, but I have seen internet and intrapersonal criticism taken very far, in ways that brown and I share a discomfort with. She writes that if no one is actually disposable, we have to ensure that folks are held ACCOUNTABLE for their actions while not feeding into carceral attitudes. As a white woman reading this, it resonated a lot with the way I see white people tackle racism on social media - esp the past summer. I think its good and its our job as white ppl to call out others who we see engaging in harmful behaviors AND it's also our responsibility to collect our white people, so how we "call out" matters. I've seen a lot of what I call "white on white crime," where white ppl get REALLY INVESTED into fights with other white ppl on what they've determined is and isn't racist. Now, it's good & necessary to call out other white people. But what I see in some of these online examples is a white person, the person doing the call out, who has not grappled with their own internalized whiteness. Perhaps they are feeling shame that they see, in the actions of the problematic white, something they would have done 3 years ago. brown writes about the "am I next?" fear that comes from call outs online. This also prevents people from actually engaging in a dialouge where they could learn because they're so scared of saying the wrong thing. I see a vitriol level that is really rooted in trying to "look like one of the good ones" but to me like someone who doesn't actually critique or engage in dialogue with the white people in their own life. I'm not saying don't call out racism that you see online if you are white. I'm saying, engage in dialogue and ensure your learning and work happens offline too. It is a lot easier to call out strangers for a racist or problematic post than it is to call out your own family. WE WILL NOT CANCEL US looks at the complexities of community call outs and accountability. I loved reading this book and discussing with @angiesreading and @suzyreadsbooks.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Serrano

    What started off as thumbing through the pages ended up with me spending the whole morning reading this book. She spoke with such clarity and thoughtfulness that I couldn't put it down. In fact I will read it again, and again, reminding myself of the call she put forth. I worry about call out culture. I am often disappointed with how it materializes both in myself and in others. So, reading this books is a breath of fresh air. What started off as thumbing through the pages ended up with me spending the whole morning reading this book. She spoke with such clarity and thoughtfulness that I couldn't put it down. In fact I will read it again, and again, reminding myself of the call she put forth. I worry about call out culture. I am often disappointed with how it materializes both in myself and in others. So, reading this books is a breath of fresh air.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rhea

    Absolutely transformational. This summer I had several experiences that convinced me that cancel culture is not the way to go when airing grievances. I have been following the writing that has started to spring up, from Kai Cheng Thom, Tada Hozemi, and Clementine Morrigan about how we can be more effective and simply more human in our conflicts with each other. This booklet by adrienne maree brown is vital to those efforts. She creates a lot of definitions, which is very helpful in a world where Absolutely transformational. This summer I had several experiences that convinced me that cancel culture is not the way to go when airing grievances. I have been following the writing that has started to spring up, from Kai Cheng Thom, Tada Hozemi, and Clementine Morrigan about how we can be more effective and simply more human in our conflicts with each other. This booklet by adrienne maree brown is vital to those efforts. She creates a lot of definitions, which is very helpful in a world where everything is conflated and nebulous. She gives people a road map for call outs without punishment, and also humanizes our desire for revenge. I felt seen on all sides (and the up and down) of her writing. Mandatory reading for being a person on the internet, or in any community.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Hartman

    I got a ride from adrienne maree brown (name drop!) back in 2008. Although I don't remember much of our conversation from the two and a half hour drive, I do remember how comfortable I felt around them and how easy it was to have a conversation. It's twelve years later and I've read every book she's published; like our conversation, I appreciate the way she tackles tough topics using language that just about anyone can understand. Many other folks have spent hundreds of pages trying to get acros I got a ride from adrienne maree brown (name drop!) back in 2008. Although I don't remember much of our conversation from the two and a half hour drive, I do remember how comfortable I felt around them and how easy it was to have a conversation. It's twelve years later and I've read every book she's published; like our conversation, I appreciate the way she tackles tough topics using language that just about anyone can understand. Many other folks have spent hundreds of pages trying to get across what amb accomplishes in under a hundred.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Scout

    There are some for whom a book like this will feel like a hug. My sense is there are certainly a lot more conversations on this topic along these lines than were happening five years ago, but I'm sure there are people out there who have not yet come across them. The basic premise of the book, which I align with, and might provide that hug, is that if we are interested in building a better world we have to be better with each other. We have to understand that the world we want to change is a worl There are some for whom a book like this will feel like a hug. My sense is there are certainly a lot more conversations on this topic along these lines than were happening five years ago, but I'm sure there are people out there who have not yet come across them. The basic premise of the book, which I align with, and might provide that hug, is that if we are interested in building a better world we have to be better with each other. We have to understand that the world we want to change is a world whose abuses have infected us, and if we don't work through our shit and get more skilled at addressing interpersonal conflict, our visions won't become realities. If that sounds like "wow," then you'll probably enjoy the book. If that sounds like "yup, been thinking that for a while now" and you've already engaged with resources and in conversations on the topic, this might not have much new to offer you. An exciting trajectory in transformative justice and other types of movement work is that there are more and more resources becoming widely available that address not just the "why" of these movements but the "how." For many, it is abundantly clear that the criminal legal system needs to be abolished, that our social order creates many forms of institutional and interpersonal violence which are unnecessary features of human life that we must change, and we don't need to hear any additional arguments convincing us of that. Where we are inevitably in need of more resources concerns a task that is much bigger than being individually convinced, which is building collective power to be able to change these conditions. I first came across adrienne marie brown through Emergent Strategy, a very how-oriented book that was so exciting to me in 2017 in part because it offered an out from the way left politics/social justice frameworks were most commonly practiced in the community I was closest with at the time, which was that of a tiny liberal arts college. For the most part, we did a lot of talking about capitalism, racism, police, patriarchy etc. and why all these things are awful, and didn't do too much else about it. On occasion someone might get added to a shitlist because they said the wrong thing about one of those topics. In that context, Emergent Strategy was an explosive experience for me. Its offering of a framework that not only negated "call out culture" or "cancel culture" or whatever but presented an expansive alternative, weaving together Octavia Butler's science fiction, the teachings of non-human species, Taosim, was deeply exciting. The concrete details about meetings, facilitation and so on pointed to a world much more action-oriented and compelling than the go-nowhere conversations I was accustomed to and tiring of. Other work from around the same time, like Dean Spade's stuff on movement culture and Frances Lee's work on the ethics of activism, made me feel held, in a shared understanding of the limitations of activism as the greatest number of people are called to practice it. Since then, I've found transformative justice, which helps us think about what we need to do to keep each other safe without courts, cops and jails, to be an urgently crucial framework. And I have been very grateful for other offerings that address the "how" of it--this year's Beyond Survival anthology is a huge example. Meanwhile, I'm out of my little college community now and doing actual movement work around prison abolition. So the stakes are different. And I have certainly noticed after doing that work for a couple years and change that conflict in those spaces is tricky, it easy to let it go unaddressed or have it be addressed poorly. So when this book starts out talking about the trouble with conflict in our movements, I thought "huh--maybe this will actually be really useful for me right now." But overall, I think this writing is a bit of a backstep from Emergent Strategy, from the how back to the why. There aren't many resources in it that I find helpful at this point for navigating conflict. Of course, I am not the primary audience for anything, and others not sure how to address this issue might find this short book approachable and grounding on the subject. Some resources it does include are a list of questions to ask yourself when you are being invited to engage in a callout, and a list of other books and things at the end, many of which are great: work from the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (especially pod-mapping tools), resources on the Critical Resistance website, the aforementioned Beyond Survival, Angela Davis's Are Prisons Obsolete?, Just Practice's Mixtape on Transformative Justice, Mariame Kaba and Shira Hassan's Stumbling Toward Repair workbook, and Steven Universe gets a shout. transformharm.org is another good one if you're curious. Dean Spade's new book Mutual Aid is another one that I have not yet read, but I have heard multiple conversations about and it includes a lot of material on thoughtfully navigating relationships within social movements. So, in sum, this is maybe more valuable for others than for me. I will say, though, that as vital as this kind of argument felt 3 years ago, at this point part of me feels the urge to trouble it a bit. I will say that one odd thing that emerged when I was first engaging with Emergent Strategy and all that stuff is that, in some ways rather than pushing me to engage in all relationships with openness, respect, and commitment to acting as if others have the capacity to change, what it did was make me redirect my idea of "who is bad" from "the usual suspects" to people who participate in callout/cancel culture/the types of gleeful punishment described here. It wasn't until I heard Dean Spade talking about meeting people where they're at even when they're really angry that I started thinking oh--obviously these arguments also have to apply to the people who feel pulled to cancel others, or whatever. We have to hold space for everyone. I have also seen these kinds of arguments get misappropriated and used to justify harm through redirecting all attention to how the harm is being addressed. I mean, think of the whole fucking JK Rowling "cancel culture" debacle. Obviously this book talks about COINTELPRO and prison abolition and all this left-movement-specific stuff, but still I think "cancel culture is bad" arguments are a little too easy to co-opt at this point.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Esmé J

    "We Will Not Cancel Us" feels more like a couple of (great!) blog posts than a fully realized book, and brown's point gets bogged down with caveats and explanations directed at critics of an earlier draft. That said, brown's intervention in the often toxic and counterproductive ways that we respond to harm within our own communities is extremely important. I hope that this short work sparks more conversations teasing out the nuances of abolition in practice. adrienne maree brown has more questio "We Will Not Cancel Us" feels more like a couple of (great!) blog posts than a fully realized book, and brown's point gets bogged down with caveats and explanations directed at critics of an earlier draft. That said, brown's intervention in the often toxic and counterproductive ways that we respond to harm within our own communities is extremely important. I hope that this short work sparks more conversations teasing out the nuances of abolition in practice. adrienne maree brown has more questions than answers, but "We Will Not Cancel Us" has definitely left me with a lot to chew on. I know this will probably be a hot topic when the book is released, so I am glad I got to it early!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: A plea to those within the modern abolitionist movement to not use “cancelling” or “call outs” against one another. I picked up this book online, intrigued by the title. On reading the book, I discovered that I was overhearing a conversation among an “us” of which I am not a part. I say this at the outset to explain my approach in this review. It is simply to listen and, hopefully, learn, and reflect in my description of this book an accurate rendering of its message. adrienne maree brow Summary: A plea to those within the modern abolitionist movement to not use “cancelling” or “call outs” against one another. I picked up this book online, intrigued by the title. On reading the book, I discovered that I was overhearing a conversation among an “us” of which I am not a part. I say this at the outset to explain my approach in this review. It is simply to listen and, hopefully, learn, and reflect in my description of this book an accurate rendering of its message. adrienne maree brown is a leader of the modern abolitionist movement. One description of this movement states, in part: Modern abolitionists see it as our mission to provide the models of community safety, security, mutual aid, and harm reduction that are needed, and to do the political education, relationship-building, and movement work to bring others into demanding transformative economic and social change for abolition. The author self-identifies as “a Black biracial queer fat survivor, witch, movement facilitator and mediator.” I am a white, cisgender male, straight, Christian, and (hopefully) recovering racist. It is a certainty that I don’t understand everything in this small book. I am learning that often, I don’t even know what I don’t know. So, unlike some reviews, I do not want to engage or critique but try to listen and reflect what I am hearing. Too often, we have critiqued and judge what we don’t even begin to understand. The book is an enlargement on a blog post titled “Unthinkable Thoughts: Call-Out Culture in the Age of Covid-19.” The first part of the book describes the response, both positive and critical to the blog post and what the author learned. She learned she needed to make distinctions between harm and abuse, in general more clearly define terms and ideas, and offer appropriate content and trigger warnings. She goes on to offer definitions of terms: abuse, conflict, harm, contradiction, misunderstanding, and mistakes. The central chapter, a revision of the blog post, speaks from our current time, amid the pandemic and a pervasive sense of fear, both of the pandemic, and the wider pandemic of white supremacy. It speaks out of the observation of cancelling or “call outs” being used in conflict situations within the abolitionist movement. She warns of the danger of “no one left to call out, or call we, or call us.” She does not disavow the use of call outs in the wider culture with those whose status, power, and unresponsiveness warrant the use of this technique (often by widespread social media campaigns focused on a statement or act causing harm). She notes the personal impacts of a cancel–job loss, status loss, harm to family and emotional distress. She expresses concern that within movement, other, prior steps need to be taken to pursue harm reduction, including, where possible, personal conversation. She also notes that the use of call outs may become cathartic and make the use of this tool more tempting. In a follow-up essay, she speaks about the aim of movement being transformative justice. Yet she questions the ways some people have been eviscerated because small, as well as larger transgressions. In turn, she proposes three questions to open up conversations leading to transformative justice: 1. Why? Listen with “Why?” as a framework. 2. Ask yourself/selves: What can I/we learn from this? 3. How can my real-time actions contribute to transforming this situation (versus making it worse)? One concern the author expresses is that her honest processing in this book of her “unthinkable thoughts” will be weaponized by those outside the abolitionist movement. The truth is, any of us who have been involved in any movement have experienced the same phenomenon. We are often each other’s harshest critics and if we are not careful, we can self-destruct. I would hope that no one would use this review as a weapon, because rather recognize the authenticity, aspirations, and growth as a movement leader it reflects.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jas

    A really quick read. I think this is a great, hopeful, and uplifting introduction to transformative justice. I appreciate that the author is open and honest about their background/expertise. It’s not easy to write a book and own that you don’t know everything. But the author paints a beautiful picture of the world we could live in. And while I wish there were more actionable items that we could take to get there, the prompts and questions are a great way to start shifting our thinking. And even A really quick read. I think this is a great, hopeful, and uplifting introduction to transformative justice. I appreciate that the author is open and honest about their background/expertise. It’s not easy to write a book and own that you don’t know everything. But the author paints a beautiful picture of the world we could live in. And while I wish there were more actionable items that we could take to get there, the prompts and questions are a great way to start shifting our thinking. And even the definitions in the introduction as well as addressing the critiques around the original post are helpful.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Luca Suede

    There are some very welcome framings of transformation in this text, and the intentions at the beginning of the work were beautiful and helpful. A lot of this writing felt more like it was for adrienne than for the public, and there was too much explaining motivations for the piece, definitely in an effort to be accountable. I’m grateful for adrienne’s work as a mediator and author, but I was hoping for less generalizations about transformation work + the left, and more specifics about the mecha There are some very welcome framings of transformation in this text, and the intentions at the beginning of the work were beautiful and helpful. A lot of this writing felt more like it was for adrienne than for the public, and there was too much explaining motivations for the piece, definitely in an effort to be accountable. I’m grateful for adrienne’s work as a mediator and author, but I was hoping for less generalizations about transformation work + the left, and more specifics about the mechanizations of practicing transformation in community.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    adrienne maree brown is a gift, and this book is just another example of how much she brings to this world. I didn't read the original blog post that this is based on, but this book demonstrates so many things about being open to criticism, how to hold yourself and other's accountable, how to embrace change and growth. It's nuanced and complicated and she approaches is all with such love and care. As she explains in the book- we are trying to build the world we want to live in, and this book hel adrienne maree brown is a gift, and this book is just another example of how much she brings to this world. I didn't read the original blog post that this is based on, but this book demonstrates so many things about being open to criticism, how to hold yourself and other's accountable, how to embrace change and growth. It's nuanced and complicated and she approaches is all with such love and care. As she explains in the book- we are trying to build the world we want to live in, and this book helps us work towards that.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    You read this and have hope again. Abolition and transformative justice so often, to me, feel a million miles away and that no one is interested or listening and you just feel empty constantly. I think it’s nice to hear someone else tell you it’s possible if we put in the work together and how we are going to do it. This will become the book I recommend to everyone I cross paths with.

  18. 5 out of 5

    J. Brendan

    A rousing pamphlet/book that parses out the importance of focusing the power of call out culture on situations of true power imbalance and guarding against a carceral mentality and the pleasure in turning our rage on each other.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Bui

    an important read in tense times and a helpful reminder of what practicing abolitionist and transformative justice means

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shiane Jacocks

    This was one of my introductions to transformative justice. This is just one into a much bigger conversation. This helped me get to a starting place.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Suzy

    We Will Not Cancel Us by adrienne maree brown - An open, honest offering about cancel culture and transformative justice. “In the longest term vision I can see, [...] we will respond not with rejection, exile, or public shaming, but with clear naming of harm; education around intention, impact, and pattern breaking; satisfying apologies and consequences; new agreements and trustworthy boundaries; and lifelong healing resources for all involved.” Even knowing who brown is and what she stands for, I We Will Not Cancel Us by adrienne maree brown - An open, honest offering about cancel culture and transformative justice. “In the longest term vision I can see, [...] we will respond not with rejection, exile, or public shaming, but with clear naming of harm; education around intention, impact, and pattern breaking; satisfying apologies and consequences; new agreements and trustworthy boundaries; and lifelong healing resources for all involved.” Even knowing who brown is and what she stands for, I was still slightly wary going into this tiny book, since complaints about cancel culture are often waged by the right after survivors have come forward about serious acts of abuse and violence. But, brown precisely separates her ideas from theirs, approaching the issue from a queer, Black, feminist, abolitionist perspective. She agrees that there are many situations where call outs are a necessary strategy, particularly when used to hold a more powerful individual or corporation accountable for acts of abuse. However, call outs don’t work as well for addressing misunderstandings, critiques, and contradictions. -How are we currently serving to replicate carceral culture in our own communities? -What are our other options for intervention, which may be more in alignment with our values? -Is it okay that these solutions are not instantaneous? She provides some answers and many questions about how we can move forward to utilize transformative justice, address harm at the root, and allow people the space to grow and change, when appropriate. The main essay of this book was originally a blog post, and ~15% of this 86-page book outlines how the essay evolved thanks to criticism. She takes the time to clearly define her terms and address points of contention before moving forward. While some may think this is excessive, I think it showed how intentional brown aims to be in her work. An interesting, thought-provoking, carefully done booklet. I’m looking forward to seeing how this book is received by other readers.💖

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tiyahna Ridley-Padmore

    In We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice , Adrienne Maree Brown reflects and improves upon an essay that she wrote in Summer 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown and protests against racism. The short book offers inquisitive and transparent reflections by Brown before launching in to her concerns about the state of cancel culture and her vision for the future of transformative justice. Throughout the text, Brown offers practical questions, notes and activitie In We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice , Adrienne Maree Brown reflects and improves upon an essay that she wrote in Summer 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown and protests against racism. The short book offers inquisitive and transparent reflections by Brown before launching in to her concerns about the state of cancel culture and her vision for the future of transformative justice. Throughout the text, Brown offers practical questions, notes and activities that readers can use to be more thoughtful and intentional about how they approach recourse to address harmful and abusive behaviour. I didn't realize how much I needed to read these words. Brown isn't prescriptive or harsh in her direction. She simply offers a humble and gentle reminder to readers to reflect on what we stand for and what the best approaches to get there may be. I didn't finish We Will Not Cancel Us thinking that Brown was opposed to all forms of "calling out", but rather equipped with the tools and critical thinking needed to be more intentional about when "calling out" is appropriate and how to avoid reproducing the very systems of harm that many of us are trying to dismantle. Personally, this text resonated with me on a deeper level and I found myself teary-eyed at some points, grateful for Brown's loving hand. While not everybody will agree with all of the tenants of We Will Not Cancel Us , everybody engaged in social justice movements can gain from this reflection.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    I often find adrienne maree brown's writing to be visionary, heartachingly beautiful, and embued with a kind of nature-based social-justice centered spirituality. While "We Will Not Cancel Us" isn't my favorite of her books - that place of honor belongs to Pleasure Activism - it is indeed another thoughtful treatise (it's not really a book, more of a very small booklet) on how we move our relationships forward based on principles of community, justice, love, and accountability. Thought-provoking I often find adrienne maree brown's writing to be visionary, heartachingly beautiful, and embued with a kind of nature-based social-justice centered spirituality. While "We Will Not Cancel Us" isn't my favorite of her books - that place of honor belongs to Pleasure Activism - it is indeed another thoughtful treatise (it's not really a book, more of a very small booklet) on how we move our relationships forward based on principles of community, justice, love, and accountability. Thought-provoking and necessary writing. (This booklet was originally a blog post that adrienne revised after receiving a lot of thoughtful critique and I will say, I do find the new version much superior).

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The most powerful thing about this book is her acknowledgment that this work is messy and very difficult. A few potent quotes are: “we need to flood the entire system with life affirming principles and practices”; “we must find the rigor to...practice accountability beyond punishment with each other.” So dive into this book to look at the ways we’ve been harmed and have harmed, how we hold ourselves and others accountable and how HEALING should be the greatest goal, our own healing and that of m The most powerful thing about this book is her acknowledgment that this work is messy and very difficult. A few potent quotes are: “we need to flood the entire system with life affirming principles and practices”; “we must find the rigor to...practice accountability beyond punishment with each other.” So dive into this book to look at the ways we’ve been harmed and have harmed, how we hold ourselves and others accountable and how HEALING should be the greatest goal, our own healing and that of movement spaces, our community and the world.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Georgia

    This is an updated, expanded version of an essay adrienne maree brown wrote in 2020 during the pandemic. It reflects subsequent conversations, challenges, and further thinking, plus some additional writings by adrienne and Malika Devich Cyril. A quick, inspiring read for all involved in social justice movements, and a snapshot of a (hopefully brief) period of time when call outs became overused and distorted in purpose.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jada DaMae

    Loved this so much, the questions posed really got me thinking through the ways I engage in community and with myself in ways that are not helpful, & how to reframe my/our ways of thinking / engaging from now on. This grounded me, challenged me, and I want to share it with everyone I’m in community with! I marked so many pages that resonated deeply & that I want to return to as reminders. And Steven Universe was included in the Resources section, how amazing! Both this book & that show have prov Loved this so much, the questions posed really got me thinking through the ways I engage in community and with myself in ways that are not helpful, & how to reframe my/our ways of thinking / engaging from now on. This grounded me, challenged me, and I want to share it with everyone I’m in community with! I marked so many pages that resonated deeply & that I want to return to as reminders. And Steven Universe was included in the Resources section, how amazing! Both this book & that show have provided tender, gentle spaces of healing & examples of real accountability & love.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Emily Liptow

    a timely, quick read on cancel culture in social justice movement work. adrienne invites us to pause and consider the complexity and consequences of cancel culture on social media, especially as it turns inward on the justice & liberation community. it's a beautiful invitation to join this conversation and bring it to your own community. thank you, I look forward to upcoming offerings from the Emergent Series. a timely, quick read on cancel culture in social justice movement work. adrienne invites us to pause and consider the complexity and consequences of cancel culture on social media, especially as it turns inward on the justice & liberation community. it's a beautiful invitation to join this conversation and bring it to your own community. thank you, I look forward to upcoming offerings from the Emergent Series.

  28. 4 out of 5

    nia

    SUCH a good book! i had never really thought about the fact that cancel/call-out culture is its own kind of policing but...It Is! very thought-provoking, but i wish it were longer. this pairs very well with brown's emergent strategy. it made me realize that drama/self-righteousness/vindication too often reinforce the very modes of existence we want to dismantle. SUCH a good book! i had never really thought about the fact that cancel/call-out culture is its own kind of policing but...It Is! very thought-provoking, but i wish it were longer. this pairs very well with brown's emergent strategy. it made me realize that drama/self-righteousness/vindication too often reinforce the very modes of existence we want to dismantle.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Small, yet mighty. Biblical, in fact. adrienne maree brown envisions the possibility of accountability and transformative healing occurring in tandem and unpacks the origin and impact of our tendency for takedowns.

  30. 4 out of 5

    cat

    Really a 4.5 and so short that I almost feel guilty counting it as a book read. And full of questions and ideas that are immediately and concretely useful to me and will help guide some of my continued thinking.

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