'Shaming doesn't lead to learning': Willow Smith weighs in on 'cancel culture'

In honor of Juneteenth, Smith and her mother, Jada Pinkett Smith, discussed cancel culture with activists Dr. Angela Davis and Tamika D. Mallory.
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/ Source: TODAY

Willow Smith is speaking openly about cancel culture during a new episode of "Red Table Talk."

The show features Smith, her mother Jada Pinkett Smith and her grandmother Adrienne Banfield Norris. The new episode that aired on Friday also features civil rights activists Tamika D. Mallory and Dr. Angela Davis.

The 35-minute-long episode included conversations about Juneteenth, police brutality and racism in the United States. All five women also weighed in on cancel culture, a much-debated practice that refers to ostracizing people who disagree with popular opinions, typically within the realm of social justice.

"This is so prevalent right now," Smith said. "I'm seeing people shaming others, saying really terrible things, shaming people for what they're choosing to say, or shaming people for not saying anything at all. But I feel like if we really want change, shaming doesn't lead to learning."

Mallory agreed with Smith's assessment, adding that "shaming is a little dangerous" and people need to be given room to grow since "none of us are perfect."

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"I've been cancelled," Mallory said.

"I'm expecting to be cancelled at some point!" joked Pinkett Smith.

"If you're not cancelled, you're not really popping. You want to be lit? You have to be canceled," laughed Mallory, before bringing the conversation back to a serious place. "It is a space that is a little difficult to maneuver, because you do have to leave people room to make mistakes, to grow and to learn. But they have to show that they're willing."

"I totally agree," added Davis, who joined the conversation virtually. "There's some really important aspects to our new social media technologies. We can organize and mobilize but the tendency to shortcut everything and assume that everybody has to know everything already — what about the conversations? This is a moment in which we can share and learn and think and converse. People should not be afraid of being canceled because they make a mistake in that process."

"I have to agree, agree, agree!" said Pinkett Smith. "This is the time for conversation. And of course people are going to say something wrong. People are going to have different views about a whole lot of stuff, specifically in these times."

Pinkett Smith closed the segment with a short discussion of how in the effort to fight racism, many people would make mistakes and inevitably "be cancelled," but the important thing was to keep moving and learning.

"I was talking to some friends of mine and I was like 'Don't be in the fight if you don't want to be in the fire,'" she continued. "Everybody's been able to kind of play a safe middle, but there ain't no safe middle here."

"You're either with us or you're not," Banfield Norris added.

"I'm telling everybody, you just gotta know your position and you've got to just be steady," Pinkett Smith said. "If you're in this conversation and you're in this movement, fire's coming your way. And it's OK. That goes for Black people, that goes for white people who are trying."

She continued: "I would say to white people who are trying — keep trying, but make sure it's genuine. And yeah, you're going to get bit up. There's no way around it, and it's OK. Keep moving."