I’ve been thinking a lot about cancel culture lately, especially in regards to organizations.
I love watching food programs on YouTube (or FoodTube, as the cool kids call it), and one of my favourite channels was Bon Appetit. Unfortunately, in the surge of ousting racial inequality during the protests earlier this year, it was revealed that BA didn’t pay their BIPOC employees as much as white employees for video appearances. The chief editor, Adam Rapoport, resigned after these allegations came to light (and a picture of him in blackface surfaced), and the BA channel has been silent for five weeks as they renegotiated contracts.
This week, five of the video hosts have decided to no longer appear in BA’s video. Rick Martinez and Priya Krishna both cited an inability to negotiate terms with BA, implying that the company’s public apology was disingenuous, with little to no change made behind the scenes. Sohla El-Waylly, who brought the pay inequality to light in a series of Instagram stories back in May, presented a more vague statement that didn’t cite specific reasons for no longer appearing in videos. Since their departure, Gaby Melian and Molly Baz has chosen to no longer appear in videos as well, in solidarity with their BIPOC co-workers.
People are calling for a boycott of BA videos; members of the staff are quitting either in solidarity or because they had experienced their own racial inequalities. This popular YouTube channel, which made fun recipes, recreated favourite snacks, and pickled basically everything, is now a representation of the racial injustice that has become so commonplace. After all, appearances can be deceiving.
So does this mean BA is cancelled? That we should stop watching their content? What about all the other writers, camera crew, editors, and on-screen personalities who didn’t resign? Did they know about the inequalities? Were they complacent? And if they were ignorant, shouldn’t they be stepping down as well in solidarity? I don’t know. There is no straight answer here. A person’s livelihood isn’t something to be taken lightly. If we “cancel” BA, does that mean all the people who didn’t know what was happening will be punished as well? There is no way to target the company without hurting the rest of the employees.
Bon Appetit isn’t the first of my YouTube favourites to reveal they aren’t as wholesome as they seem. In 2017, Screen Junkies underwent their own scandal when the ‘Honest Trailers’ creator, Andy Signore, was accused of sexual assault by multiple women. Signore was fired, and the rest of the Screen Junkies team released an apology; they were able to separate themselves from Signore and continue on successfully. And I continued watching Screen Junkies. I believed their apology, and I felt that the rest of the team shouldn’t be punished for the actions of one man. Plus, nothing in their actions since have contradicted their apology.
There is no definitive answer for every scenario. As more and more organizations are accused and ousted for gross behaviour, we need to make the decisions as consumers where our views and money go. Yes, we’re each only one person, but every grain of rice can tip the scale (or something like that – Thanks Mulan!). We need to consider how many people within the organization were responsible, complacent, and ignorant, and whether we believe that they’re trying to be better.
That’s my hiccup with BA right now; they’re trying to do damage control by replacing Rapaport with Sonia Chopra, a BIPOC, but the influx of resignations shows that they haven’t made enough changes behind the scenes. I can’t support a company that promotes inequality, so I’ve unsubscribed from BA and won’t be watching their videos moving forward.