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To Cancel or Not to Cancel?


Did you know Rupi Kaur was accused of plagiarizing the work of a Black woman? A few years ago she was put on blast for it. Kaur has since denied the allegations, but for the longest time, I was torn between cancelling her and continuing to read her books. I love Rupi Kaur’s work (despite feelings about “Instagram poets”). Should I feel guilty for continuing to support her?

Cancel Culture

Cancel culture or canceling someone is the act of collectively culturally boycotting, or publicly shaming an individual because they caused harm to individuals or groups of people. This has been on my mind a lot for the past few years, I even wrote an educational post about it for Feminist Book Club. I continuously battle with the notion of separating art from the artist.

I recently read We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice by adrienne maree brown and it put some things in perspective for me.  

“Canceling is punishment, and punishment doesn’t stop the cycle of harm, not long term.” 

adrienne maree brown in 2018 on her blog.

If we all decided collectively one day to stop buying Rupi Kaur’s books, that does nothing to provide recognition or address the harm that was caused to Nayyirah Waheed (this is an amazing review by Book-tuber books by leynes is here, Waheed is the poet Kaur is accused of stealing from,).

Doing my research

I was about to begrudgingly donate all my Rupi Kaur books. People said she was bad, so it was time to cancel right?I put off cancelling her for so long until one day I decided to look into when she was bad so I could form an opinion for myself.

After reading several blog posts about the issue, I decided that I’m going to keep reading Kaur. While her response to Waheed was not the most polished and dripping with defense, I don’t think this was worth tossing my copy of Milk and Honey out the window.

If anything, this accusation was good for shedding light on the issue of Black women being dismissed and how much is stolen from us. 

When ish hits the fan, are you still a fan?

To put this in perspective, let’s talk about J.K. Rowling transphobic comments. A universal favorite in the literary world (although I never read Harry Potter or watched the movies. I get the hype, but they still don’t appeal to me, not even before the cancellations).

Rowling uses her esteemed platform specifically to support transphobia and gaslight trans activists for holding her accountable for her comments and the harm they have caused. And then she came out with a post on her website that was filled with things like but I know trans people! and what about the plight of people born female?? These are obviously not direct quotes, but the vibe is similar.

I have included some articles, so you can of course come to your own conclusion. Her tweet that said “I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans” is what led me to cancel her in my own life. The platform in which she holds is continuing to spread harmful ideas about trans people. Not her books, but her fame specifically (i.e. her blog and tweets to disseminate information to masses of people).

At the end of the day, do I know if Rupi Kaur really plagiarized the work of a Black woman? I don’t. I most certainly believe Waheed could have seen her work in Kaur’s, but creativity and ideas are tricky, especially with the rise of social media. 

I like Kaur’s poetry, as basic as people may think it is, and she uses her platform to bring up issues people don’t often think about. I’m going to keep reading her stuff.

And the magical part is, you can cancel her from your own life! I’m just another blog post weighing in to give you another perspective 🙂

Tayler Simon is a nerdy black woman in search of liberation for all. When she's not reading/listening to audiobooks and writing, you can find her laughing at memes and chatting incessantly about astrology (Cancer/Sagittarius/Gemini). Favorite genres: African American fiction and memoir.

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