Republicans just love to whine about so-called “cancel culture” these days—or, as some of us like to think of it: “rotten people facing long overdue consequences for their hideous actions.” It’s just the latest front in America’s real forever war, the Culture Wars. And unsurprisingly, there’s something even more insidious just beneath the surface of these conflicts, as Amber Ruffin explained on this week’s episode of The Amber Ruffin Show. In her latest “How Did We Get Here” segment, the late-night host connected the dots between the Culture Wars and white supremacy.
Ruffin, aka. the first Black person to download a Coldplay album, started off by briskly defining the term “Culture Wars” as a conflict between groups struggling for dominance of their values, beliefs, and practices. You want examples? Ruffin’s got ’em! Like how Republicans yell about immigrants stealing your jobs instead of coming up with decent immigration policy; or when they yell about Joe Biden canceling hamburgers instead of finding a bipartisan approach to combating climate change; or when Rand Paul badgered Assistant Secretary of Health Rachel Levin with nonsense about genital mutilation during her confirmation hearing.
And the term isn’t mere hyperbole. “The ideas that conservatives sling around in the culture wars are dangerous, and they cost people’s lives,” Ruffin insisted, pointing out that violence against Asian-Americans and transgender people rose sharply after former president Donald Trump made comments or took actions that demonized those groups.
Culture Wars, as Ruffin pointed out, are meant to scare people away from wanting change. The tactic goes all the way back to the early 20th Century — and, let’s be real, definitely way earlier than that — when politicians blocked antilynching laws by invoking the specter of Black men raping white women constantly, which, in case you really need it spelled out, was not happening.
Tactics like this, Ruffin explained, have contributed to the overwhelming whiteness and cis-ness of the U.S. government. “The purpose of a culture war is to make sure people are afraid of change,” she said. “And resisting change means maintaining power.”