As a person of color, I now perversely wield the power to irreparably destroy someone’s reputation for hurting me in the past. When I was in ninth grade, for example, two boys in my class started hurling racial epithets toward me: “Indians are dirty people. You should go back to where you came from.”
It was in front of all my other white classmates, who were too afraid to speak up, and paralyzed with fear and embarrassment, I bolted the room in tears. It was a traumatic moment in middle school, but I have not obsessively held on to that experience five years later. Humans are perpetually changing — day-by-day, week-by-week, and year-by-year. But we now live in a climate where I am incentivized to name these boys on social media five years later, shaming them for their teenage transgressions — just as they enter into adulthood and start to enter the workforce.
And perhaps I’m not safe from the totalitarian justice mobs either. It’s possible that I’ve already preemptively canceled myself because of one of my teenage mistakes in the past years (or even months) that may be considered a cancelable offense in five, or 10, years time.