Former President Barack Obama has hit the nail on the head when it comes to “woke” culture in a recent talk at the Obama Foundation Summit.

Cancel culture, “wokeness” or whatever the heck you want to call it is out of control in 2019, and what started out as a desire to better society and do good has turned into something pretty problematic altogether.

“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly,” he began the speech.”The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids and share certain things with you.”

In the interview with Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi in Chicago on Tuesday, the former President made some pretty powerful comments about cancel culture.

Now let’s get one thing straight here. Obama wasn’t trying to shut “woke” people up in order to be some problematic devil. He’s not a closeted Trump supporter that thinks everyone should be allowed to be a racist, homophobic bigot, like some people are interpreting this interview.

Obama was merely stating the obvious. Cancel culture is toxic, and it really doesn’t achieve a lot. Far more can be achieved through open discussion and education.

Changing the world is a really complex issue, and solving it isn’t as simple as being “as judgemental as possible.”

This view on cancel culture isn’t exactly revolutionary, a similar sentiment was shared by The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil in a recent interview.

Throughout the speech, Obama went on to discuss how the issue of call-out culture is particularly prevalent among young, college-aged people, and has been made worse by social media.

“There is this sense sometimes of the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people and that’s enough,” the two-time President said. “If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or use the wrong verb […] then i can sit back and feel pretty good about myself.”

As illustrated in this Time Magazine timeline, Obama was “undecided” on same-sex marriage at first, but ended up being the President to legalise it. People grow and change. Far more good will come out of education and open discussion than out of call-outs and cancel culture.

Obama continued, claiming “woke” people who simply call out others without trying to educate or improve society aren’t activists.

“You know, that’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change,” he said. “If all you’re doing is casting stones, you know, you’re probably not gonna get that far. That’s easy to do.”

As expected any time you say anything remotely controversial on the internet, Obama’s speech was met with some criticism, mostly from people claiming he’s discounting the good that can be achieved through online activism, and even some claiming he’s a Trump apologist.

However, the overwhelming majority of responses to Obama’s speech were pretty positive.

Obviously, there are two very different ways of looking at this interview, but I don’t think there’s anything inherently evil about what Obama is saying.

Online activism is great, but cancelling everyone as soon as the make a mistake is counterintuitive to the improvement of society as a whole.

Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule, like when we’re talking about people abusing their power to sexually assault or manipulate others. But when it comes to poor wording, or simply being uneducated on a topic, far more good can come out of education than will ever come out of cancel culture.

Image: Getty Images / Scott Olson