To defend the good name of someone who has been wrongfully dishonored makes Hunter Scott worthy of the Al Copeland Humanitarian Award. Scott is an example of the heroism required to stand up to “cancel culture.”
To be clear, “cancel culture” is the public dishonoring, shunning, and reduction in economic and social prospects for people improperly accused of wrongdoing. I emphasize “improperly” because people who do engage in egregious wrongdoing demonstrated by a process that meets reasonable standards of evidence deserve to be dishonored, shunned, and have reduced economic and social prospects.
When people lament “cancel culture,” they often fail to make this distinction. While it is amazing how many people have been wrongfully cancelled, it is even more amazing how many high-profile people have engaged in horrible behavior who seem to experience no consequence for doing so.
Al Sharpton fueled the Crown Heights riots — a modern day pogrom — saying “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” Instead of being cancelled, Sharpton has had his own show on MSNBC for over a decade. Ed Rollins bragged to Time magazine after his work on a 1993 election that “he secretly paid black ministers and Democratic campaign workers in order to suppress voter turnout.” Instead of being cancelled, he became a political commentator for CNN and then Fox as well as the national campaign chairman for Mike Huckabee’s 2008 run for president. Folks like Sharpton and Rollins didn’t seek to make amends or have to spend even a little time in the penalty box.
But Charles McVay III was made a scapegoat by the Navy and was court-martialed without having done anything wrong. Frankly, even if McVay had made some errors, he did not deserve the treatment he received. Remember that Al Copeland was not a paragon of virtue. He and those honored with an award named after him, just like all the rest of us, are flawed human beings. But Copeland and the winners of The Al made significant contributions to improving the human condition despite their flaws.
Hunter Scott improved the human condition by standing up for McVay. And in some sense, Scott represents all of the people who previously attempted to defend McVay, including sailors under his command, who were unsuccessful in their efforts to rehabilitate McVay. The people who stand up to a cancel mob when it is too strong to defeat require more courage than the person who stands up when conditions permit success. So, in honoring Hunter Scott with The Al, we honor even more all who attempted and failed to exonerate McVay.