Caleb Kennedy, a 16-year-old “American Idol” contestant, announced his departure from the show Tuesday after social media users found an old video of him sitting next to someone in a white hood that resembled those worn by Ku Klux Klan members. Kennedy’s mother, Anita Guy, told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal the hood pictured was inspired by the horror movie “The Strangers: Prey At Night” and had nothing to do with the KKK.
“They were imitating those characters. It had nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan, but I know that’s how it looks,” Guy said. “Caleb doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. He loves everyone and has friends of all races.”
Nevertheless, the video’s emergence caused Kennedy to leave the singing competition show, announcing the decision on his Instagram page. “There was a video that surfaced on the internet and it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in that way,” he said. “I was younger and did not think about the actions, but that’s not an excuse. I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I have let down.”
If the costume in the video was honestly portraying the hooded character in “The Strangers,” then Kennedy did nothing wrong. It would be an unfortunate look and cluelessly executed, but not racist. Even though Kennedy decided to leave the show himself rather than being forced out, it’s hard to blame him; it’s easy to imagine the vitriol and scrutiny he would have subjected himself to had he stayed.
In addition to potentially wrecking Kennedy’s musical career, this incident further unmasks the blatant double standard of cancel culture.
Ralph Northam, the current Democrat governor of Virginia, survived a far more serious scandal in early 2019. A yearbook page surfaced, and under Northam’s name was a photo of two men: one in blackface and the other in full KKK regalia.
Northam admitted to being in the photo and apologized. “A website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive,” he said. “I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.”
It was never conclusively determined which costume was Northam’s, the KKK getup or the blackface. Either, of course, is indefensibly racist.
After publicly admitting to being in the photo, Northam flip-flopped to deny it. “I believe now and then that I am not either of the people in this photo,” he said.
Despite the deeply disgusting nature of the photo, Northam survived the flood of calls for his resignation. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus called for Northam to step down, saying, “Given what was revealed today, it is clear that he can no longer effectively serve as Governor.”
Virginia’s two U.S. senators, both Democrats, echoed the criticism. “The events of the past 24 hours have inflicted immense pain and irrevocably broken the trust Virginians must have in their leaders,” they said in a joint statement with Democrat Rep. Bobby Scott. “We no longer believe [Northam] can effectively serve as Governor of Virginia.”
NAACP President Derrick Johnson announced the organization’s call for Northam’s resignation, saying “no matter the party affiliation, we can not stand for such behavior.”
Many others, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial board to Hillary Clinton to former Virginia Govs. Douglas Wilder and Terry McAuliffe, all joined in calling for Northam to resign. His resignation would have opened the position of governor to Virginia’s black Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. (Fairfax, however, faced a scandal of his own when two women accused him of sexual assault, which he denied).
Despite the backlash, Northam refused to resign and remains the governor of Virginia. How in the world has he survived this despicable scandal, while 16-year-old Kennedy is pressured out of “American Idol” for far less? Since when do we hold kids to higher standards than political officials?
Kennedy’s ouster from “American Idol,” on the Disney-owned network ABC, shows the ridiculous extent of corporate cancel culture. Meanwhile, Disney has lately been perpetuating a racist ideology of its own. The Manhattan Institute’s Christopher Rufo uncovered employee training curricula steeped in critical race theory.
“The Walt Disney Corporation claims that America was founded on ‘systemic racism,’ encourages employees to complete a ‘white privilege checklist,’ and separates minorities into racially-segregated ‘affinity groups,’” Rufo reported. The privilege checklist included bullet points such as “I am white,” “I have never tried to hide my sexuality,” “I am a man,” “I have never felt poor,” “I went to summer camp,” and “I have never had an addiction.”
Additionally, the “affinity groups” segregated employees based on race. “The Latino group was named ‘Hola,’ the Asian group was named ‘Compass,’ and the black group was named ‘Wakanda,’” Rufo noted.
The Walt Disney Corporation and Gov. Ralph Northam have a lot more to answer for than Caleb Kennedy. But of the three, only Kennedy has faced significant punishment.