In the latest chapter of America's never-ending Cancel Culture Chronicles, a young woman has been hounded out of the University of Tennessee after a former high school classmate circulated a years-old video of her using a racial slur. The entire episode is appalling. It must first be said that white people simply should not use the N-word, even in a 'joking' context, as the target's defenders say is the case here. She was wrong to do so, period, even as a 15-year-old high school freshman. Nevertheless, based on what we know about this story -- which was relayed in obnoxious detail in the pages of the New York Times -- the offender, Mimi Groves, is not its villain. The runner-up for that title goes to the biracial young man who deliberately saved the evidence of her transgression (a three-second Snapchat video published in 2016) in order to weaponize it against her in the most painful way possible. This is pretty revolting stuff:
“I wanted to get her where she would understand the severity of that word,” Mr. Galligan, 18, whose mother is Black and father is white, said of the classmate who uttered the slur, Mimi Groves. He tucked the video away, deciding to post it publicly when the time was right...Mr. Galligan had not seen the video before receiving it last school year, when he and Ms. Groves were seniors. By then, she was a varsity cheer captain who dreamed of attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, whose cheer team was the reigning national champion. When she made the team in May, her parents celebrated with a cake and orange balloons, the university’s official color. The next month, as protests were sweeping the nation after the police killing of George Floyd, Ms. Groves, in a public Instagram post, urged people to “protest, donate, sign a petition, rally, do something” in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“You have the audacity to post this, after saying the N-word,” responded someone whom Ms. Groves said she did not know. Her alarm at the stranger’s comment turned to panic as friends began calling, directing her to the source of a brewing social media furor. Mr. Galligan, who had waited until Ms. Groves had chosen a college, had publicly posted the video that afternoon. Within hours, it had been shared to Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter, where furious calls mounted for the University of Tennessee to revoke its admission offer. By that June evening, about a week after Mr. Floyd’s killing, teenagers across the country had begun leveraging social media to call out their peers for racist behavior. Some students set up anonymous pages on Instagram devoted to holding classmates accountable, including in Loudoun County. The consequences were swift. Over the next two days, Ms. Groves was removed from the university’s cheer team. She then withdrew from the school under pressure from admissions officials, who told her they had received hundreds of emails and phone calls from outraged alumni, students and the public.
The Times story quotes Galligan, a budding race and identity obsessive, boasting about chastising his own father over 'white privilege' and racial insensitivity (including jokingly using the N-word on one occasion, the very sin for which he took down his schoolmate). Note that the moment he selected to ruin Groves' early life was after she posted a social media message in support of the'Black Lives Matter' movement. Rather than pondering, 'maybe this person has grown, or maybe I don't know her full story,' Galligan instead thought, 'this is the perfect time to pounce and make her pay.' Note the difference in approach between Groves' black friend who defended her during this ordeal (inviting the ire of online strangers) and Galligan's smug, remorseless satisfaction:
One of Ms. Groves’s friends, who is Black, said Ms. Groves had personally apologized for the video long before it went viral. Once it did in June, the friend defended Ms. Groves online, prompting criticism from strangers and fellow students. “We’re supposed to educate people,” she wrote in a Snapchat post, “not ruin their lives all because you want to feel a sense of empowerment.” For his role, Mr. Galligan said he had no regrets. “If I never posted that video, nothing would have ever happened,” he said. And because the internet never forgets, the clip will always be available to watch. “I’m going to remind myself, you started something,” he said with satisfaction. “You taught someone a lesson.”
Many critics have cast Galligan as the antagonist in this tale. This scathing piece, for instance, calls him a "moral monster" and suggests (as others have) that future would-be employers should steer clear of hiring him, due to the potential ugliness that his evident vindictiveness may inflict upon workplace dynamics. That same essay also posts strong pushback against a claim advanced in the Times piece that the high school in question is rife with racism and racial slurs, which several alumni of color say is "100% overblown." I agree that what Galligan did was wrong and gross, even if he was genuinely offended by Groves' use of a terrible word. But his goal was clearly performative retribution, and producing a quasi-stranger's scalp for the howling woke mob. In this, he succeeded, and he's proud of it. I'll admit that I wouldn't be eager to work alongside such a person. What he did is awful, but it seems to me that the actual 'moral monsters' in all of this are the culture warriors who set up the perverse and merciless incentive structure that led Galligan to do what he did. He didn't act in a vacuum; he acted in accordance with what a large swath of our broken culture actively rewards. Young impressionable minds are exactly that: Young and impressionable. I hope Galligan will one day realize that what he did was not honorable or 'progressive' in any real sense. He's far too young to simply write off, even if he deserves criticism.
The other leading villains here are the adults who allowed Gilligan's machinations to 'succeed,' especially the gutless, panicked officials at the University of Tennessee. The woke cancel mob must be resisted, especially when their insane demands are wildly disproportionate to the alleged sin involved. Groves is not blameless, but her poor decision four years ago as a young teenager does not merit being tossed off the cheerleading squad and pressured to leave her school altogether. Again, the supposed adults in this scenario are fueling the madness and therefore guaranteeing more of it. I recommend this analysis by Reason's Robby Soave, who follows these sorts of episodes closely (this recent example is especially wild). He dishes out warranted critiques of multiple involved figures -- including those at the New York Times responsible for the story. I'll leave you with a handful of other horrified reactions to all of it:
The villains in this story are the NYT the college for rewarding a fake outrage mob. They are why Galligan thought he was doing something that would be rewarded, instead of condemned. https://t.co/mrH3Fynefq— AG (@AGHamilton29) December 27, 2020
She was 15. In a 3-second Snapchat video, imitating a rapper, she said, “I can drive, ‘n-word.’” This June, 4 years later, someone posted it. Twitter mob demanded vengeance. U of Tennessee @UTKnoxville & @nytimes side with the mob. Malice posing as social justice. Thread ?? https://t.co/mjQ32W8Hpv— Christina Sommers (@CHSommers) December 27, 2020