Jimmy Galligan is an 18-year-old college freshman from Leesburg, Virginia. He may also be cancel culture’s Count of Monte Cristo.
Some months ago, Galligan—who is biracial—posted a years’ old, three-second video of a white, female classmate using a racial slur. Galligan had sat on the video for a long time, waiting for the moment it would do the most damage. After the girl—a cheerleader named Mimi Groves—was accepted to the University of Tennessee, the time had come.
“I wanted to get her where she would understand the severity of that word,” said Galligan.
The video depicted Groves, who was 15 at the time, and had just obtained her learner’s permit, saying “I can drive, [slur].” The remark was not directed at anyone in particular. The brief video clip featuring it circulated on Snapchat until it was obtained and saved by Galligan, who had grown furious at how often he heard his white classmates using the N-word.
Galligan shared it publicly in June. In response, Groves lost her spot on UT’s cheerleading squad. Then the university pressured her to withdraw from the school entirely. The admissions office had apparently received hundreds of messages from irate alumni demanding blood. Groves is now attending a community college.
This story is a powerful example of several social phenomena: the militant streak in social justice activism, the naivety of today’s teens and their not-actually-disappearing Snapchat messages, social media’s hunger for mob justice, and even the capacity for elaborate cruelty that has always existed among high schoolers. But the wildest thing about this incident is that most people will learn about it by reading The New York Times.
“A Racial Slur, a Viral Video, and a Reckoning.” That’s the title of the Times‘s article on the subject, published the day after Christmas. Reporter Dan Levin tries to add considerable context by detailing a history of alleged unpleasantness at Heritage High School, which Groves and Galligan attended. It sits in a wealthy, predominantly white county where “slave auctions were once held on the courthouse grounds.”
“In interviews, current and former students of color described an environment rife with racial insensitivity, including casual uses of slurs,” notes Levin. “A report commissioned last year by the school district documented a pattern of school leaders ignoring the widespread use of racial slurs by both students and teachers, fostering a ‘growing sense of despair’ among students of color, some of whom faced disproportionate disciplinary measures compared with white students.”
Levin connects the outcry from aggrieved students to the broader Black Lives Matter movement and protests that occurred this summer following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police. But nowhere does his article reckon with a very basic fact: The New York Times has opted to assist a teenager’s desperate quest to ruin the life of a young woman who said something stupid when she was 15.