Cyberbullying is always wrong – unless it serves the cause of social justice. Then the victims are simply collateral damage in the long march toward a progressive utopia.
That message, delivered daily by Twitter mobs and public shaming campaigns, was endorsed by the New York Times on Dec. 26 in a long article headlined “A Racial Slur, a Viral Video, and a Reckoning.” The piece demands scrutiny because it reveals how the news organization that corrupted our nation’s history to claim America is irredeemably racist in its “1619 Project” continues to normalize false assumptions and frameworks to advance leftist ideology.
First, the background. The Times article focuses on two high school seniors – Mimi Groves, who is white, and Jimmy Galligan, who has a white father and African American mother – who grew up in the well-to-do Northern Virginia town of Leesburg. Groves thought her years of hard work had paid off last May when she earned a spot on the University of Tennessee’s national champion cheerleading squad.
Her world crumbled a few weeks later when, ironically, she joined the social justice caravan by urging her Instagram followers to “protest, donate, sign a petition, rally, do something” in support of Black Lives Matter following George Floyd’s death.
Groves’ Instagram post infuriated Galligan, who commented: “You have the audacity to post this, after saying the N-word.”
Later that afternoon, the Times reports, “Mr. Galligan, who had waited until Ms. Groves had chosen a college,” posted a three-second video Groves made in 2016, as a 15-year old, upon receiving her learner’s permit. “I can drive, niggah,” she said joyfully into the camera, echoing the idiom of hip-hop culture so familiar to her generation.
A national controversy ensued. The Tennessee cheer squad booted Groves, who subsequently withdrew from the university under mounting pressure. She is now taking remote classes at a community college.
The Times does not tell its readers that this is a textbook case of cyberbullying, which the U.S. government defines as “sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else … causing embarrassment or humiliation.”
While noting in a single sentence that the incident reflects broader efforts of “public shaming” and “cancellation” that can include “harassment,” the paper of record devotes thousands of words to providing misleading context that works to justify the punishment of Groves’ alleged crime. “The story behind the backlash,” reporter Dan Levin writes, “also reveals a more complex portrait of behavior that for generations had gone unchecked in schools in one of the nation’s wealthiest counties, where Black students said they had long been subjected to ridicule.”
The Times’ presents a cherry-picked version of history to depict Leesburg and surrounding Loudoun County – where Democrat Joe Biden won 61% of the vote – as a hotbed of racism, embodied and embraced by the then-15-year-old Groves in her three-second video.
The dishonesty begins with the paper’s headline, which states that Groves used a racial slur. She did not. Merriam-Webster defines a slur as “an insulting or disparaging remark or innuendo.” Groves had no such intent. This is obvious as her video was made in a youthful moment of celebration – “I can drive!” – not racial hatred.
The Times also muddied the waters by refusing to print the offending word, only alluding to her damning language as a “racial slur” and the “N-word.” Nuance matters, so it is essential to note that Groves did not use N-word per se but a softer variant. The African American linguist John McWhorter describes this crucial difference in his 2017 book “Talking Back, Talking Black”: “Nigger is a slur associated with disrespect from whites but nigg-ah [the term Groves used] … is different. Nigga is friendly.”
Both words are ubiquitous in rap music; her use of the benign term reflected the broad reach of this genre. Groves herself told the Times the word was in “all the songs we listened to,” while adding, “I’m not using that as an excuse.”
Granted, this may still offend some people. But it seems cruel and vindictive to attack what was, at worst, an honest mistake by a naïve 15-year-old. Frankly, the larger issue is the bizarre circumstance in which white children are inundated with words they must never repeat but which their African Americans cohorts are allowed to use with impunity. This double-standard may make sense on one level, but it is also Kafkaesque.
Ignoring Groves’ innocent use of the N-word allows the Times to engage in another left-wing trope – the misuse of history – to provide false context aimed at justifying Galligan’s actions and Groves’ fate. The third paragraph of the article is an exercise in tendentious innuendo. It informs readers that Leesburg was “named for an ancestor of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee” without noting that Col. Thomas Lee died in 1750, decades before the Revolutionary War and more than a century before the Civil War. It also states that Loudoun County’s “school system had fought an order to desegregate for more than a decade after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling.” It does not tell readers that ruling occurred in 1954. Later Levin finds it relevant to report that "slave auctions were once held on the courthouse grounds."
As it did in the “1619 Project,” the Times cynically invokes unmoored pieces of history to paint a false picture of the present. It commits memory malpractice by failing to show that these historical facts influenced Groves’ behavior. For the left, the recitation of past sins is the only evidence required for contemporary indictments.
The Times does report that Loudoun County schools, like those in almost every other system in the nation, are still grappling with racial disparities. However, it ignores African American achievement – 97% of black students in the county graduate from high school, 57% of whom earn “advanced diplomas.”
The Times also fails to mention that just 8% of the district’s students are black, a statistic that is hard to interpret on its own but suggests one reason why some African Americans, according to a 2019 district report, “feel marginalized within the school division and do not feel that they are supported in developing a sense of cultural or academic identity.”
Instead, the paper focuses on its interviews with “current and former students of color [who] described an environment rife with racial insensitivity, including casual uses of slurs.”
A long article detailing how and when such slurs are used in Loudoun County schools would have been illuminating. Ironically, by focusing on Groves’ situation, the Times gives license to those who want to downplay racial issues by relying on an example that can be dismissed as harmless.
In creating the impression that Groves got what was coming to her, the Times reflects two other poisonous aspects of left-wing ideology – the ideas of racial collective guilt and the disposability of individuals in the cause for justice.
For the Times, Groves, like all whites, is inescapably responsible for past, present – and future – racial injustices in Leesburg. The complicating particulars of her case are irrelevant because it can be used to shine a light on larger issues. And even if she is paying an unfair price, well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
This callousness was articulated by one of the 20 comments – out of 1,622 – Times editors chose to highlight in response to the article: “Ms. Groves and her family keep claiming that her life is ruined, but it's not. She's white and her family is well off. She will be fine. She'll go to *gasp" [sic] community college for a year, and then she'll matriculate at some nice school. Hopefully, she learned a little about racism and how harmful racist language can be.”
The tragedy of Mimi Groves is alarming because it reflects the dangerous mindset the radical left that is ascendant in America. The punishment meted out to her by the University of Tennessee and others demonstrates the triumph of ideology over reason and compassion. The efforts by the Times to legitimize these actions provide further proof of how many of our nation’s most influential institutions have embraced bullying as a form of justice.