As a high school freshman, 15-year-old Mimi Groves recited the words to a rap song which includes a racial slur, “I can drive, nO&(@#!” on Snapchat. She had just received her learner’s permit and shared the video with a friend. It made the rounds of her school and community, but didn’t cause a stir at the time despite Groves being a White girl. That was 2016.

Height of happiness.

Fast forward to Spring of 2020, and Groves has been accepted into the University of Tennessee, her dream college. She’s earned a spot on their cheer team, the reigning national champions. It’s a moment she had been working for her entire high school career. A family celebration includes cake and orange balloons, the school’s colors. It’s a joyous time in a young woman’s life.

Public shaming.

Jimmy Galligan, who attends the same high school as Groves, had received a copy of the video of Grove’s ‘racial slur’ sometime in 2018 or 2019. He held on to it, waiting for the ‘right time’ to distribute it to the public. Galligan’s mother is Black and father is White and has felt racially targeted in his community. The video held special significance for him.

“I wanted to get her where she would understand the severity of that word,” said Galligan. 

The ‘right time’ for Galligan came when Groves announced her acceptance in the University of Tennessee. Galligan shared the 3-year-old video of Groves online, and within hours it went viral on social media, including TikTok, Snapchat and Twitter.

Two days later, Grove was kicked off the cheer team and forced to withdraw from the university under pressure from school officials.

The viral video and story caught the attention of The New York Times.

On Sunday, The NY Times published a piece by Dan Levin, who highlighted the story from Galligan’s perspective.

The story included Groves apology for the slur, and admission that what she said was a mistake. This school year, instead of cheering for Tennessee, Groves has been living at home and attending community college.

The Times piece ended with Galligan’s lack of regret for his role in holding onto the video and releasing it when it would hurt Groves the most. From The NY Times, he says: “‘If I never posted that video, nothing would have ever happened… I’m going to remind myself, you started something,’ he said with satisfaction. ‘You taught someone a lesson.'”

Sadism Disguised As Justice.

The reaction to the NY Times piece has not been favorable, according to an article on the Fox News website. Twitter users were especially horrified by what some called the “celebratory nature of the cancel culture.” Here are some of the Tweets highlighted in the Fox News article:

“Unlike the girl, who said a stupid word in a video ignorantly, the boy who posted it *deliberated* about his behavior for three years, calculating that he would go public with the video when it would cause maximal harm to the girl. This is the behavior we are incentivizing.” ~Bo Winegard

“There’s no room for the ugly n-word in public life. But there is room to forgive people who say foolish things at 15 they do not understand the impact of. There is no room then for the vindictive punk who waited until the maximum moment of damage to ruin this young lady’s life.” ~Tony Pizza

“I hold NYT responsible for the weaponization of our youth.” ~JLeml

“Journalists are not only trying to destroy the Western World, but they now have time to bully little girls, NYT this is disgusting.” ~EmbaixadaResistência

“This is so sickening. A girl’s life is ruined bc she sang along with a song at the age of 15 and the woke hateful vindictive petty activists…err I mean ‘journalists’ -at the NYT cheer it on. These ppl are truly vile.” ~Jtwon

And, etc.

Inflicting harm.

The problem with the ‘cancel culture’ is that they seek neither apology from other parties, nor change in behaviors and systems. Instead, they wish only revenge for selfish pleasure. Many desire a malicious infliction of harm on people they feel have ‘wronged’ them or their ideals.

A person who is sadistic derives pleasure through others’ pain or discomfort. According to psychological definitions, it can also “include the use of emotional cruelty, purposefully manipulating others through the use of fear.” This is what the ‘cancel culture’ is all about: harming or shaming others for self-promotion, fulfillment or gratification.

A better way.

As Christians, we have a different path. We’re called to reconcile, and we must make the attempt for reconciliation privately. We’re not to shame others or seek our own revenge, but reach out and be peacemakers. We’re to forgive and accept apologies, but never to allow further abuse.

Matthew 18:15-35 gives us direction on how to do that.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God. ~Matthew 5:9