A high school cheerleader, Mimi Groves, who dreamt of attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, made a grave mistake her freshman year of high school, which led to her being "canceled" this year. Three years ago, Mimi, a white student, sent out a private Snapchat in which she used a racial slur, the N-word, and this private snap was shared to one of her classmates.
Her classmate, Jimmy Galligan, who is biracial, decided to release the video on public social media at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement as a response to her posting along the lines of “protest, donate, sign a petition.” Jimmy was making a point that there are activists, and then there are those who posture activism to seem tuned in, but whose actions are dissonant with actual activism.
Mimi Groves was "canceled" because of a racial incident.
What followed the release of almost-Tennessee cheerleader Mimi Groves’ video, in which she can be seen saying, "I can drive, n----rs," was a backlash similar to other events in the vein of “cancel culture.” Mimi Groves, who is from Leesburg, Va., had just been accepted to her dream college, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Not only that, but she would be going as a cheerleader after being the head cheerleader her senior year of high school. All her life’s pieces were falling into place.
Just at this junction was the perfect time for a reckoning, which is exactly how The New York Times described what occurred. The New York Times titled their piece on the incident, “A Racial Slur, a Viral Video, and a Reckoning,” which really does take us through the steps of what happened to the cheerleader. Once her freshman-year video went viral, there was major backlash towards the University of Tennessee, Knoxville to rescind her admission.
Within the next couple days, Groves was removed from the Tennessee cheer team and shortly after, the University of Tennessee admissions officials informed her that if she did not withdraw, they would revoke her admission, so it was in her best interest to withdraw herself. This is obviously devastating for someone in her position; at the same time, it has the internet asking the question: What is the fair punishment for a teenager who uses a racial slur?
Not everyone agrees with the university's decision.
Although one of the main reasons Groves' admission to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville was revoked was the backlash from viewers of her viral video, there has been some backlash towards that backlash on Twitter. Many who read the New York Times piece found it to be skewed in favor of Galligan, who released Groves' video to the public. Galligan also did not show remorse, which some think he should for “ruining her life.”
Although some are claiming that the New York Times is "celebrating teenage revenge narratives," others claim that the New York Times story isn't so much about Groves and Galligan's story as much as it is "about a school that didn’t protect its students from racism."
Throughout the article, Galligan, along with other Black classmates, talked about instances in which their classmates used racial slurs, made them feel alienated, and bullied them. Moreover, the school did not step in to help them. Instead, they made them endure more alienating and painful experiences, like being forced to partake in an "Underground Railroad" game, in which they had to run an obstacle course in the dark and start over if they made noise.
Following the initial video going viral, one of Groves' friends, who is Black, defended her amid the "cancellation." She said that Groves apologized before the video even went viral, and she wrote, “We’re supposed to educate people, not ruin their lives all because you want to feel a sense of empowerment.”
Whether the punishment fits the crime may always be up for debate, and Groves' story raises an important question: How do we hold people accountable and allow them to learn from their mistakes?