In Part I, describing the horrific personal destruction of 18-year-old Mimi Groves (above)–the antiseptic term “unethical” does not adequately convey the pure viciousness and wrongfulness of the act—I attempted to clarify what the entire scenario represents, a near complete distortion of values and ethical norms with ominous implications. I mostly left out the enthusiastic participation of the New York Times in this destructive process, first, because it was not directly involved in Jimmy Galligan’s hateful and pernicious conduct, and second, because of space considerations. Thus we have Part II.
The Times signaled its sentiments and objectives in the headline of its feature, written by reporter Dan Levin: “A Racial Slur, a Viral Video, and a Reckoning.” “Reckoning” means, in this context, a settling of accounts, a judgment, or earned punishment. In the view of the Times writer and the editors who allowed it to be published, Mimi Groves was justly punished by her black classmate, who plotted–plotted is a fair description—to derail her education and future prospects, and did so. What was the conduct that earned the “reckoning”? Groves used a word, in a general context, that the social justice establishment has ruled, on its own authority, can never be uttered for any reason, or published in print—unless the individual responsible is black, in which case it may be rude or less than desirable, but otherwise it’s OK.
At the time the word “nigger” was used by Groves in a three second video on social media, and today, popular songs embraced by her age group and peer group used the same word repeatedly, and made millions of dollars as a result. At the time the word “nigger” was used by Groves in a three second video on social media, popular movies showed black characters calling other black characters that same word in jest, or affectionately, or for shock value.The actors playing those characters, notably Samuel L. Jackson, who has earned a bundle as the spokesperson for a major credit card,while using teh word “nigger” more times on screen that any actor in film history, have not faced any “reckoning.” The screenwriters who put those words in his mouth faced no “reckoning”; the directors who permitted the dialogue to be read and the studios that sent the wave of “niggers” into theaters and streaming services faced no “reckoning.”
Just this month, Netflix premiered an adaptation of August Wilson’s play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” directed by acclaimed social justice warrior director George C. Wolfe, an African American. When a stream of “niggers” was unleashed about ten minutes into the fim, never to stop, I was genuinely confused. How could this be, when I have a file of professors and teachers who faced sanctions, protests, suspensions, and professional destruction, not by referring to any black individual as a nigger, but by using the word in the context of discussing legal, ethical and cultural implications of language.
Yes, I was confused, and I am a lawyer, a writer, an ethicist and a teacher with more than four times as much experience in life as Mimi Groves when, as a child, she mistakenly thought a casual use of the word in a social media message wouldn’t upset anyone, much less put a dedicated life assassin on her trail.The the New York Times holds that Mimi deserved her “reckoning,” and made sure that if anyone inclined to tar her as a racist unfit for human association on this woke culture we are breeding didn’t know that she had to be punished and why, a major feature in the nation’s most read, circulated and quoted newspaper would spread word of her disgrace. The paper’s verdict is clear: Jimmy Galligan struck a blow against “systemic societal racism.” He’s a hero, even though literally nothing he did was ethical, fair, or just:
- He never discussed the video with Mimi, though nothing stopped him.
- He gave her no chance to explain or apologize
- He ignored the Golden Rule
- He took no action that would mitigate or limit damage, since the video was four years old and did no damage to anyone, thus eliminating any utilitarian justifications
- He used Mimi as a means to an end, a strict violation of Kant’s Categorical Imperative.
- His actions were based on pure hate and intended as revenge
Regarding this despicable conduct, the Times concluded its endorsement in part with this, indicating that Groves’ ruin was a necessary step towards “anti-racism”:
Since the racial reckoning of the summer, many white teenagers, when posting dance videos to social media, no longer sing along with the slur in rap songs. Instead, they raise a finger to pursed lips. “Small things like that really do make a difference,” Mr. Galligan said….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.”
The Times knows its readers: based on the comments to the article, at least half are in sympathy with Jimmy, and that is half too many. One cannot reach such a conclusion by any competent ethical analysis. This reader got it right:
It appears Mr. Galligan made a conscious choice not to confront Ms. Groves at the time that she made this video and shared it, but to save it and use it in order to punish her. That is the act of a vengeful and malicious child, no matter what Mr. Galligan chooses to believe.
Rebuttals to this point, which is spot on, are all of this ilk:
Black men and women have been confronting people who utter the slur for decades now (to stop uttering it), it’s not something new that the girl didn’t know. Why would you allow a privileged girl to inflict pain leisurely on another human being ?
Gee, black men and women haven’t been confronting each other sufficiently to make sure the word isn’t available when they find it profitable and convenient to use it, now have they? Who knows what the 15-year-old knew, especially if she made the mistake of thinking the rules should be the same for all races, which is what she heard civil rights activists claiming. Who had pain “inflicted” on them, until someone other than Mimi deliberately sent her video to someone who would be triggered? And, of course, we see “privileged,’ which means “You white folks deserve to be treated unfairly. See how it feels?”
Here’s another typical comment:
“So much outrage over Mr Galligan’s actions and how he supposedly ruined Ms Grove’s life. It’s interesting that Blacks are supposed to be accountable for their behavior but whites should always get a pass.”
The commenter is deliberately ignoring several facts:
- The girl’s behavior was simply using a word. It wasn’t directed at anyone or designed to insult or harm anyone.
- Let’s see, how many blacks—adults, not children have “gotten a pass” for using the same word Groves used?
- “Supposedly ruined”—many of the commenters defending Galligan use Rationalization #22, or “There are worse things,” on the theory that because Mimi is white and “privileged,” her life wasn’t really ruined, so what Galligan did to her was no big deal….after all, he could have cut her legas off and thrown acid in her face. Now THAT would have been ruining her life! Indeed, short of mayhem and existential catastrophes, no 18-year-olds life is truly “ruined,” but that Mimi can recover from Galligan’s cruelly doesn’t mitigate his conduct.
So many fatuous, poorly reasoned arguments to choose from! Let’s end with this one:
I’d be much more satisfied by Ms. Groves’ repentance if she had said something along the lines of “Now I have some small sense of how powerful and insidious racism is. My white privilege prevents me from ever fully experiencing or completely understanding how people of color are hurt by it. But I am committed to doing all I can to combat racism both in myself and in others. I am deeply sorry for what my carelessness has done to others.”
Her carelessness did nothing to “others.” The objective of all of the current hair-trigger sensitivity and organized bullying is to make white society grovel, be completely submissive, and to surrender their rights to fairness as their penalty for “systemic racism.” If Mimi Groves had followed that script, she still wouldn’t have been forgiven. It should have been sufficient for her to say that she didn’t realize her foolish SnapChat message would be taken as a slur, and was sorry for her mistake. In fact, as the article reveals, that is basically what she has said. Of course, it’s not enough.
I’ll to the what I wrote in Part I. Jimmy behaved like a vicious jerk, and he seems smugly satisfied with his conduct as a vicious jerk, raising the rebuttable presumption that he is a vicious jerk. That the New York Times signals its approval of his conduct, and that so many of its readers seem to lack the ethical literacy to realize how wrong his conduct was, guarantees that vicious jerks like Jimmy will proliferate.