Griffin Green, twenty-two and from the midwest, packed his bags, left his family, and moved 1000 miles to New York City for a job at a rising tech start-up. Four days later, the company he left home for fired him based on accusations by activists. He spoke to Upward News to tell his story.
Green spent his entire life in Michigan. He played football in high school and later varsity in college while studying economics. Before accepting his job in NYC, he regularly worked over 15 hours daily in three different positions.
In the mornings, he set up events and moved furniture. In the afternoons, he would find extra work, mowing lawns for twenty to thirty bucks a house in his neighborhood. In the evenings, he waited at a nearby restaurant and bar. At one point, he routinely worked over 60 hours a week making door-to-door sales.
Proudly hardworking and relying on his savings from his previous jobs, Griffin was ecstatic to get after it in the big city. He never expected the culture shock of New York City and how different it was from his hometown.
“It’s culture shock.”
From 2010 to 2011, the Obama White House, under first lady Michelle Obama’s initiative, made headlines attacking “food deserts”—urban areas where fresh produce and healthy, affordable foods are hard to come by. According to the former first lady’s Let’s Move organization, 23.5 million Americans live under these conditions. She hoped to fix the problem with grocery stores and supermarkets.
Despite not knowing what a “food desert” was, Green immediately recognized the problem in the Bronx neighborhood he lived in. He posted a video on TikTok describing the problem, his culture shock, and what he saw as a satirical, self-deprecating look at a Michigan kid who found himself in New York City. “I was almost making fun of myself,” Green later said.
“I just moved to New York, and I’m trying to go grocery shopping, so I typed in ‘grocery stores’ into my Apple maps… Every [store] I go to is like this [convenient store]. That’s not a grocery store… I’m trying to get eggs, yogurt, cheese…” he said in the video.
“I’ve been to five of those now, and I don’t know what I’m about to do for dinner. Where are the Krogers and Whole Foods?”
This video and others posted by Green cover his observations of the unfamiliar city. Good-faith viewers could see that his videos were not meant to be malicious, but activists quickly reacted, making his videos go viral. Before the day was over, Green had been framed as a “racist.” For activists, he was a culturally insensitive, white outsider shaming the conditions of city life in New York.
“It got blown out of context.”
“I was like a golden retriever that put my nose in a bee’s nest,” Green described himself in an interview with Upward News. In another video that received heavy criticism, Green mentioned that he bought an NAACP shirt to show his support for people of color in the community. (The organization was created to advance justice for African Americans in the early 1900s.)
“I’m wearing the NAACP shirt to show my support for the people of color,” he said. Liberal activists online saw it as mockery, ignorance, and disrespect. In another video that activists deemed homophobic, Green documented his first experience at a Gay Pride event. He took pictures with parade-goers and expressed surprise by how many were in attendance. The benign video started with a comment by Green, saying that he supports the gay community despite not being gay himself. “It was just culture shock.”
Soon enough, the activists condemning and attacking Green shifted their targets to Green’s new job.
A Tweet directed at his employer, Outreach, read, "I don't think it's very flattering to have this type of person representing your company. I would revalue [sic] his employment if I were you." Not long after, the company announced his termination.
“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Upon investigation, we took swift internal action in accordance with our company policies and in alignment with our core values. He is no longer an employee of Outreach.”
Green’s employers pulled him into an emergency meeting. They informed him that they were hoping to IPO soon and couldn’t afford the controversy surrounding Green, despite its existence limited to social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok. Like many employers that fire because of pressure from online activists, Outreach had no interest in defending or hearing Green’s side of the story.
Green wanted the chance to explain the situation and requested another call with HR. They denied his request and told him the decision was final. They even refused to pay his relocation bonus that he was counting on for his first month’s rent. After working at Outreach for not even two full days, Griffin was unemployed, thousands of miles from home, and stuck with a costly lease.
Griffin was not political and had never intended to make a political statement.
Green isn’t the first victim of cancel culture and unfortunately won’t be the last. He was an employee who made sacrifices for the start-up and was fired because his employer caved to random activists online.
Days later, Griffin appeared on TikTok with a new video. He visited multiple bodegas, bought hundreds of dollars worth of groceries, bagged them into individual meals, and delivered them to the homeless community in the Bronx. Green, who had never intended harm in the first place, felt the need to explain who he really was. The video won’t get him his job back, and it won’t appease hostile activists.
Unlike most victims of cancel culture, Griffin was not political and had never intended to make a political statement. He liked to stay out of those things. But that didn’t matter to the mob. They found a newcomer in the city who inadvertently questioned issues that affect American cities. This issue and others like crime and homelessness used to be discussed in terms of finding solutions—like Michelle Obama’s campaign over a decade ago. Today, activists embrace them as distinct, unique attributes of culturally rich areas. To view them as problems worth solving is problematic.
Green had never meant any harm but got caught in a whirlwind of activism. It’s obvious that the accusations of racism, homophobia, and bigotry were baseless.