G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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In 2006, the Oberlin College campus buzzed over the appearance of some uncomfortable racial posts on the school’s community website. So, like they did yesterday with their teach-ins, Oberlin students held a forum to discuss, discuss, discuss:
What are the implications of a website where someone can post a question asking why “negroes” have more children than whites and offering the suggestion that it is because they are “closer to the animal kingdom?” This is what 35 students gathered in Wilder to discuss on Sunday in a talk called “Racism and the Oberlin Confessional.”
The event was hosted by the Oberlin College Dialogue Center and worked to shine light on the negative consequences of a website where anonymous postings can induce a ripple effect across the community. The unstructured format of discussion offered the opportunity for free expression.
Irony, thy name is Oberlin.
As the conversation progressed, it became clear that students came primarily to voice concern over the posts, but some also offered creative suggestions for how to bring the issues to the attention of the broader campus. The suggestion for guerilla, or activist theater, for example, was met with much enthusiasm. This idea was to take the posts out of the obscurity of the Oberlin Confessional into the light of day.
“The posts we’ve been talking about can be used as a rallying point, because if anyone has doubts [that Oberlin contains a racist element], being shown these posts will open their eyes,” said one participant. “There [are] obviously issues here that need to be dealt with.”
Another person offered, “I think putting up quotes from the Confessional all over campus could also be a useful tool.”
Is that what is going on at Oberlin now with the various anti-black and anti-Semitic scrawlings in various spots on campus? Guerilla activists finally took matters into their own hands.
Back in Dec. 1993, it was believed that hate acts were taking place on campus. Some anti-Asian markings were found on a monument to the Boxer Rebellion. Everyone assumed it was purely and earnestly racist. Instead, it was discovered that an Asian student had performed some of this “activist theater” on the grounds that since racism existed somewhere, her actions were justified. This is a common leftist/progressive tactic.
I’m not going to marry myself to the argument that what has recently happened at Oberlin is all a hoax – maybe someone did write epithets on the wall in earnest and maybe someone not allied with the anti-racist spirit of the school donned a KKK outfit – but it seems to be the case that this type of hypersensitivity fosters a lot of Type I errors. It causes people to assert things which are not true. It’s having a hammer and seeing a nail.
Oberlin values diversity…in theory. Its student body is 75% white, 8% Asian, 6% black, and 4.6% Hispanic. It has this legacy of anti-bigotry stretching back to the Underground Railroad mixed with a demographic landscape that lends itself to a giant guilt complex. These people are so bent on thwarting any sniff of racism that they over-react and see everything as racist. How can they make their abolitionist forbears proud? They have to come up with something. And worse, it seems that this strong desire to grant aid and comfort to anti-racist activists creates an environment in which hoaxes can be successful. So hoaxes can happen, but when you think that hoaxes can’t happen, they’re much more likely to happen. Why don’t high-IQ Oberlin students see that? Why aren’t they skeptical? How have they become so enthralled by this hive mind?