Anti-Semitism Debates Distract Campus from Larger Problems

Booker C. Peek, Emeritus Associate Professor of Africana Studies

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To the Editors:

Donald Trump once triumphantly shouted that nuclear destruction is the world’s greatest threat, not Obama’s ecological challenges. Both are right, especially if we add wars, diseases, etc. to the list of humankind’s enemies crying out to be in our crosshairs for solutions. President Krislov is right in touting the power of a liberal arts education as one of the most effective tools to solve most problems. No college’s DNA is richer than Oberlin’s as the marketplace for the critical and robust examination and analysis of ideas, thoughts and viewpoints.

We are all united in abstractly condemning racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry with all the intellectual rigor possible because each is so toxic to our humanity. But in specific cases, we are not unanimous in identifying the behavior that each represents, nor are we likely to be in accord on what the consequence, if any, should be to those responsible. The confusion electrifies the community, provoking debates that distract us from waging a more effective war against humankind’s real enemies such as cancers, Alzheimer’s and poverty.

Oberlin College has a process underway to address the controversy surrounding anti-Semitism. This committee does not need my uninformed advice to seek fairness and due process; it will do so because it is the proper way to proceed, reassuring us all that we would be treated fairly if ever before the committee. Fairness is not some aspect of sophistry to gain advantage for one outcome or another; it is the bloodline of justice. While waiting for the committee’s findings, we must welcome healing and understanding, embrace aching hearts and together continue, and even accelerate, our quest to be fiercer fighters against humankind’s real enemies, those scourges that truly must be in our crosshairs for eradication. Celebrate this day.

Booker C. Peek
Emeritus Associate Professor of Africana Studies

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