The Oberlin Review

Gibson’s Links Black People to Anti-Semitism

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To the Editors:

As the founding fathers of Oberlin College and Arthur Tappan, whose name Tappan Square bears because of his much-needed financial support of the College, would have wanted, Oberlin remains America’s most luminous beacon for a more just, peaceful, and humane world. As much as the Founding Fathers of our nation will always have our admiration, they showed a serious human weakness in their subjugation of women and willingness to enslave Blacks.

As women throughout America need us all to step up to fight against sexism, so do Blacks need all Americans to help us fight against racism. But the middle-aged white men who feel hurt and abandoned — a disproportionate number of whom commit suicide — also need our full support. There is hardly an American who does not need our united support.

It is not hard to understand that we are all fallible and guilty of sin and mistakes; we must rise energetically to resume our struggle toward our noble goals and we must know and accept that we will never stop making errors. We always need to ask for forgiveness and be willing to forgive others.

For these reasons, Gibson’s should consider settling its lawsuit against the College out of court. Whatever the merits of the suit, the case is weakened by Gibson’s insinuation within the suit that Blacks are anti-Semitic and that the College does not aggressively condemn hatred, even though it did fire a young Black female professor, some of whose internet posts were judged as anti-Semitic by many Jews and others.

I did not know that professor, nor have I spoken to any students about these matters. My observations are based solely upon the town newspaper’s account of Gibson’s lawsuit. Still, I am troubled that a broad brush is being used — intentionally or unwittingly — to paint some Blacks at the College and town in an unacceptable manner. If we have a modicum of morality or interest in fairness at this juncture, we must use it in our prayers for an out-of-court settlement or hopes that there is a disinterested jury or judge in Lorain County.

Gibson’s seeds of racial invidiousness need not be planted publicly if the two sides resolve everything privately, in spite of what either might have to concede. Everything must be done to attenuate Gibson’s inflammatory conflation of Blacks and anti-Semitism, preventing the growth of roots of dissension, misunderstanding, and pain so tough that it will take a century or more to extirpate them. Throughout my lifetime, I have observed that Jews have been Blacks’ staunchest allies and we theirs. That bond is an eternal one, with all Blacks I know desiring to establish similar bonds with all whites and others too, never mind how much we differ on how to grow our one common humanity.

Celebrate this day.

Booker C. Peek
Emeritus Associate Professor of Africana Studies

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4 Responses to “Gibson’s Links Black People to Anti-Semitism”

  1. Steven Kennedy on December 1st, 2017 7:45 PM

    Joy Karega was virulently anti Semitic, which you would know if I out had any passing acquaintance with the facts of her case. Gibson’s does not in an way suggest that Blacks as a group are anti Semitic. What they truthfully allege is that the college set out to destroy their business based on a totally false accusation of racism. The college has owed them an apology all along, but it is too arrogant and smugly self riteous to admit a mistake. Now, hopefully, Gibsons will receive the full extent of damages which they deserve. It is only fair.

  2. Ummmmm on December 3rd, 2017 11:30 AM

    You (a professor emeritus of Oberlin) are on record as saying that Karega’s anti-Semitism was “distracting” the college from “important issues”. The implication was that Karega’s anti Semitism wasn’t important. Moreover, when concerned students and alumni tried to hold a meeting on the topic of anti Semitism, it was forced off campus! So enough. One may support Gibson’s lawsuit, or decry it: there are valid reasons for both. But Oberlin is emphatically not a beacon lighting the way to a more just, humane world. Maybe it was once: it isn’t now. Now it is an object lesson, for those who want to illustrate the shallow, self serving, ultimately parasitic nature of American liberal arts education.

  3. James Henderson on December 8th, 2017 6:06 PM

    Dear Mr. Peek,

    I do not see that the Gibson family believes that blacks, in general, are anti-Semitic. I am basing this on two things –
    1. The coverage from the Chronicle, and the News Tribune
    2. Knowing the Gibson family both personally and professionally for most of my life

    I agree with your desire to see this dispute mediated, but I find myself baffled by your statement:
    “Everything must be done to attenuate Gibson’s inflammatory conflation of Blacks and anti-Semitism,..”

    I am at a loss, because I have read the same information, and am unable to see this in the same light that your article asserts. I apologize if I am being dense or simply not reading what is obvious, but I do not see such an assertion made by the Gibson family.

    I do absolutely agree with you, a mediated settlement must be sought by both sides. But I disagree with what I perceive to be the assertion that Gibson’s is (seemingly) more at fault . The college has done quite a bit to help this dispute reach its current, very regrettable level of tension.

    I have a great deal of respect for you Mr. Peek. You have been an active member of the college and the community and have always worked to find ways to bring the two together. But I would ask you and the college to consider that rather than the high drama and intrigue that many pundits believe precipitated the current dispute, that it is possible that Mr. Aladin and his two friends made a bad decision in trying to shoplift. Mr. Gibson made a bad decision in trying to pursue Mr. Aladin outside of the store. And the college made a bad decision in failing to have a more holistic view as to what might have happened, refusing to hold its students accountable and request a special dispensation to let the college administration determine what in fact might be a crime when it happens off campus and involves a student. When viewed as three separate events, it is safe to say that this could happen anywhere. But in Oberlin, both town and gown have a love for rhetoric and debate and an oftentimes unassailable belief in the virtue (or even infallibility) of their given opinion. Or as a fellow “townie” once said –

    “There’s something odd about Oberlin. Doesn’t matter if it is a townie or a college kid, never ask them what they’re thinking. They’ll tell you!” He was also an OC grad, so I give him the benefit of seeing both sides ; )

    The real tragedy here is that a simple case of shoplifting has blown up and brought to the surface a lot of the feelings, concerns and anxieties that have bubbled under the surface of both the town and the college for at least the 16 years that I called Oberlin home, and evidently since then as well. And maybe that is a good thing. Maybe now it can all be aired-out and the town and the college can move on from the current and tenuous détente, to a sincere and mutually appreciative and beneficial relationship.

    I agree with you – mediate this dispute! But for any mediation to be successful, both sides need to come to the table as equals, with a genuine and sincere desire to resolve the dispute, and move forward. There is no longer any winning in any of this. Only degrees of losing.

  4. neal workman on December 23rd, 2017 11:18 PM

    Only in Oberlin would a story about thugs trying to rip off a store and then clobbering the store clerk for trying to stop them…..turn into a crusade for the civil rights of every race, creed, religion, etc, that the United Nations couldnt solve in millenia. Oberlin should just raise the tuition to 200000 dollars a year (rich kids will still go there-cause its liberal Oberlin), and give Gibsons, lets say-10 Trillion dollars. But in the judgement stipulations would be made that Gibsons would allow criminals to steal up to a maximum of 3 bottles of wine per week without being hindered-so long as they dont assault the store clerk. Problem solved.

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