Gibson’s Case Trivializes Actual Racism

Like many alumni, I have followed the legal battle concerning Gibson’s Food Mart & Bakery with interest and horror. Decades of Oberlin students have enjoyed Gibson’s tasty doughnuts and other treats, and have come to know the family. I am not at all surprised that the jury ruled in favor of Gibson’s. Both the experience of Oberlin students and the facts of the case indicate that Gibson’s is not a racist business. Simply put, the shoplifters were caught and when the police arrived, they were assaulting Mr. Gibson. 

Polarized race relations at Oberlin are not a new phenomenon. When I was a student in the late 1970s, my political organization, The Moderate Caucus, circulated a petition opposing the creation of the Afrikan Heritage House as a single-race dormitory and dining facility supported by College funds. Oberlin has encouraged segregation for a long time. The timeliness of this issue has been highlighted by remarks concerning bussing by Kamala Harris in the presidential debates this summer. The more students of all races interact with one another, the less polarized the communities will be. We need desegregation. Feelings of guilt on the part of affluent white students and an “us-versus-them” mentality regarding race, politics, and town relations are precursors to this debacle.

This case trivializes the genuine issue of a racist legal system that imprisons black people at a disproportionate rate. The students and their dean should be demonstrating in front of courthouses, not bakeries.

Oberlin is throwing away $25 million dollars that could be used on worthy causes, such as funding scholarships for needy applicants. The College’s legal defense is shameful and sets a poor example for how institutions should behave.