The Oberlin Review

Oberlin Must Be Sure to Take Care of Neighbors, Workers

Booker C. Peek, Professor Emeritus of Africana Studies

March 6, 2020

 Most of us agree that Oberlin College must pay all its workers a living wage. But perhaps not all support this view. There is no universally agreed-upon definition for what amount of dollars represents a “living wage” — a sum for one person or a family of four, for those living in the most expensive area of the country or the least expensive?  Let’s allow that the term lacks precision, but is a concept that must cover what we all think of as basic needs — food, housing, clothing, health insurance, etc. — with some notion of a barrier still, but hardly impossible to overcome. It is urgent for us to impress upon the College a sense of oneness as humans, caring and supporting each other in life’s jo...

Oberlin’s Future Hinges on Razor-Thin Decisions

Booker C. Peek, Associate Professor Emeritus of Africana Studies

February 28, 2020

 College financially following the administration’s announcement of proposed outsourcing. But we should continue to support Oberlin financially — perhaps even more generously than in previous years — and encourage all our friends to join us, however razor-thin the decision to remain loyal may be in light of the impending mass firings of those most vulnerable. It’s the right thing to do. The Board of Trustees’ decision to be one of the first colleges to admit blacks in the 1800s was a razor-thin one, but it was the right decision. A decision made by President Carmen Twillie Ambar to reconsider the College’s decision to make these layoffs may be a razor-thin one, especially because the original recommenda...

Living Wage and Health Care for UAW Workers Proves Urgent

Booker C. Peek, Emeritus Associate Professor of Africana Studies

February 21, 2020

 President Carmen Twillie Ambar, Oberlin College’s first Black president and just the second female president, shared with us all an impressively argued, 900-word announcement titled “Dining and Custodial Negotiations,” which reported that the College has proposed to, very shortly, cut every single one of its custodians and dining hall workers without warning, unceremoniously — a Trump-like “Get out of here, you’re all fired!” President Ambar’s defense of her actions is quite solidly based upon One Oberlin, which is the name of the final report produced by the Academic and Administrative Program Review. The president offers an unassailable argument for the protection of the College’s core value: ...

Voters Must Be Patient

Booker C. Peek, Professor Emeritus of Africana Studies

February 14, 2020

 Four white men and two white women are now the leading Democratic candidates competing against each other to replace President Donald J. Trump in November. Many of America’s most respected and admired Black media commentators, especially those on liberal television channels, radio stations, and other media outlets, have instantly challenged all six to explain in full their questionable or checkered past of policies and actions that are clearly either racist or smell of racism. Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Mike Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden cannot cavalierly dismiss so many beloved Black scholars, social workers, and leaders.  African Americans — indeed, all Americans — should want to hear in the minutest detail wh...

Unity, Cooperation, Community this Voting Season

Booker C. Peek, Emeritus Associate Professor of Africana Studies

October 12, 2018

A week ago we celebrated the inauguration of Oberlin College’s 15th president, Carmen Twillie Ambar, the first Black and second female president. She wasted little time in her acceptance speech to remind us that over 180 years ago when it was legal to own slaves, Oberlin College’s founding fathers voted to be the first college to admit both women and Blacks. While today we might think that the vote was an easy unanimous one just for men to do the right thing, President Ambar underscored the fact that the Board of Trustees was actually split, requiring the chairman — Finney at the time — to break the tie. Nevertheless, Oberlin College did do what history commanded, and we can boast of our College’s long and...

Let’s Celebrate, Together

Booker C. Peek, Emeritus Associate Professor, Africana Studies Department

October 5, 2018

There is a celebration in Oberlin this weekend worthy of at least a moment’s note, as Oberlin College inaugurates its first black and second female president in its history, Carmen Twillie Ambar. Some 250 years ago, America’s founding fathers were men of towering courage and intellect, but they saw no need to free blacks or compensate Native Americans fairly, if that had been possible. Nor did they perceive the wrong inflicted upon white women by subjugating them, not allowing them to vote. However, the founding fathers of Oberlin College — in the midst of a nation insensitive and complicit in its inhumane treatment of others — did take an amazing stance by becoming the first college to admit women and blacks. Oberlin...

NFL Protest Debates Distract from Purpose

Booker C. Peek, Emeritus Associate Professor of Africana Studies

September 7, 2018

To the Editors: Last week, America paid tribute to Aretha Franklin and John McCain, who both strove to make America greater than ever by unceasingly underscoring the need for us to embrace differences and engage with those whose views differ from our own. We are one people, one nation, and one world, in spite of the fights we may have on any given day. This Thursday, a new National Football League season starts. Many players want to bring an end to police brutality against blacks, and last year many did not stand for our National Anthem as a sign of protesting this violence. They have a right to do as they please, but there are consequences. One has been that their action has taken most of the attention off their go...

Nation Would Benefit More From Political Unity Than Division

Booker C. Peek

April 20, 2018

To the Editors: Most of us in this part of Ohio root for the Cavs, Browns, or the Cleveland baseball team. Most people in New York, California, Texas, Boston, etc. root for their local teams. All year long there is a healthy exchange among sports fans from various parts of our nation. Occasionally, each area has its moments to brag, though some areas seem to be a lot more favored than others. The division of opinions or the rooting for this or that team has many advantages to a thriving nation. However, there should never be any division among us as a people, a nation, as far as ensuring that the poor, especially, and others receive excellent healthcare, get a fine education, have good jobs, decent homes, feel saf...

Constitution Does Not Automatically Permit AR-15s

Booker C. Peek

February 23, 2018

To the Editors: The AR-15 must be banned. Like the M-16 used in Vietnam by our military, the AR-15 was designed to kill as many enemy soldiers as possible with the greatest ease and efficiency. Some argued fiercely in the ’60s that the AR-15 should have been our weapon of choice on the battlefield, not the M-16. Today, the M-16 is not available to the public, but the AR-15 is. It has been the ideal weapon for mass killings and was used in Florida a week ago to slaughter 17 of the brightest lights for our future: those high-school students and young teachers just moments before their school day was to end. Instead, their lives ended. In 2008, the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the most revered co...

Peek Ignores Indigenous History

Will Grannan-Rubenstein

February 9, 2018

To the Editors: I was dismayed to read a specific sentence in one of Booker C. Peek’s letters about the developing legal confrontation between the College and Gibson’s Bakery (“Oberlin, Gibson’s Should Settle Out-of-Court,” Nov. 17, 2017). The offending line was tangential to Peek’s main argument, part of a brief overview of the College’s history. The line reads: “The founders of the College settled in a wilderness in the 19th century, a site where there were no humans at all.” While it may seem like a minor quibble, I find it deeply disturbing that a professor emeritus of Africana Studies, a scholar who has studied and taught about issues of American white supremacy, would fail to perceive the rich ...

Accusations of Treason Threaten Democracy

Booker C Peek

February 9, 2018

To the Editors: Donald Trump is our president, and we should all root for him to succeed in doing what is best for all Americans — even though on the very day of 2009 that former President Obama was sworn in as America’s first black president, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, expressed publicly that he was rooting for Obama to fail. He is our president because he was duly elected, though Hillary Clinton received far more of the popular — not electoral — vote than he. Surely, there can be a good debate over which is the better way to choose our president. Regardless, Trump is our president, and we want him to be successful, especially in making America greater than ever for all Americans. Tru...

Gibson’s Links Black People to Anti-Semitism

Booker C. Peek, Emeritus Associate Professor of Africana Studies

December 1, 2017

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 f...

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