Did Oberlin Let Racists Win by Canceling Classes?

The college canceled classes for a "Day of Solidarity" after a string of hateful incidents. How much do we care if the perpetrator is getting much-wanted attention?

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An Oberlin student is interviewed on the Day of Solidarity. (YouTube)

In just the past month, racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay incidents at Oberlin College in Ohio have included slurs written on Black History Month posters, drawings of swastikas and the message "Whites Only" written above a water fountain. The latest, and scariest: a person dressed in a white robe and hood like those worn by the Ku Klux Klan, near the school's Afrikan Heritage House.  

Still trying to determine the perpetrator, the college canceled classes yesterday for a "Day of Solidarity." Was it a moving and unifying stance against racism and hate, or exactly what the person behind these stunts wanted? The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf argues that it was likely the latter:

[W] hether the perpetrator is a racist, or a cruel provocateur, or someone carrying out an ill-conceived hoax, this gives them what they sought: on a college campus, where everyone is gathered to advance their education, someone succeeded in disrupting the community's core function. Like an arsonist who lights a match and watches the show, they're likely enjoying the spectacle ...

Ideally, Oberlin could show unmistakable support for its students -- the ones who feel victimized and the ones who don't want to be made to feel like victims -- and at the same time, signal to racist provocateurs that no, they cannot cause a spectacle.

To signal that the perpetrator is marginal and weak -- that he or she isn't worth it.

But according to a CNN report, Monday wasn't just a disruption of routine. Rather, students used the day for a series of discussions about the incidents to "make a strong statement about the values" cherished at the institution and promote what one speaker called "alternative messages."

We'd argue that if that was valuable to the school community -- particularly to members of groups targeted by the hate -- that's far more important than whether, or how much, the perpetrator may have enjoyed the spotlight.

Read more at the Atlantic.

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