I did not have a pleasant experience at Oberlin College. I made a few amazing friends and had the support of unbelievably gracious and loving family members in the community, but when it came to the actual college, I thought you had a bunch of sheltered liberals (and keep in mind, I’m liberal) who created some perversion of diversity by failing to understand that diversity has to extend beyond race and sexual orientation and tap into belief systems. If everyone is an “outsider”, then no one is. It created a safe space at the worst time to create a safe space: at the cusp of adulthood when the world is about to get unforgiving.
[Side note: I also reject the notion that the college was there not to prepare people for the outside world, but as an institute of learning. It's not learning when you're writing papers to appease a professor's ego. Write what they want to hear and you'll get good grades. It's playing the game of school, not the game of learning.]
When I was at Oberlin, an ethnic minority of students felt they needed a “safe space” where only their minority could gather. They needed this space on one of the most accepting, diverse, liberal colleges in the nation. And the college should have said, “Grow up. If you can’t handle it here, you’re going to crumble when you get out of the safe confines of our cozy campus.” They did not say that.
Oberlin now has had to face a popping of the bubble they created. Real racism has crept on to the campus, and the campus response has been typically Oberlin: “Let’s talk about it.” Yes, law enforcement is on the case and they should be on the case. But rather than send out the message that hatred exists in our world and the best way to deal with it is to walk with our heads held high and not let it deter from the noble goal of learning, Oberlin canceled class so they could have “a conversation.” I wasn’t in attendance, so I don’t know what the fuck there was to talk about. In a recent interview with CNN about the incident (the news has garnered international attention; I first read about it on the BBC’s website), Oberlin’s doofus president Marvin Krislov calling the conversation “courageous”. Yes, it’s courageous to talk about why hatred is bad.
During the interview, the anchorwoman says that they’ve heard from sources that the suspects are students, to which I would respond OF COURSE THEY’RE STUDENTS. After first hearing about the incidents, my immediate thought was, “Students are doing this.” As I said, you take a group of kids who have spent their teenage years feeling like outsiders. You bring them all in, and they lose their outsider status because everyone is an outsider and therefore no one is an outsider. Most students would find it a relief to find acceptance. But if you’re a young person (and I’m also willing to bet the suspects are freshmen or sophomores), and your identity is based around being an outsider, then your reaction is to be the intolerant person in a tolerant community. My biggest surprise isn’t that this happened, but that it hadn’t happened sooner.
And what came of this glorious “conversation”? Watch to the end of the video:
You have students running into the background chanting “Bullshit!” while the representative of the college tries to defend the college and therefore all of the students and faculty (there’s also covering his own ass, obviously). To Oberlin students, the President of the college serves two purposes: Representing “The Man” and raising money for the university (in that order). Nothing else gets in their thick skulls because their beliefs are never seriously challenged by anyone.
Oberlin isn’t a community of intolerance or hatred. It’s a community of ignorance laboring under the false impression that they’re progressive. There’s nothing progressive about turning away from education for a day so that everyone can have a meaningless group hug.
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