Students at Oberlin College have long enjoyed pastries, bagels and chocolates from Gibson's Bakery, a century-old, family-owned business near campus. That sweet relationship has turned bitter amid hotly disputed accusations of racism, roiling a school and town long known for their liberal politics.Look, it wasn't my intent to turn today's post into the Ohio Follies edition, but we're the day after a Green Bay Packer win in Cleveland, which will rate its own post, and the Chicago Bears, yes, the Fire John Fox and Drain The Swamp Chicago Bears made mincemeat of the Cincinnati Bengals, whose defense was mostly in rehab or the House of Correction after last week's rumble with Pittsburgh.
The dispute, which began in November 2016 with the arrest of three black Oberlin students who tried stealing wine from Gibson's, is now a lawsuit in which the exasperated bakery owners accuse the college and a top dean of slandering Gibson's as a "racist establishment" and taking steps to destroy the family's livelihood.
Caught in the middle are longtime residents of this town of 8,300 people, many of whom identify themselves as liberals but who have patronized Gibson's for decades. Many believe the timing was right for the conflict to boil over; the arrests came the day after Donald Trump won the presidential election, electrifying students who had long heard suspicions of racial profiling at Gibson's.
No, the Obies haven't yet protested the profiling of the Bengals' defensive unit. But they're protesting the behavior of the baker.
The three students were arrested after punching and kicking the white shopkeeper. The 18- and 19-year-old students said that they were racially profiled and that their only crime was trying to buy alcohol with fake identification; the shopkeeper, Allyn Gibson, said the students attacked him after he caught them trying to steal bottles of wine.I'd like to know the basis for that student protest (are we simply having another Ferguson moment?) but that's for the courts of law to decide.
The day after the arrests, hundreds of students protested outside the bakery. Members of Oberlin's student senate published a resolution saying Gibson's had "a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment."
Few colleges put the "liberal" into "liberal arts" more than Oberlin, which in the early 1800s became the first in the country to regularly admit women and minorities. But it also more recently has become, for conservatives, a symbol of political correctness gone awry and entitled youth.
The bakery is winning in the court of public opinion.
With Oberlin's reputation preceding it and news of the Gibson's protests spreading online, bikers and out-of-town counter-protesters soon converged on the town to jeer students and buy doughnuts from Gibson's. Conservatives derided the students on social media as coddled "snowflakes" with a mob mentality, while students attacked the store as a symbol of systemic racism.Perhaps Gibson's will be a stopping off place for normals in the Oberlin area, the way Chick-fil-a has become around Boston. And there are probably more normals around Oberlin than there are around Boston.
The three students arrested at Gibson's pleaded guilty in August to attempted theft and aggravated trespassing and said in statements required by a plea agreement that their actions were wrong and that the store wasn't racist.
Even so, students continue to boycott Gibson's over perceived racial profiling, causing business to suffer. Pressed by a reporter to provide evidence or examples of profiling, they said only that when black students enter the store, they feel as though they're being watched.
Read closely, though, and perhaps Oberlin has more of an entitled-students-behaving-badly problem than their public affairs people would like. The bakery is also suing Oberlin on unspecified grounds that appear to involve defamation or loss of business.
Today, the lawsuit says, college tour guides continue to inform prospective students that Gibson's is racist.In the interest of intellectual consistency: we bring sexual assault charges through the legal system rather than through internal campus investigations; likewise, we bring shoplifting charges through the legal system rather than through internal campus investigations.
Dave Gibson, the bakery's owner, says the lawsuit is about standing up for his right to crack down on shoplifting without being branded as a racist. The suit says Oberlin demanded that he stop pushing criminal charges on first-time shoplifters and call school deans instead.