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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Ariana Abayomi was sound asleep in her dorm room at Oberlin College in Ohio, when a fellow resident advisor awakened her in the middle of the night.

Groggy with sleep, Abayomi struggled at first to comprehend what she was hearing.

Someone in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood … spotted on campus … right outside … emergency meeting in the lounge.

“I was standing there thinking, ‘KKK?'” she said. “‘At Oberlin?'”

Twelve hours later, it was still her question. Repeatedly, she apologized for stumbling over her words during our interview. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I haven’t had much sleep. A lot of us were up all night.”

When I asked why, she shook her head and said softly, “We didn’t feel safe enough to go to sleep.”

In the wee hours of Monday morning, a student reported seeing a figure cloaked in a white robe and hood standing near Oberlin’s Afrikan Heritage House — “A-House,” in campus parlance — where Abayomi lives.

Abayomi, who is black, grew up in Atlanta. “Georgia is inherently more racist,” she said. “This has had a bigger impact because it’s a smaller community. I never thought it would happen here in Oberlin.”

It was the latest in a series of recent hate-related acts of vandalism that have left the Oberlin community reeling. The word “black” was scratched out on Black History Month posters, replaced with a racial epithet. Freshly etched swastikas and “Whites Only” hovered over a water fountain. Anti-Semitic and racist fliers peppered the campus. A student reported a stranger uttering a racial slur before pushing him to the ground. So far, no one has been charged.

The incidents are a jarring new reality for Oberlin College, located about 30 miles southwest of Cleveland. Founded in 1833, Oberlin has a long history of progressive activism. It was a crucial stop on the Underground Railroad. It was also one of the first colleges to educate men and women together and to admit black students.

Sean Decatur, dean of arts and sciences, said he is saddened by these acts, but not surprised.

“Oberlin is a place I respect for both its history and its standards,” said Decatur. “On the other hand, it’s part of the world. These incidents are not out of the realm of possibility because it happens everywhere.”

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11 responses to “Oberlin: Acts Of Hate, Meant To Divide, Unite”

  1. 4sanity4all says:

    I commend the classy people of Oberlin for their grace and courage in standing up to haters.

  2. sigrid28 says:

    I look to students like these, in my son’s generation, those who knew all the words to “We Shall Overcome” as well as those who knew only the first verse, to help our broken society take perhaps the finishing steps on the Civil Rights marches begun in my generation. That is not to say that these final steps will be a cake walk, as indicated by the heightened activity of hate groups, cited in another article in today’s edition of the “National Memo”:

    Birmingham, AL’s Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors right-wing “Patriot” groups, hate groups and hate crimes across the country, released a report this week that found there were 1,360 radical, anti-government “Patriot” groups (including 321 militias) in 2012. Such groups numbered only 149 in 2008. This represents an 813 percent rise since President Obama took office—and not coincidentally, the fourth straight year the numbers have increased.–” ‘Patriot Groups” at All Time High”

    Of course, since the first college student set foot on a campus, sophomoric behavior–including parading around in outrageous costumes–has been the rule rather than the exception, a sanctioned form of adolescent rebellion. So has demonstrating and public displays of opposition to authority. This time, at Oberlin, the planets were aligned in such a way that the outrageous costume and the counter revolution it prompted could not have been in more perfect sync with the ghosts of bigotry haunting our political landscape and the legacy members of the Civil Rights movement rising up to oppose them.

    • Manifestations of intense hatred motivated by racism, religious intolerance, political ideology or social class have exited since the beginning of recorded history. As horrendous as the Inquisition, the Third Reich holocoust, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Bosnia-Herzegovina and other such atrocities were, what is disturbing is the re-emergence of hate groups in the USA – in the 21st century – when most civilized nations confined extremism to history books.
      While the catalyst that influenced the re-emergence of hate groups in the USA was, clearly, the election and re-election of President Obama, I believe there is a lot more than that. Most of the members of these groups are white males consumed by intolerance and fear influenced by ignorance. Most believe their way of life is threatened by our diversity, by the fact that whites may not be the largest ethnic majority in the USA within a few decades, and by the impotency they feel when they see minorities rise to positions of power in government and industry. Instead of trying to determine the root causes for their apparent demise, they prefer to blame others for it.

      • Ed says:

        Dominick, while I agree with virtually every insightful comments you make on these blogs I am afraid I must disagree with you slightly on this one. It bagan with Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”, but it got a loy worse when Reagan began campaigning, claiming “those peoplee” were driving welfare Cadillacs” and attacking our government. The repubs have continued that campaign until this day. They even have their own television station and a prooganda mionister called Rush. Yes, Obpoma’s e;lection was a catalyst, not doubt. But the pot has been simmering for a very long time. I look forward to 2016 when, if Hillary is elected, the whole right wing will explode.

        • sigrid28 says:

          I applaud your amplification of Dominick’s point. As you suggest, the Republican party, with its reliance on lying and cheating, has for decades unambiguously embraced intolerance as a part of its platform, and not just in endorsing racism but also in its stance toward women and immigrants. Nonviolent efforts to curb this kind of intolerance take a lot longer than the kind of totalitarian measures other societies have put in place. We note that even these have not been successful: most recently, in Syria, for example. In the U.S., we have no choice but the long slow pressure to improve our society from within, while trying to bring these weakest, recalcitrant elements along with us. It is true, the right wing may explode. But my hope is that it will simple deflate like a helium balloon and come along with us.

          • RobertCHastings says:

            Like all the rest of you folks, I look to Dominick for his quietly reasoned arguements. It is my strong belief that we were put on this earth by a Supreme Being to do, basically, two things. First, we must learn what life has to teach us and, second, we must do what we can to teach others what we have been able to learn. Even terrible events, like the Holocaust, provide excellent opportunities to both learn and to teach. It is difficult to understand what purpose a just and loving God would have in allowing the Holocaust to occur, but occur it did, and we must try as best we can to find meaning in it. My take is that we were intended to be so horrified (and shamed) by the Holocaust that we would vow, as a society and an international community, to do whatever was necessary to prevent its happening again. Unfortunately, we have failed miserably for the other similar events in modern history that Dominick enumerated occurred AFTER the Holocaust. As we seem unable to learn from our mistakes, we must remain doomed to repeat them, and we will.

          • sigrid28 says:

            Like you, Robert, I belong to the tribe of Dominick on this comment thread, and I am a Christian. Just to show my respect for the seriousness of your post above and Dominick’s, I wish to offer a reply based on the scriptures.

            I’m sure you are familiar with the story of Jonah, who was called by the Lord to preach to the town of Ninevah, which was on the road to perdition, as the saying goes. Jonah did not believe his mission would be successful. He hated the assignment so much that he tried to escape from the Lord by running away to sea, and ended up inside the belly of a very big–some say whale, some say fish, let’s settle on “sea creature.” We all know how this turned out.

            When Jonah eventually preached to Ninevah, the people heard Jonah and repented and were saved. Then, they chided Jonah for warning of an apocalypse that never occurred, so Jonah ran to the wilderness to escape this ridicule. There, a vine grew over him, and he was thankful for it because it gave him some relief from the hot sun. When it shriveled and died, as overly ambitious vines are wont to do in the wilderness, Jonah mourned its loss. And the Lord said, Why would you weep for this vine that grows up in one day and dies the next, yet fail to rejoice in saving the town of Ninevah with all its people and all of their animals?

            What lesson do I derive from the parable of Jonah? I’m a teacher, so I believe that we can learn from our mistakes.

      • sigrid28 says:

        I’ve carried membership in the Southern Poverty Law Center for over a decade now (I think). From this perspective, I can confirm that while the white racist movement has been morphing lately into a “patriot” fringe, with lots of little branches, the Southern Poverty Law Center has had plenty to keep it busy long before this recent surge. For example, their solid documentation helped identify very quickly the shooter in the Milwaukee massacre at a Sikh temple. For years, they have tracked anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hate groups as well as those more accurately described as anti-government.

        I think you are right that this latest build up is among intolerant white adult male gun enthusiasts who vote Republican if they vote at all and who see themselves as disenfranchised by the popularity of Barack Obama and a population that is growing, as I like to see it, more golden, into a society that has a majority population that can no longer be described as “white caucasian.” This paranoid minority of white bigots clings to race politics in a nation that is trending toward issue politics according to every reliable indicator. Nevertheless, in a free society, “patriot” hate groups can gain some traction, even notoriety, especially when spurred on by Senator Ran Paul and his ignorant filibuster feeding into their paranoid fantasy that the federal government is about to send drones to destroy them.

        That is why constant vigilance like the work carried on by the Southern Poverty Law Center is a vital countermeasure, as are demonstrations like the student vigil on the Oberlin campus and the memorial to Bloody Sunday that we were witness to only last weekend. One of the strongest methods of keeping the extremist branches of the Republican party in check is constant vigilance to isolate the vigilantes.

  3. jnsgraphic says:

    Racial attitudes, both conscious and unconscious, may be a significant factor in the Presidents reelection, as much as we’d hope the impact of hate would decline over time … it appears the impact of anti-black sentiment is about the same as it was four years ago. These ‘racists’ feel threatened by an educated person of color with power, and would rather see the President and country fail than succeed. What a sad day if the ‘racists’ got their way… the rich would have gotten richer and the poor that much poorer, backstreet abortions, immigrants looked down upon, gays persecuted, social security living adjustments eliminated, inadequate health care and Wall St free to gamble and corrupt the marketplace once again. When President Obama Won, so did America’s future… God Bless America & God Bless Our President!

  4. Oberlin college use to have a yearly jazz fest, one of the, if not the first college to allow black to attend, like most human undertaking nothing is ever perfect. if it was Michelle Malkin would have never been allowed to attend Oberlin, I wonder how long it will take her to defend the KKK actions at her Alma Mater. It would not supprise me if she did not ask for honorary membership in the KKK, so she could participate in person.

  5. Germansmith says:

    Racism is appalling, but it is still part of human nature

    Racism can not be eliminated by legislation, this in most cases will increase it. (see racial quotas and preferences)
    Racism can be temporarely diminish by propaganda and a tough hand.(see Yugoslavia)
    Racism can be diminish by education and the attainment of true equality among the races (see some of the countries of the Caribbean, Spain, England)
    Racism can be turn around360 degrees by having one group have overwhelming power over another (see Israel)

    For every action there is a reaction. We have a black President and some black cabinet members that have made some controvertial and/or stupid decisions (and some good ones as well)

    Why do you expect racists to lay down and call it a day?

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