Oberlin — mass hate crimes, mass hysteria, or some combination?
Oberlin College experienced some campus drama Monday with a report of someone dressed in KKK garb on campus. Via Slate:
Oberlin College canceled classes Monday after someone reported spotting a person walking on campus wearing what appeared to be a Ku Klux Klan-like hooded robe, the latest in a month-long string of racial incidents on the campus of a college that was among the first in the nation to begin regularly admitting black students nearly two centuries ago.
School officials say that security and local police are investigating the report and that all classes and “nonessential activities” on campus have been suspended in order to hold a school-wide discussion on the “challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks.”
I was skeptical when I started drafting this post and read in The NY Times that the sighting was by someone driving by in a car at 1:30 a.m.:
There were few details of the sighting, which occurred at 1:30 a.m. on Monday, Mr. Wargo said. The person who reported it was in a car “and came back around and didn’t see the individual again,” he added.
My skepticism seems justified by this report, just breaking, that the Klan outfit likely was just a woman walking wrapped in a blanket (emphasis added):
Ohio liberal-arts school Oberlin College has been plagued recently by an uncomfortable amount of hate-speech incidents, mostly in the form of ugly graffiti, but it was the eyewitness account of a person in a KKK-like outfit that put things over the edge: Classes were canceled and “A Day of Solidarity” arranged instead. “We have made significant progress in the investigation of these instances,” school president Marvin Krislov told students yesterday, but the local Chronicle-Telegram reports a more innocuous explanation: “Oberlin police Lt. Mike McCloskey said that authorities did find a pedestrian wrapped in a blanket. He said police interviewed another witness later in the day and that person also saw a female walking with a blanket.”
What is going on at Oberlin? Are these all true acts of hate, or just someone or some people creating apparent hate crimes?
I am not the only one who has doubts about the culprits or motives. An analysis in The Atlantic Wire by J.K. Trotter notes theories range from student pranks, to staff members, to unhappy citizens of the college town. No matter who did it or why, there was only one way it was going to end:
This history doesn’t really explain how these incidents occurred, but it does explain how Oberlin’s administration decided to react, by canceling classes and devoting a day to discussion about what happened. There’s no way to tell, of course, if this will stop these incidents from happening again.
The identities of the students who perpetrated earlier acts, such as scribbling the “N” word at various places on campus, have not been revealed, but The Guardian suggests the students were caught but have uncertain motives:
“My understanding is that the individuals are college students and they have been identified. They are no longer on campus. The college is dealing with it internally, and we have been working in co-operation with the college.”
He added: “Charges could be happening, depending on prosecutors’ review. Our case file has been forwarded to prosecutors.”
Two students are thought to be behind the vandalism, but it is unclear if they were motivated by racial hatred, or – as has been suggested – were attempting a commentary on free speech.
And it seems that Oberlin College has a real history of race-based drama. Michelle Malkin recalled an incident from her alma mater:
Back in the 1990s, race-obsessed nutballs at Oberlin College in Ohio cooked up a horrid hate crime hoax. Asian-American students claimed that a phantom racist had spray-painted anti-Asian racial epithets on a campus landmark rock. Turned out that it was a warped Asian-American student who perpetrated the dirty deed. Whoops. Never mind.
Malkin’s piece also has a detailed list of manufactured racism incidents.
Even Mark Potok, who runs the Hatewatch blog at the Southern Poverty Law Center (known to falsely accuse the Tea Party of violence and racism), admits that there is a wave of fake hate crimes, Bogus hate crimes all the rage.
My own alma mater, University of California-San Diego suffered from a “fake hate hoax”, in which a minority student said she found a noose in a library. That generated protests and tension, too — all, based on fiction.
So what’s going on at Oberlin?
There’s drama, for sure, but is it based on fact or fiction?