The “woke” movement subscribes to a curious moral code. Its nature is unforgiving. Fall short in any way, and there is no road back. The acts in question may be recent or past, mistaken or deliberate—that does not matter. Absolution is impossible.
At the same time, the woke reject any sense of responsibility. If caught breaking the rules, the default position is denial. If defeated, the tactic is to double down. With enough insistence, the most blatant falsehood can be presented as true. If necessary, the most embarrassing contradictions can be forgotten.
Destroying A Century of Goodwill
The case of Oberlin College and Gibson’s Bakery offers critical insights into this woke character flaw.
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The tale begins when Oberlin’s then-Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo, unleashed the dogs of woke-dom on Gibson’s Bakery. Her behavior, and the subsequent behavior of the College, was so outrageous that the Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed a judgment against the College to the tune of $31.2 million, plus the Gibsons’ attorneys’ fees.
The judgment will not drive the College into bankruptcy. According to its figures, Oberlin possessed total assets of $1.8 billion as of June 30, 2021. Even so, losing over thirty million dollars because of one morning’s foolishness has to hurt.
Ironically, the Gibson case involves a family with a long history of opposing slavery. Sometime before the Civil War, the Gibson family settled near Oberlin. One of the College’s education professors related in a 2019 article in Commentary that the Gibsons moved there because of Oberlin’s abolitionist reputation. In 1885, some family members established a bakery, happily supplying its wares—including locally famous whole-wheat doughnuts—to the town and College ever since.
A Petty Crime with Major Consequences
Over a century of goodwill evaporated on November 9, 2016. Jonathan Aladin, an underage African-American student, tried to purchase wine at Gibson’s. Allyn Gibson, the owner’s grandson, detected the false I.D. and refused the sale. A few minutes later, Mr. Aladin tried to leave the store with the wine bottle under his coat. Mr. Gibson gave chase across the street, at which point Mr. Aladin and two other students beat him up. The police arrested the students, and the Gibsons pressed charges.
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Word travels fast in small communities. The following day, 200 to 300 students protested in front of the bakery.
The students’ flier was as inflammatory as it was inaccurate.
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“This is a RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION. Today we urge you to shop elsewhere in light of a particularly heinous event involving the owners of this establishment and local law enforcement.
“PLEASE STAND WITH US
“A member of our community was assaulted by the owner of this establishment yesterday. A nineteen y/o young man was apprehended and choked by Allyn Gibson of Gibson’s Food Mart & Bakery. The young man, who was accompanied by 2 friends was choked until the 2 forced Allyn to let go. After [t]he young man was free, Allyn chased him across College St. and into Tappan Square. There, Allyn tackled him and restrained him again until Oberlin police arrived. The 3 were racially profiled on the scene. They were arrested without being questioned, asked their names, or read their rights. 2 were released shortly after and charged with assault. The young man is being held in Lorain County Jail, charged with robbery. No bail until his arraignment this Friday 8:30 AM, 65 S Main.
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“If you have been victimized by this establishment in any capacity, we ask you to stand with us in support of our community member.” (Emphasis in original.)
The flier did not mention shoplifting.
Official Sanction for Illegal Actions
Oberlin Dean Meredith Raimondo was among the protestors. Many onlookers heard her encouraging the students, distributing the fliers, and authorizing the use of the College’s copying machines to print more. Later in the day, the College provided pizza for the protestors. Dr. Raimondo approved reimbursement for gloves that students purchased because of the cold weather.
Over the next few months, the bakery was vandalized, employees’ tires were slashed, and bakery owner Allyn W. Gibson suffered three broken vertebrae while dealing with a related situation.
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The Gibsons reached out to the College administration, asking that it do something to refute the charges of racism. Then-President Marvin Krislov refused.
Nine months after his arrest, Jonathan Aladin pled guilty to attempted theft, aggravated trespassing and underage purchase of alcohol. His friends also pled guilty. They read statements acknowledging that the Gibsons’ actions had not been racially motivated. The judge did not impose any jail time.
The students had a friend in the courtroom, Antoinette Myers, Oberlin’s Multicultural Resource Center director. From the courtroom, she texted her superior, Dean Meredith Raimondo. “I hope we rain fire and brimstone on that store.”
When three Oberlin professors tried to calm the troubled waters, the e-mails between Dean Raimondo and her underlings lapsed into the obscene.
The College Loses in Court-Twice
All other options exhausted, the Gibsons sued the College and won. At that point, even left of center CBS News sympathized with the Gibsons.
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Meredith Raimondo is no longer the Dean of Students at Oberlin. She is the Vice President for Student Affairs at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia. Oglethorpe’s webpage assures potential students and parents that it is “Recognized nationally for our commitment to individualized student support, our diverse student population, quality of academic programs, and affordability, Oglethorpe is a place where students from all backgrounds become critical thinkers, dynamic professionals, and leaders in their communities.”
When Dean Raimondo left, new President Carmen Ambar dismissed any idea that the Gibsons incident or the lawsuit had anything to do with it. She told The Oberlin Review that “I cannot say that as strongly as I want to, this has absolutely nothing to do with Gibson’s.”
In a 2019 interview, President Ambar argued that the jury unjustly held the College responsible for the students’ speech, saying that “the College didn’t condone the flier.” As stated above, Oberlin appealed to the State Supreme Court and lost again.
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However, this story has not reached its end. According to the British Daily Mail, Oberlin refuses to crack open its checkbook. According to the report, it is “considering its options.”
Preserving and Promoting Truth
Bakery co-owner David Gibson—son of one Allyn Gibson and father of the other—died of pancreatic cancer on November 16, 2019. Before his death, Mr. Gibson recorded a video-taped message to the family’s supporters in which he said, “The fight has always been about sending the message that the truth still matters.”
Oberlin College’s motto is “Learning and Labor.” Presumably, with time and experience, learning becomes wisdom. Hopefully, Oberlin—and all of the world’s “woke” colleges and universities—will discover the wisdom in David Gibson’s parting message. The “woke” hysteria will pass, as all lies do. Truth remains.