Over the weekend, reporter Ted Koppel did a segment on the court battle between Oberlin College and Gibson’s bakery. The 13-minute report is very well done; you can see it in full below. But over at Legal Insurrection, Professor William Jacobsen noticed something surprising about the report:
What jumped out at me was the interview with Carmen Twillie Ambar, Oberlin College’s president, who took over after the events at issue. In the interview, Ambar repeated what has become a core part of Oberlin College’s post-trial public relations campaign, the suggestion that Gibson’s Bakery may actually have engaged in racial profiling. It was couched in the interview as a perception issue, that students and faculty had a perception — their own truth and lived experience — of racial profiling.
Usually, people who lose a defamation lawsuit to the tune of $44 million are more careful about what they say afterward, but President Ambar is still repeating a softened version of the claims made on the flyers that were given out during protests, i.e. “This is a RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION.” Here’s a portion of the exchange between Koppel and Ambar:
Now, there are huge sums of money hanging in the balance, but to this day, the president of Oberlin makes allusions to a pattern of racist behavior – if not the specific incident that set things off three years ago.
Carmen Twilley Ambar said, “Well, the students plead guilty to shoplifting. There has been some debate about whether it was shoplifting or false ID.”
“Well, it was both,” Koppel said.
“Right. Well, I think that one of the things that the college has always said is that the college has not, doesn’t condone shoplifting, doesn’t condone bad behavior by its students in any way, shape or form. But what led up to the protest, and I think that’s sort of, kind of the core issue here, was some series of things that happened before, some perspectives about people’s experiences in the store.”
“Well, tell me about those, then, and be specific. What specific incidents are you referring to that happened before?” Koppel asked.
“Well, I think that the specific incidents would be the perception by faculty and students and staff and other people in the town that there had been disparate treatment with respect to people of color in the store. The way I would phrase it [is] kind of different ‘lived experiences.'”
There was no evidence that Gibson’s had a history of racial profiling. Police looked up records of everyone who’d been arrested for shoplifting at Gibson’s and found the racial breakdown matched the demographics of the local population almost perfectly.
Oberlin College (unsuccessfully) tried to keep out police records showing no racial profiling at Gibson's Bakery: 40 arrested, 32 were white (80%), six were African-American (15%), and two were Asian (5%), pretty much matched city's racial makeup. https://t.co/2nCQ0UQbi4 pic.twitter.com/OSTAlaK6xL
— Legal Insurrection (@LegInsurrection) June 15, 2019
This is a solid story. It points out that two of the Gibson’s, having been smeared as racists by woke college students and aided by the school’s equally woke administrators, are likely to die before this case is resolved. That’s terrible, but hopefully, the youngest Gibson will live to see the school pay a very high price for it.