What happens when a progressive student mob is able to apply its “virtues” to real-world situations? In November 2016, Allyn Gibson, a white worker at his family’s eponymous store in Oberlin, caught a black student shoplifting and attempted to wrestle the student to the ground after the student ran out of the store with bottles of wine. (Full disclosure: I was personally acquainted with Gibson through a jujitsu class.) My former professor Abe Socher chronicled the fallout in Commentary: Students demonstrated outside Gibson’s for days afterward, calling for a boycott of the store. College administrators encouraged the demonstrations and cancelled Oberlin’s daily order of baked goods from Gibson’s, a major source of the store’s business. In August 2017, the student at the center of the episode pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges including attempted theft.
The incident was of course not solely about “racism:” It was a college-versus-townie struggle pitting an elite institution with a large endowment against a small business owned by a working-class family. Last summer a jury ruled that Oberlin owed millions of dollars in damages to the Gibson family for libeling them as racists. The college then filed an appeal, claiming that compensating the Gibson family for libel and emotional distress would infringe upon “free speech” rights on college campuses. The case is ongoing.
All across the country, graduates of elite colleges with monolithic progressive politics — such as the one I attended — have finally grown up. The progressive children of the overclass have found their professional footing and brought their “Oberlin mentality” into the workplace. Unfortunately, that mentality has spread far beyond the Times.