Check Your Woke Privilege, Oberlin

Check Your Woke Privilege, Oberlin. By Rich Lowry.

Janet Fiskio teaches ENVS 302 course in the AJLC.


A crowd gathered in front of Gibson’s store on College Street on Thursday afternoon to protest a shoplifting arrest.

Protesters chanted “No justice, no peace, no racist beliefs” and “wake up, stay woke” as they picketed the store.

People are protesting the arrest of a 19-year-old black male arrested for shoplifting, saying that he was tackled by Allyn Gibson. Gibson was unavailable for comment, but employee Trey James said it was a simple shoplifting case, and there was no racial motivation.

What just happened:

If there is one thing you learn about at Oberlin College, the notoriously progressive liberal-arts college, it is surely privilege: white privilege, hetero privilege, gender privilege, you name it.

Now, an Ohio jury has identified an entirely new variety, woke privilege, and resolved to hold people who believe they are protected by it to account.

The jury handed down a staggering $11 million verdict against Oberlin for a smear campaign against a local business, and it awarded another $33 million in punitive damages to the targeted mom-and-pop store, Gibson’s Food Market and Bakery.

The damages will certainly be reduced, but the verdict is a shot across the bow of well-heeled institutions tempted to join social-justice mobs.

Oberlin thought that it could defame Gibson’s as racist with impunity, that the hothouse rules of campus politics applied (i.e., anyone accused of racism is ipso facto guilty of racism), and that no one would question its superior righteousness and cultural power vis-à-vis a mere local business.

In other words, Oberlin counted on its woke privilege to give it the latitude to discount reason, evidence, and fair play. …

It is wrong to steal, even if you are an Oberlin student, even if you are a member of a historically oppressed group. But the Oberlin worldview is opposed to such simplistic truths, and students immediately began protesting Gibson’s on the theory that, because the store stopped black kids from shoplifting, it must be racist.