March 7th, 2013
04:16 PM ET

Opinion: Oberlin wrong to cancel classes after hate incidents

Editor's note: John S. Wilson is a contributing writer for Forbes, Huffington Post and Black Enterprise. He frequently writes about health and education policies and politics. He's on Twitter at @johnwilson.

By John S. Wilson, Special to CNN

(CNN) – When I was around 12 or 13, one of just a few black students in my entire grade, a substitute teacher made inappropriate remarks about slavery. When I got home, I just knew my mother would do something about it; this was a woman who visited my school as though she had to punch a clock.

She listened, said the teacher was wrong, and that was it. No angry phone calls, no marching to the school, no request for anyone to be reprimanded or fired. I was shocked. But she told me that my school didn’t share the same values as that teacher, and she was confident the unfortunate incident was temporary but the values the school instilled were permanent.

That’s what a school’s mission is all about: permanency. Instilling character that cannot be tarnished by temporary incidents – even when very offensive – over which it has little control.

But Oberlin College in Ohio made a very poor decision this week. Classes were canceled in response to a rash of racist and anti-gay incidents aimed at students and a student’s report she had seen someone on campus dressed in a white hooded robe. (Police said they received a report of a student wearing a blanket, but couldn’t say whether the incidents were related.)

On Monday, the campus held a “Day of Solidarity,” which consisted of diversity programming, an Africana teach-in, and what Meredith Gadsby, chairwoman of the Africana Studies Department, called “positive propaganda.” If you're at a loss for exactly what that is, think a collegiate version of a “Sesame Street” marathon, minus Oscar the Grouch.

Oberlin passed up an opportunity. Instead of canceling classes, they should have continued normal business while finding ways to draw upon their incredibly strong history of diversity and inclusion.

By canceling classes and generally overreacting – let's face it, racism and baseless discriminatory scrawls on posters and walls will never go away – Oberlin is only sheltering students, instead of assisting them to overcome adversity, an action that would truly fortify their character. What example does this set for students, many of whom will soon be in the workforce? If a supervisor or co-worker offends them, who will be there then to host their day of solidarity?

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Filed under: Education • Race • What we think
March 7th, 2013
12:45 PM ET

Sheryl Sandberg:"Don't hate her because she's successful"

(CNN) - CNN Anchor Soledad O' Brien speaks to TIME's Executive Editor Radhika Jones about the magazine's cover story on Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

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Filed under: How we live • What we think • Who we are • Women
March 7th, 2013
08:44 AM ET

Opinion: Shame on Democrats for race-baiting

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.

By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor

San Diego (CNN) - Did you think the Republican Party had cornered the market on racism, nativism and ethnic demagoguery? If so, think again.

That is the GOP's modus operandi when it comes to the immigration issue. In an ugly trend that started in the Southwest in the 1990s but has now moved on to the South and Midwest, Republicans have learned to scare up votes by exploiting fear of changing demographics and the anxiety that many Americans have about an "invasion" of illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.

But this fear of foreigners has proven just effective enough that Democrats are now borrowing the GOP's playbook to advance their own causes.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Here's the difference: The voters who fear-mongering Democrats want to manipulate aren't so much afraid of what worries many conservatives - that immigrants are supposedly lowering our standard of living, changing the country's complexion and weakening our sense of national identity. They're more afraid that foreign workers - either here in the United States or even in their home countries - are going to take their jobs, lower wages, or prove so attractive to companies and factories that jobs go overseas.

In other words, the fears aren't cultural; they're economic. But the way that Democrats exploit those fears is still the same: racism, nativism and ethnic demagoguery.