Oberlin College Students Boycott Historic Local Bakery After Racism Allegations, Bakery Owner Says He's Done Nothing Wrong
Gibson's denies that it racially profiles costumers, but students claim the store has profiled minority students for years.
Gibson's Bakery is an Oberlin, Ohio institution. It has been around for 100 years, and has historically been a favorite of residents of the town, and its famous liberal arts school, Oberlin College.
CBS News reports that now, however, many are wondering whether the bakery's management is racist.
The bakery has received multiple allegations of racial profiling, and has been the site of student protests.
Things began to sour between Gibson's and Oberlin College after three black Oberlin students were arrest for shoplifting in November 2016. The day after the students were arrested, hundreds of their fellow Oberlin students gathered outside of the bakery for a protest.
And that first protest wasn't the last. Which has led the bakery's owner to file a lawsuit claiming that the college and its dean slandered the shop as a "racist establishment."
One member of Oberlin's Black Student Union told WOIO-TV that there's been no slander. According to this student, Gibson's has a known history of discrimination.
"Multiple students have had accounts of being followed around the store, being accused of stealing, having to turn their pockets out when they weren't stealing anything just because they were black or brown students," the BSU member said.
The Associated Press reports that the 18- and 19-year-old black students who were arrested said that they were racially profiled, and that their only crime was trying to buy alcohol with fake identification. The shopkeeper, Allyn Gibson, disagress, and claims that before they were arrested, the three students attacked him and tried to steal wine bottles.
This August, the three arrested teens pleaded guilty to theft and aggravated trespassing. As was mandated by their plea agreement, they also publicly stated that Gibson's management isn't racist.
Boycotts and protests continue, however. In fact, the lawsuit alleges that current campus tours include a pointed mention of Gibson's as a racist establishment. The bakery's owners also claim that it's not just students who are no longer buying its pastries, but that Oberlin College itself has stopped placing the large orders it once did for school functions.
Former Oberlin professor Roger Copeland believes that Gibson's may be being unfairly targeted.
"I can understand why people were looking for some outlet for their frustration, but it's just counterproductive to bend that anger towards a small family business that to my knowledge is not guilty of the sort of racial profiling that people accuse it of," Copeland said.
Kameron Dunbar, an Oberlin junior and vice chair of the student senate, argued that just because Copeland and other supporters of Gibson's hadn't noticed any racism doesn't mean that it's not there.
"Racism can't always be proven on an Excel sheet," Dunbar said.
The clash has inspired Oberlin senior Jake Berstein, who said he witnessed the initial altercation, to produce a podcast trying to create a conversation that "isn't being had" between the two sides.
"Gibson's has become all that is wrong with America," Berstein said. "It's a classic case of those political bubbles that don't communicate with each other, and don't want to."