I've been at Oberlin for seven years. That's kind of a long time if you think about it, and I can not think of a better place to choose not once, but twice. I'm living in a place I love to be in, a mecca and nourishing incubator for the arts and sciences, filled with humans that make me think harder than I've ever thought before and love more deeply than I knew was possible.
From what I have described above, perhaps it sounds like Oberlin is a perfect place. The only thing that you must keep in mind is that Oberlin is a part of the world, and the world is not yet perfect. There is sadness and a lot of other things, even in a place like Oberlin.
Over the past week, our campus community has been entrenched in a terrible thing, something that goes against so many of the established morals of Obies. It is sad, it is shocking, it is infuriating, it is one of the worst things I have even witnessed and been struck by. Words have been shared, aiming at Obies of every identity and exploding every place they are dropped. Word shrapnel is the worst kind, because what our minds and bodies do with it is the same thing that happens to a tree when it goes through drought or fire and lives to see another year — it doesn't look like we will survive, but we do, with the internal reminder of what the past held.
The words have happened. They have hurt. They have cut us down and knocked us over with force unlike any punch ever thrown. It's moments like this that make us doubt humanity and each other. This is not something I ever want for myself, my family (blood or otherwise) or the rest of the world, but it has happened. Oberlin couldn't have such hurt, you may think. This is a place with an aura of calm, a history of progress. But Oberlin is a part of the rest of the world, which means that the world's problems are ours, too.
Where Oberlin begins to differ from the rest of the world that I have experienced is in the next steps: the moments when we recognize that we must be better humans and to overcome strife we must band together. We must speak up and speak out, to not only hear our voices heard but to hear them mingle with others and echo back at us. These are the proud moments. These are the moments when you know that Oberlin is a special place, a model for a world we wish to inhabit.
Do not consider this blog post a giant pin to pop your Oberlin bubble. Know that the actions of those who choose Oberlin are the same actions that must be magnified in the world at large, and that Obies settle for nothing less. When we are hit with intolerance, with disregard for our identities, our thoughts, and our families, we are not quiet. Here at Oberlin, we are developing (or perhaps more accurately, honing) ourselves into the human beings that help change things: the ones who pick themselves up by bootstraps to stand taller, who speak up when voices need to be heard, and who can point at each scar accumulated along the way to proudly share the past as we move into the future.
[Edit 4:10pm on 2.15.13: Two commenters have asked for some clarification of the words used and how: hate speech appeared in written form on campus, on posters for Black History Month programming and in note form found in professors' mailboxes and in the Multicultural Resource Center, all within the past week.]