Interview: Responses to the Ferguson Decision on North and South Campus
In the wake of the Ferguson grand jury decision to not indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown, the campus rallied together to show solidarity. Oberlin College held many talks, safe spaces, viewings, discussions, and lectures about the goings-on in Ferguson. One of our marches even blocked up a highway in Cleveland. Still, when talking to my RA, Dominique Pearson, I learned that there were differences in responses to Ferguson depending on whether you lived on North or South campus. I decided to interview Dom and get their perspective on the divide between North and South campus.
Christie: So regarding the Ferguson decision, on Oberlin campus, would you say there were different responses depending on where you were geographically?
Dom: I mean, I don't know if there would necessarily be different responses, exactly. There would be different levels of response. The people on North campus don't as a whole care nearly as much about it as people on South campus do, probably because most of the houses specifically designed to be for people of color are on South campus. North campus is a lot of white people, which is fine, but they don't have as much of a strong emotional response to it. There was a lot more dismantling of specific strategies of protest than there was discussion of the necessity of protest.
C: So, would you say North campus doesn't care?
D: Not necessarily. There are people on North campus who care, but as a whole, the people who come to the marches and the rallies and the protests, and the people who are putting a lot of effort into taking this protest beyond now and actually doing something about it are mostly on South campus.
C: What was done on South campus to respond to the Ferguson decision?
D: First of all, there was an actual showing of it--the grand jury decision--in African Heritage house, which was really nice because a lot of people could come together and listen to it, so everyone could share in their opinions and their emotional responses together. Also, since A-House is on South campus, a lot of direct action came from there; a lot of the bodies for protests and marches and talks radiated from A-House onto their closest people, who are all on South campus. There were a lot of talks, safe spaces, marches... there were also people organizing ways to not only bring attention to this incident and why it's important to the greater Oberlin area, but also work on ways to combat issues like that and issues surrounding it, like militarization of police officers and police forces and oppression of poor black people in bigger communities and this one. We were trying to organize a coalition to meet with the families here and talk about what they would want from the college, and sort of help them. There were a lot of efforts to locally organize and start where we are, and then grow from there.
C: What was North campus' response; what did they do?
D: Well... not a lot. Not as much as South campus, that's for sure. People from North campus showed up to talks and marches and events, but it was still mostly South campus that organized everything. The largest amount of black people are on South campus, that's sort of where the impetus came from and that's where everything moved, but that doesn't mean North campus students didn't come. It just so happens that there's a concentration of black people on South campus, because of A-House and Third World Housing and stuff like that. North campus people still were a part of the events, because they care too.
C: So, would you say Oberlin comes together in trying times?
D: Yeah, I would definitely say so. I think that this is a school where the students involve themselves in a lot of political protest and try to take down oppressive systems. I would say so, yeah. I think our campus is better than most other campuses about coming together under a certain issue, whether or not that issue directly affects them. I think there were a lot of people who were not people of color who were coming to these things, and they were trying very hard to make sure that they were there in solidarity and as allies and not taking over, and that's the important thing.