Stereotypical “black meals” were served on tables featuring cotton-stalk centerpieces to African-American college students during a recent event hosted by a Tennessee university administrator, provoking outrage, the New York Daily News reports.
The dinner was held to “give African-American students the opportunity to discuss their experiences” at the predominantly white Lipscomb University, President Randy Lowry said. However, the move backfired and attendees were confronted by “uncomfortable” and painful reminders of what African-Americans endured during slavery at Lowry’s Nashville home on Friday.
The tables’ unique choice of decorations, accompanied by menus that included cornbread, collard greens and macaroni and cheese, were offensive, one student named Nakayla wrote in a lengthy Instagram post.
So I attend Lipscomb university and as most of you know that is a predominately white school. Tonight AFRICAN AMERICAN students were invited to have dinner with the president of the school. As we arrived to the president's home and proceeded to go in we seen cotton as the center pieces. We also stood and ate dinner, there were no seats to sit in and it felt very uncomfortable. We were very offended, and also the meals that were provided resembled many "black meals" they had mac n cheese, collard greens, corn bread etc. The night before Latinos also had dinner at his house and they had tacos. They also DIDN'T have the center piece that we HAD tonight. A couple of minutes went by, the president was coming around and asking for our names and what our major was. He finally got to our table and my friend @kay_cyann asked why there was cotton on the table as the center piece. His response was that he didn't know, he seen it before we did, he kind of thought it was " fallish", THEN he said " it ISNT INHERENTLY BAD IF WERE ALL WEARING IT " then walked off. Later on all of us that were there were invited into the home, and we had the impression that we were coming to speak about how us as Black people feel about Lipscomb. The whole entire time we were in their home they only talked about themselves( how they met, got married and ended up at lipscomb) & the ONLY question that we were asked was our transformation coming to lipscomb. A couple of women answered the question but they sugar coated it. They said any other questions that we may have can be emailed to the advocate for the Latinos and that a second meeting may be held. Also we don't have an advocate on campus, the only African American advocate we had, no longer works here. The only advocate available to us is the advocate for the Latinos. They claim to have funding for minorities, BUT you have to live up to the expectations of a typical Black family to even get the 1000$.There is NO FUNDING for just us black students. #share
When asked about the reason for the vases with stalks of cotton, Lowry told students that the stalks were “fallish,” the New York Daily News reports.
“Then he [Lowry] said, ‘It isn’t inherently bad if were (sic) all wearing it,’ then walked off,” Nakayla wrote about Lowry’s response.
The centerpieces were added for the dinner with Black students following another meal held for Latino students on Sept. 14, Nakayla also wrote on Instagram. Those students were served tacos during their dinner with the president, the report says.
Lowry later apologized for the tone-deaf display following backlash on social media, USA Today reports.
The incident brings to mind issues surrounding how white privilege plays into student and administrators’ interactions on college campuses across the nation. With the aid of social media, Black students are speaking out about these incidents without apology.