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.
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.