At a 3-day Greek Life leadership retreat for students at the University of Mississippi, participants were shocked, triggered, “hurt, frightened, and upset” upon finding a discarded banana peel during the retreat.
The banana incident resulted in the leadership retreat – being attended by campus leaders expected to exercise leadership and organizational responsibility over their fellow students – to be cut short. Makala McNeil, leader of a historically black sorority on campus, recalling how the banana affected her psyche, “That, to me, was a slap in the face to see that banana hanging in a tree after talking about the personal truths of our campus,” she continued, “we were talking about race in Mississippi and in the Greek community so there’s a lot involved.”
When she and her peers first laid eyes on the offensive peel, she recalled how everyone became, “all just sort of paranoid for a second,” in the presence of a situation “so strange and surreal.”
Needless to say, black student’s minds immediately and reflexively sought an explanation by invoking 1930’s era racism. “You see how much fear and how much anger you insight [sic] in black people just from an unintentional image,” McNeil recalled.
The school fully backed and supported the traumatized black students, with Alexa Lee Arndt, Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life penning a letter to all Greek Life leaders stating that, “many members of our community were hurt, frightened, and upset by what occurred … Because of the underlying reality many students of color endure on a daily basis, the conversation manifested into a larger conversation about race relations today at the University of Mississippi.”
“As the staff member responsible for the wellbeing of our community, I felt it was imperative to provide [safe] space immediately to students affected by this incident to allow them an opportunity to voice their pain and concern,” Arndt expressed.
Hilariously, it was college senior Ryan Swanson who later came clean about this apparently horrifically scarring and traumatic incident. Swanson recalls that, while attending the leadership retreat, he had discarded the peel on the tree, after he was unable to locate a convenient trash can. “I want to sincerely apologize for the events that took place this past weekend,” Swanson said. “Although unintentional, there is no excuse for the pain that was caused to members of our community,” he groveled.
The leader of another sorority, who was attending the conference explained that the event was painful, because “bananas have historically been used to demean black people,” by suggesting they are ape-like.
The member of yet another historically black sorority chimed in to call the sight of a banana peel, “ disheartening and immensely frustrating,” and stated that “I implore all of us to unite in solidarity by this situation. … We must show those in the community that bigotry, hate, and racism cannot, and will not be tolerated.”
When was the last time you ate a banana? Were you careful to hide your banana peel from nearby individuals who might have taken offense?