This past Tuesday at Lipscomb University, President Landy Lowry hosted a dinner for a selected group of African American students where there was a questionable and quite controversial decor choice — stalks of cotton. Further from the Instagram picture showing the cotton centerpiece at the president’s dinner, the meal options themselves raised some eyebrows, as they were all predominantly what the students considered “black meals,” including mac and cheese, collard greens and corn bread. In addition to the complaints held over that night’s meal option and decor choice, Monday’s presidential dinner was with selected Latino students where tacos were served, with no decor. An event like this is a clear indicator of the racial ignorance that still exists when there is no diversity in the voices making decisions such as presidential dinners. It is sad to read of events like these happening, especially when we are suppose to be living in a time when socially insensitive decisions as big as this should not be occurring.
This incident also highlights the importance of diversity in a social environment and in all aspects of decision making. Lipscomb University is a predominantly white school, something noted in Lipscomb student Nakayla Yvonne’s Instagram post. This lack of diversity present among Lipscomb faculty and students could have very likely led to the president’s ignorance regarding racial stereotyping. Here in 2017, an age where there is a huge dialogue on social media about racial incidents and insensitive events, a dinner hosted by the university’s president should not have had to deal with this problem. First, out of all decor options available for dinner situations, why would a cotton plant for the centerpiece be considered over any other plant? When the president was asked this question by his students, he responded that he thought it was “fallish”— however, the cotton centerpiece was not there the previous night. This makes it clear that the president specifically picked out the cotton plant for the event, and in doing so, he was completely ignorant of the plant’s implication in context of the situation and the callous symbol of slavery it held for the students.
Although Lowry has since apologized for the dinner options, apologizing does not quite cut it when it comes to setting up a “black students get-together” only to ornate the tables with cotton flowers. After justifying his grotesque mockery by suggesting that “it isn’t inherently bad if we’re all wearing it,” he further remarked how he wanted to have comfort food available for the African American students.
Holding such events in sake of racial diversity and then decorating them in such offensive manners is not only distasteful but unacceptable in the 21st century. If anything, this situation demonstrates the importance of diversity in social environments in putting an end to racial ignorance and insensitivity.
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