Two weeks ago, a Hobby Lobby customer ignited backlash against the store’s use of cotton decorations. A week later, black Lipscomb University students were outraged when they attended a dinner at the president’s home to find cotton used as centerpieces.
Many individuals fought back against these claims, arguing cotton is a common Southern décor item, not a racist symbol. However, in the Lipscomb University scenario, there was more to the story.
A day prior to the black students’ arrival at President Randy Lowry’s home, Latino students also had a dinner at his home. The Latino students were served Mexican food including tacos, and as one student noted in an Instagram post, the cotton stalks were not present when Latino students were at the president’s home.
Not only so, but the students were served a typical ‘southern, soul food’ meal — macaroni and cheese, corn bread and collard greens. The students criticized the meal choice on Instagram, claiming each meal item was often associated as being in ‘black’ meals.
I do not believe President Lowry intended to make his students feel uncomfortable nor do I think he had racist intentions behind his meal choice. Similar to the Latino students, I think the president was simply trying to make the students feel more at home.
Being from the South, I would not have blinked an eye if someone served me the same traditional ‘Southern’ meal at his or her home. In fact, most meals I have been invited to in the South included macaroni and cheese, collard greens and corn bread.
But I also see where the students are coming from. According to the students, not only was the meal choice a gesture that came close to crossing the line, but the presence of cotton also further pushed the boundary.
Whether you think cotton is a racist symbol is not important. The lesson here is the students had a negative perception of the plant due to history. Sometimes there are things in a person’s personal life – a cultural symbol, words, names or memories that hurt their feelings, and although other people may not understand why, they should still respect their feelings.
This is not the only instance where racial boundaries were stepped on. Although individuals have good intentions, the line is still crossed and ignorance is still an issue.
I am not black. I am not Latino. I am not a minority. I cannot pretend to understand what minorities feel or undergo, but I can see racism still alive in the 21st century, and I know ignorance plays a major role.
Stop bending over backwards trying to relate to minority groups if you are not a minority. Learn about different cultures, seek to understand and recognize we are all equals. When we overcompensate, it only proves ignorance.
In the words of Morgan Freeman, “If you want to get rid of racism, stop talking about it.”
Recognize we are all equals, and if all else fails, revert back to the Golden Rule and simply treat others the way you would want to be treated.