A discarded banana peel is causing a racial witch hunt at the University of Mississippi.
A student leader with Ole Miss’s Greek Life, Ryan Swanson, admitted to placing a banana peel on a tree in the woods during a leadership retreat, because he couldn’t find a nearby trashcan.
Unfortunately for him, three black students found the piece of litter—and were “triggered” by what they saw as a demeaning racial slur. As a result, the retreat was cut short—and Greek leaders were forced to spend an entire day discussing “symbolism,” whether it was intentional or not.
“To be clear, many members of our community were hurt, frightened, and upset by what occurred,” wrote Alexa Lee Arndt, the interim director for Fraternity and Sorority Life, in a letter obtained by the Daily Mississippian.
“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,” Arndt added.
Swanson formally apologized that his unintentional littering caused such chaos:
“I want to sincerely apologize for the events that took place this past weekend,” he wrote, in a statement to the Daily Mississippian. “Although unintentional, there is no excuse for the pain that was caused to members of our community.
“I want to thank my friends in the NPHC for their candid and constructive conversations that we have continued to have,” he added. “I have much to learn and look forward to doing such and encourage all members of our university community to do the same. We must all keep in mind how our actions affect those around us differently.”
However, one of the black students who found the banana peel was unimpressed by the discussion that popped up at the retreat.
“There were a lot of emotions being showed and a lot of transparency,” said Makala McNeil, one of the black students who found the banana peel. “I just don’t feel as though it was being facilitated in a constructive way.”
“You see how much fear and how much anger you insight in black people just from an unintentional image,” she added.
The littering has been sent up the chain to Ole Miss’s Office of Diversity and Community Engagement—which is now putting together a plan to see “what makes the most sense” in further discussions about race on campus.