Who knew bananas could be a sign of racism? Who knew they would trigger college students at the sight of them? We all know of the “imperialism of the banana”. The banana always gets the invite to the smoothie. It always bullies all of the juices. Yes, they tolerate the Strawberry to a degree, but no matter what the banana is always present. But, I was completely unaware of the blatant racism that embodies the banana. Who knew that littering biodegradable peels would cause college students to meltdown into full day workshops and discussion forums? Well, with the way college is these days, I guess no one should be surprised
From the Daily Mississippian:
This weekend, leaders from Ole Miss Greek life convened upon Camp Hopewell in Lafayette County for a three-day retreat designed to build leaders and bring campus closer together. The retreat was cut short Saturday night, however, after three black students found a banana peel in a tree in front of one of the camp’s cabins.
The students shared what they found with National Pan-Hellenic Council leaders, sparking a day’s worth of camp-wide conversation surrounding symbolism, intended or not. In the midst of the open and sometimes heated discussion, senior accounting major Ryan Swanson said he put the banana peel in the tree when he could not find a trashcan nearby.
Alexa Lee Arndt, interim director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said she was one of the only university staff members acting in an administrative capacity at the weekend retreat. Monday afternoon, she sent a letter to all campus chapter presidents, council officers and chapter advisers, confirming the incident and outlining the university’s plans.
“To be clear, many members of our community were hurt, frightened, and upset by what occurred at IMPACT … 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 wrote in the letter acquired by The DM.
Student members of Panhellenic Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council and Interfraternity Council were all present at the retreat, which was organized by Fraternity and Sorority Life and the national group IMPACT. IMPACT is a campus-based leadership institute designed to foster improved relationships among campus leaders through a retreat-type program.
Makala McNeil, president of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, one of the nine historically African-American sororities and fraternities, said she saw the banana peel after leaving a group discussion that addressed race relations. Saturday morning, all of the retreat’s participants ate breakfast together, followed by a session where they shared their feelings on race relations at Ole Miss. The breakfast options included a fruit cart with bananas.
“The overall tone was heavy,” McNeil, a senior integrated marketing communications and sociology major, said. “I mean, we were talking about race in Mississippi, at the University of Mississippi and in the Greek community, so there’s a lot involved.”
After the large discussion session, the students split into smaller conversation groups. McNeil said that around noon on Saturday, she was walking with friends to their group session across camp when one of her sorority sisters pointed at a tree 15 feet away. She said that about six feet up the tree’s trunk sat a lone, fresh-looking banana peel.
“It was so strange and surreal to see it there,” McNeil said. “We were all just sort of paranoid for a second.”
She said the image was especially disturbing in light of an incident on American University’s campus in May of this year. The morning Taylor Dumpson was to take over as the school’s first female black student government president, students found bananas hanging from nooses across campus. Some of the bananas were inscribed with references to Dumpson’s sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha.
“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,” McNeil said.
McNeil said that by lunchtime, people throughout the camp knew about the incident. As lunch rolled into the afternoon discussion group, the banana peel dominated chatter. That afternoon’s group discussion session served as an open forum on the incident.
Apparently, student Ryan Swanson admitted to discarding the banana peel in a tree after he was unable to locate a garbage can, and it was later spotted by Alpha Kappa Alpha President Makala McNeil, who leads one of the campuses historically black sororities.
Jumping to conclusions at the sight of litter is pretty over the top. Instead of seeing a banana peel and immediately calling for Town Halls, workshops, group discussions, and canceling retreats, take a moment to think of Occam’s razor. Suppose there exist two explanations for this occurrence, of a banana peel in a tree. You could assume it was a racially motivated attack, a symbol of racist hatred. Or, you could simply assume it was someone who was lazy, and couldn’t expend the energy to locate a garbage receptacle. In this case, the simpler one is usually better.