A University of Mississippi “Greek life” retreat was cut short this past weekend after a triggering banana peel was seen in a tree.
From the Daily Mississippian:
(Makala) 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.’
The second of paranoia was evidentially long-lasting, as the banana peel caused some students to think of an incident at American University in May where bananas were hung from nooses after the swearing in of an African-American student government president. Eventually, the whole Greek-life retreat was cut short after discussion of the banana peel fueled fear and anger.
Again, from the Daily Mississippian:
The students shared what they found with National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) 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.
Swanson owned up to being the peel-hanging culprit and apologized, but since the incident occurred after a panel on race-relations the “un-intentional image” became the “banana peel incident.”
We’ll let the Daily Mississippian take us out from here:
'I want to sincerely apologize for the events that took place this past weekend,’ Swanson said in a statement to The DM on Tuesday night. ‘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. 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.’
McNeil said that if the banana peel incident was an accident, people need to consider the effects of their actions versus their intent.
‘You see how much fear and how much anger you insight in black people just from an unintentional image,’ she said.
The conversation carried on, and tensions continued to rise. White and black members of the Ole Miss Greek community shared their views on the day’s events and race relations in general. McNeil said people had a lot to say, but the conversation began to move in an unhealthy direction.
‘There were a lot of emotions being showed and a lot of transparency,’ McNeil said. ‘I just don’t feel as though it was being facilitated in a constructive way.’
The massive discussion session wrapped up as more and more students stood and left the room – some in tears, some in frustration. NPHC members began texting friends to come and pick them up from the camp since no one had been allowed to drive his or her car up to the retreat. The remainder of the retreat was canceled later that night.
Please, please read the full story and see the banana peel photo at the Daily Mississippian.