Victim of banana peel incident says ‘heart dropped instantly’
One of the students who discovered the banana peel that led the University of Mississippi to abruptly end a Greek Life retreat has explained that her “heart dropped instantly” at the sight.
As Campus Reform reported Thursday, a Greek Life retreat at Ole Miss was promptly cancelled after a banana peel was found hanging in a tree.
A student later revealed that he threw the peel because he could not find a garbage can, but the incident made some students uneasy, so school officials “felt it was imperative to provide space immediately to students affected by this incident.”
One of those students, Makala McNeil, who was one of the first to report the banana peel, wrote a letter to the editor of The Daily Mississippian Thursday, in which she states that she and her peers “understood the potential pitfalls of allowing white journalists to write our story,” and now feel it is necessary to “contextualize the fear that the incident inspired.”
McNeil begins by offering readers a step-by-step narrative of her encounter with the banana peel, writing that her “sorority sister was the first to see it” as they and another student were walking back to their cabins.
“As we approached the cabin, she abruptly stopped. Her eyes widened. Her jaw dropped. She frantically pointed at a tree, exclaiming, ‘Look! Look! In the tree!’ It was a banana, dangling from a limb,” McNeil recounts, noting that her “heart dropped instantly” as she and her companions “began to scan the area around us to see if we were in any immediate harm.”
Her letter goes on to claim that “bananas have historically been used by white people as derogatory to dehumanize and denigrate black people," complaining that while some of the white students "seemed receptive" during a camp-wide meeting to discuss the incident, "others appeared apathetic."
“Even today, bananas remain an intimidation tactic, intended to instill fear in black communities,” she adds, recalling a prior incident at American University where bananas were found dangling from trees the day after the school elected its first female black student body president.
Notably, while student Ryan Swanson claimed he was unable to find a garbage can for the peel, McNeil contends in her letter that there was one located “a few feet away” from where the incident occurred.
She concludes by defending the decision to cancel the remainder of the retreat after the banana peel was discovered, declaring that “whether last weekend’s incident was an honest mistake or a malicious threat,” the response “was valid and authentic, especially given the present state of race relations in our country and at our university.”
McNeil asserts that “this incident is indicative of a broader campus culture,” noting that critics have suggested that students either “fabricated” or “exaggerated” the psychological effect of the fruit.
“It is no exaggeration to say that black students often feel as though they are under attack,” she writes. “We must confront a culture that dismisses black experiences, supporting the notion that constructive dialogue can actually foster a level of cultural understanding amongst different races.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski