The Banana Peel Horror

When real life becomes satire.

The link above is to a story coming out of the University of Mississippi (AKA: Ole Miss) about a retreat for Greek students, those involved in fraternities and sororities, being cancelled because Makala McNeil, president of one of the historically black sororities on campus, came across a banana peel that was stuck in a tree. Apparently, that was enough to “trigger” enough fear and anger among students of color that those in charge of the retreat felt it necessary to cancel the remaining days of the retreat in order to immediately respond to the need of affected students for a safe space.

A student named Ryan Swanson came forward and admitted to discarding the banana peel in the tree because, he said, he couldn’t find a trash can. Swanson quickly apologized, though not for discarding the banana peel in the tree (who raise this young man?), but for causing so much pain for other students. “Although unintentional, there is no excuse for the pain that was caused to members of our community,” Swanson said. “I have much to learn and look forward to doing such and encourage all members of our community to do the same.” What Swanson needs to learn is that you don’t throw trash in trees, even if it is biodegradable.

The sad part of this is that the need to address matters of racism and diversity that many people regard as a legitimate and genuine concern is being overshadowed by the now beyond comical hyperventilating that is taking place on so many college campuses over incidents (really, non-incidents) like this. It has always been difficult to talk about race relations in this country. At this point, it’s essentially impossible. Talking seriously, respectfully, and meaningfully about race relations, especially on college campuses, is no longer the goal. That goal has been replaced by a sordid system of point scoring. Minority students and their faculty advocates are out to score points against any person or institution that can be targeted as racist on the most flimsy grounds possible, or no grounds at all. White students are falling over each other trying to score points by proving their non-racist credentials, either by trying to mollify minority activists with pathetic tomes promising to reform from their own racist inclinations, or by pointing out the racist sins of other whites who, they insist, are far less sensitive and progressive than they and whose racism they will not tolerate.

It’s all a big show, of course. The goal is not to achieve actual progress in race relations. The goal is to secure one’s identity as a victim (for minority students) or as a champion of progressive race relations (for white students). If you can score a national headline that brings you attention, so much the better. These goals, though they hold a great deal of cache on college campuses, hold virtually none in the real world. Employers don’t want professional victims working for them. They want people who are confident about their potential and what they have to offer their companies. And employers don’t give a rat’s patooty if you’re a champion of race relations and want everyone else to know it. They expect that you’ll respect and get along with others for the sake of the company’s goals.

The only way society is going to make progress in race relations is the only way society has ever made progress in race relations: when individuals stop making race the factor that first and foremost identifies themselves and others and decide to make the conscious effort to treat all with respect, regardless of the color of their skin. Yes, laws and social movements can make a huge, dramatic impact on encouraging individuals to do so. But, we will never make such progress so long as identify politics is the mainstay of our colleges and our media driven culture. Identity politics demands that everyone be seen and treated first and foremost according to their race, sex, sexual orientation, or politics. It is precisely the worldview that will sustain racism, misogyny, homophobia, and the political rancor tearing this country apart. The goal of identity politics is the balkanizing of our nation, not the harmony and unity wrought by good relations among neighbors, regardless of differences.

In Christ, all share equal dignity. There is no male or female, no Jew or Greek. And, while the Church herself has so often failed to live by the principles of the Gospel, even still those are the principles by which the Body of Christ flourishes and gives true testimony to the mercy of God for all. When we fail to live as such, we fail Christ and we fail to reflect the Gospel. The only answer is to call on the mercy of God, as in all things, and beg His grace to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2b).

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.


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