A US university president has apologized to black students invited to his home for dinner for using cotton stalks in a table centerpiece. Cotton-stalk Lipscomb University President Randy Lowery offered the apology in an email after several of the students expressed concerns.
“The content of the centerpieces was offensive, and I could have handled the situation with more sensitivity,” Lowery said. “I sincerely apologize for the discomfort, anger or disappointment we caused and solicit your forgiveness,” he said, insisting the offense was unintended. Cotton was a mainstay of the slave-based economy of the pre-Civil War South. Echoes of the period resonate today as the United States once again grapples with a legacy of racism and white supremacy. Lowery said he had invited the African American students to dinner to discuss their experiences at the university, a private Christian liberal arts college in Nashville, Tennessee.
After the dinner, one of the students posted on Instagram a photo of the centerpiece crowned by cotton stalks in bloom. The student then reproached his host for having served food evoking African American stereotypes, including collard greens and cornbread, a day after serving Latino students tacos.