Last Thursday, President Randy Lowry invited the African American student body to his house for dinner and conversation. I was in attendance, and what I saw that night was insensitive to African American culture.
What stood out to me was the cotton in the mason jars placed on the dinner tables. Being exposed to it before, I tried to make light of it by seeing the irony — I let go of it, keeping in mind the good intention of the night.
We then headed into the President’s House to have conversation. After Mr. and Mrs. Lowry told their story, they gave the floor to the students to share their story. We ran out of time to have discussion, but the President did tell the audience they could ask him anything at the end of the night.
The next day, talk began to take circulate about what happened. I told my professor about it, and he was shocked by what took place. At that point in the day, I had no knowledge of the conversations on social media. Later in the day, an apology was sent out to the entire student body. Channel 4 News got word as well, and the conversation surrounding the night grew.
During the weekend, many people talked to me about the night.
On one side, people felt that the décor was more-so southern heritage rather than an offensive material. On the other side, many felt that the decoration was contextually inappropriate and should have not been on display.
The conversation continued into the following week. The Diverse Student Coalition facilitated panel discussions featuring students who attended the dinner. I went to one on Wednesday that was set up by the president’s office. I was there to listen and hear the different perspectives of others who were there. I empathized with their expression of disappointment over what the event represented in their eyes.
After the panel discussion, I had a private conversation with Dr. Lowry to get his feelings about what has transpired in recent days.
He apologized to me personally.
In closing, to those who were hurt and offended by the dinner, we should extend forgiveness to Dr. Lowry and others involved, even though it might take time to do so.
What happened that night was thoughtless and inept, and it should have been handled differently, but Jesus calls us to be a people of forgiveness. That can be a difficult task, especially if you feel that person or people don’t deserve it.
A passage that I often come to is Luke 17:3-4: “Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he sin against the seven times in the day and seven times turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”