A racially charged gesture influenced the hashtag that flooded the social media feeds of several Clemson University students Monday, after a banner that was meant to commemorate Black history on campus was vandalized with bananas.
The campaign, “See The Stripes,” tweeted a photo of the defaced banner and wrote, “#BeingBlackAtClemson means waking up to bananas hanging from a sign in front of the university’s plantation house,” according to The Huffington Post.
— Your O.G. (@_ShermX) April 11, 2016
After the first post, an assembly of students and faculty began using the hashtag #BeingBlackAtClemson to share their experiences of the discriminatory acts that they have seen on the South Carolina college campus, as well as to bring awareness.
While we are on the subject #BeingBlackAtClemson means dealing with people who think it's okay to call black people 'colored'
— PapiKhay (@GeeksGetMoney) April 11, 2016
Privilege is being able to study for exams and not having anxiety about when the racist backlash from today will emerge #BeingBlackAtClemson
— Angie (@FemiNia_) April 11, 2016
A white English professor, Jonathan Beecher Field, wrote an article in the school’s Tiger News in response to the outraged reactions of students. He referred to those reactors as being “among Yik Yakkers” in his candid post.
The professor wrote that the vandalized banner was a part of a series of signs on campus commemorating various aspects of life at Fort Hill, which is the name of the plantation that Clemson’s founder inherited from his father-in-law. Fields stated that banners like the defaced lamppost was an effort to mark and document the presence of African-Americans in the history of Fort Hill.
“Clemson has a long way to go to come to terms with its history, a history that is interwoven with the realities of slavery, racism, segregation and the violence that attend them, but these banners were a small, visible step in the right direction,” Field said.
The professor expressed through his article that students need to “grow thicker skin” because it was “just a couple of bananas.”
For centuries, the banana has been used as a racial sentiment to dehumanize Blacks by comparing them to monkeys and apes. Racism is a present issue around college campuses across America. Last October, a group of students at the University of Missouri lead galvanized protests to demand profound changes in the systematic racism they say pervading their campus, according to USA Today.
Clemson University President James Clements sent a university-wide message shortly after the incident that said “This type of conduct is hurtful, disrespectful, unacceptable and will not be tolerated.” He added, “Clemson University is committed to providing a safe, encouraging environment which supports and embraces inclusiveness at every level.”
Although Clements’ four-sentence response was prompt, it didn’t satisfy some members of the campus’ community, according to The Huffington Post. Yet the professor offered some advice to students and faculty on handling the aftermath with sensitivity.
“Instead of telling Black folks to be a little tougher, I suggest that white folks challenge one another to be a little bit smarter. And by ‘smarter,’ I mean ‘more empathetic,’ ” he wrote. “It takes more energy to understand why someone is angry than it does to explain to them why they don’t deserve to be angry, but it might be worth the effort.”