The cotton is flying on social media after a black businesswoman in Texas took offense at seeing fake bolls of the textile plant used as vase decorations at a Hobby Lobby store.
“This decor is WRONG on SO many levels,” Daniell Rider of Killeen posted on Facebook on Thursday. “There is nothing decorative about raw cotton... A commodity which was gained at the expense of African-American slaves. A little sensitivity goes a long way. PLEASE REMOVE THIS ‘decor’.”
The response has been overwhelmingly critical — of Rider.
Most among the thousands of commenters derided what they viewed as oversensitivity to what is, after all, a plant that is used to make clothing that virtually everyone wears.
“Loons of the left,” one person posted of those who would take offense. Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin chimed in with a link and the comment, “You need to see this.”
Another person posted: “This has got to be one of the dumbest snowflake demands of the year and proves you can take any benign object, pretend you’re offended and gain fame at the expense of someone else.”
Hobby Lobby, a crafts and materials chain whose ownership is known for a conservative and religious point of view, sells the cotton bolls on its website.
“Offer your space a touch of natural beauty with Cotton Bouquet,” the ad says. “This realistic floral arrangement is wrapped in brown paper with clusters of soft cotton buds on individual stems. Place it in a vase or use it for crafting projects for a look which brings in the beauty of the great outdoors!”
The cotton sticks sell for $6.99 to $15.99.
Hobby Lobby’s corporate office in Oklahoma City did not immediately return a call Monday seeking comment.
But a separate Instagram post about cotton — on the same day as Rider’s post — drew a quick response. A student at Lipscomb University, a private Christian college in Nashville, was critical of cotton being used decoratively at a dinner for African-American students at the home of the university President Randy Lowry.
“Tonight AFRICAN AMERICAN students were invited to have dinner with the president of the school,” the student posted. “As we arrived to the president’s home and proceeded to go in we seen cotton as the center pieces...”
When Lowry was asked about the decoration, “His response was that he didn’t know, he seen it before we did, he kind of thought it was ‘ fallish ‘, THEN he said ‘it ISNT INHERENTLY BAD IF WERE ALL WEARING IT’ then walked off.”
“Shame on president of @lipscomb for the cotton-laced centerpieces at the dinner for African-American students!” another woman tweeted.
Lowry apologized Friday to the Lipscomb community.
“Last night we invited Lipscomb African American students to our home for dinner to discuss their experiences at Lipscomb,” Lowry said. “Several students shared with me their concern about the material used for centerpieces which contained stalks of cotton.
“The content of the centerpieces was offensive, and I could have handled the situation with more sensitivity,” he continued. “I sincerely apologize for the discomfort, anger or disappointment we caused and solicit your forgiveness.”