A black businesswoman in Texas took offense at seeing fake bolls of the textile plant used as vase decorations at a Hobby Lobby store. Daniell Rider Facebook
A black businesswoman in Texas took offense at seeing fake bolls of the textile plant used as vase decorations at a Hobby Lobby store. Daniell Rider Facebook

Nation & World

Are decorative cotton stalks racist? Hobby Lobby and a university leader hear about it

By Matt Campbell

mcampbell@kcstar.com

September 18, 2017 03:04 PM

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.

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“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.

 

So I attend Lipscomb university and as most of you know that is a predominately white school. Tonight AFRICAN AMERICAN students were invited to have dinner with the president of the school. As we arrived to the president's home and proceeded to go in we seen cotton as the center pieces. We also stood and ate dinner, there were no seats to sit in and it felt very uncomfortable. We were very offended, and also the meals that were provided resembled many "black meals" they had mac n cheese, collard greens, corn bread etc. The night before Latinos also had dinner at his house and they had tacos. They also DIDN'T have the center piece that we HAD tonight. A couple of minutes went by, the president was coming around and asking for our names and what our major was. He finally got to our table and my friend @kay_cyann asked why there was cotton on the table as the center piece. 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. Later on all of us that were there were invited into the home, and we had the impression that we were coming to speak about how us as Black people feel about Lipscomb. The whole entire time we were in their home they only talked about themselves( how they met, got married and ended up at lipscomb) & the ONLY question that we were asked was our transformation coming to lipscomb. A couple of women answered the question but they sugar coated it. They said any other questions that we may have can be emailed to the advocate for the Latinos and that a second meeting may be held. Also we don't have an advocate on campus, the only African American advocate we had, no longer works here. The only advocate available to us is the advocate for the Latinos. They claim to have funding for minorities, BUT you have to live up to the expectations of a typical Black family to even get the 1000$.There is NO FUNDING for just us black students. #share

A post shared by Nakayla (@nakaylayvonne) on

“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! @NAACP @rolandsmartin pic.twitter.com/pqVY85Pr35

— Angee Renae (@angee_renae) September 15, 2017

“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.”

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC