A white college student at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah recently dressed in ‘black face’ and then interviewed some of his classmates about some basic questions, like “when does black history month happen?” (h/t Jenni Mueller).This short clip (4:14) reveals that white college students are in dire need of education:
It’s tempting to suggest that there is something uniquely ignorant about BYU students, but I think that the college students featured here are pretty typical of other college students attending historically white institutions.
This certainly illustrates ignorance about history, black history particularly. I do think asking the students to do an imitation of black people, though, is setting them up.
If you asked a black person to imitate a white person, they would also do it readily. Saying, “Hey, whut up?” does not mean you are biased against black people. It means you have heard rap music, or other African Americans talking, or are just greeting another white friend.
The fact that rap artists publicize heavily, with their music, the black dialect and want the recordings to sell, illustrates that some African Americans, anyway, do not mind if their dialect is borrowed.
Many white young people have been using the black vernacular for several decades now, with the (seemingly) permission of African Americans. I know a white male friend who calls everybody “dog”. He has a black girlfriend and many black friends (in fact he has more black friends than any white person I know). I asked my son about it and he said it’s a common African American greeting between young males.
The point is you need to use these dialects selectively. There’s a fine line between borrowing and offending. I don’t think the students in the video were trying to demean in this instance. The truly troubling part, from my perspective, was about not asking about the black-face coupled with their lack of knowledge about the black legacy in America.
I’m not an anti-white academic, so I can’t answer your question an someone who’s anti-white.
That said, “whiteness studies” does not deny that white people exist. Though, it is true that white people have unearned “white privilege.” Colleges offer courses in American history, African American history, Asian American history, and Chicano history, right? You notice there’s no white American history, right? That’s not because white Americans don’t exist. It’s because white Americans have the privilege of being the focus of American history. Think about it, whenever people think of the story of America, we start with Jamestown and Plymouth, colonies of European settlers. We often forget that there were people here already, that “American” had already been “settled.”
Which brings us back to this notion of one people group pouring into the countries of other people groups. Like white people pouring into the countries of non-whites.
I have an idea!! What if, instead of so-called third world people pouring into white countries, what if white people all poured out of non-white countries!! Just think about it! There would be no conflict between Native Americans and whites if no whites were here!
Genius! REC, I think you may have something here. Of course, whites through the Americans, white Africans, and white Australians would have to pay some sort of restitution for previous land usage. But I’m sure some sort of payment plan can be worked out.
In case you haven’t noticed I’m not REC. And I don’t know what your suggestion implies about third-world people pouring into white countries versus white people pouring out of non-white countries.
But now that we’re on the subject, third world people go where there’s work, period. It doesn’t have anything to do with race. They just want work. The industrialized countries have more work than the poorer ones.
And I am aware that the industrialized countries are industrialized indeed partly due to exploiting the poorer countries in the first place. So put that in the mix and please don’t call me REC.
I really wish the commentators on here who provoke the hate meme would be reasonable. This is a complicated world and we need reasonable solutions, not hate mongering. Again saying, “white people are idiots and white people always look for ways to keep minority groups in inferior places and white people need to move away from North America” is just as non-productive as grouping ANY other race in a big box and calling them names and/or speaking of them in stereotypical fashion. Racism is racism is racism. No matter how you pronounce it’s still spelled RACISM.
I think it’s notable that the two black men interviewed didn’t know anything more about Black History Month than the white students. This is revealing of a general lack of America’s priority on education in general. Seeing this video makes me wonder how some of these kids made it into a four-year institution.
Also, reading the next thread about BYU Black Face made me realize that the interviewer showed bad taste to begin with by smearing himself with dark make-up, even though he was “testing the students to see if they’d notice”. First of all, it’s unclear if the man has a tan, just came back from Bermuda, has a skin condition or what? It is not obvious (in my opinion) that he’s even in Black Face.
Secondly, he has a cavalier comical demeanor and laughs continuously with the students. Is this his way of hiding his true intent? This is his secret formula for getting the kids to relax and reveal their true sentiments I guess. He appears to make it seem acceptable to “talk like a black person”. A touch of “gotcha” journalism or so he believes.
I found many of the remarks extremely offensive however, like “jungle fever”. That is such an awful phrase! I also think remarks like, “Once you go black, you never go back” are just as tasteless and demeaning and low-class. The interviewer acted like a clown and this reinforced low-class responses. Not that this is an excuse.
It just takes the whole concept of Black History Month and drags it through the mud. I hated that the names Rosa Parks and MLK were interwoven in this crude inter-change. Maybe my middle age is showing, but please people, can we just show some dignity and respect for each other?
In summation, this is not what colleges need in order to reinforce sensitivity to racism and multi-culturalism. It should be taken very seriously and regarded as an integral part of a liberal arts education. We are, after all, a planet composed of many races. We don’t live in an isolated little white WASP world. Thus, true education requires in depth comprehension of history, geography, anthropology, world religious practices, cross-cultural psychology. A whole host of areas many students are dismally ignorant of.