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It seems like whenever Brigham Young University is in the news, it’s for something negative. The school made headlines last year when one of its star basketball players was kicked off the team for having premarital sex. Earlier this year, a strange anti-hipster dress code brought BYU even more bad press. And now they’re being spotlighted again for a YouTube video that you have to see to believe.
Comedian Dave Ackerman decided to conduct a social experiment at BYU by asking a few students questions about Black History Month. The kicker: he had a makeup artist paint his skin “black.” You couldn’t make up this scenario: a white guy in black face grilling students at a school with a black population of 0.59 percent (176 out of 30,000 students) about African-American culture. This never had a chance of ending well.
On the surface, it’s almost hard to believe that college kids could be this ignorant. Did one of the interviewed black students really not know when Black History Month is? Did that guy really just cite Samuel L. Jackson as an important black historical figure? And did another guy really say he celebrated Black History Month with “fried chicken ad grape juice” while the girl next to him laughed and agreed?
As Buzzfeed’s Matt Stopera told The Huffington Post: “There is SO much wrong with this video. I can’t believe this exists.”
As terrible as the content of this video is, there are even more disturbing elements at play here.
"I think the video is a little slanted,” said University of Maryland sophomore Jameson Spivack. “It highlights students and quotes that seem particularly racially insensitive, but this may not be representative of the campus as whole. It also singles out BYU, even though racial insensitivity exists in different forms on campuses across the country."
Ackerman claims the purpose of this video was to “fight ignorance with ignorance.” But does that really accomplish anything? All he did was find the most sheltered kids he could find and film them saying stupid things. He did nothing to help educate them, and he definitely didn’t make an effort to find any students at BYU who could answer his questions intelligently.
The only reason this video can be played for laughs is because it involved BYU, a school that is gaining – whether deservedly or not – a reputation for this kind of bad press. All Ackerman achieved with this video is perpetuating two stereotypes: that BYU students are racist and that it’s okay to laugh at them for that. If there’s one thing this experiment proves, it’s that fighting ignorance with ignorance solves nothing.
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