“The Black Menaces” are sparking conversations about race at BYU, TikTok and beyond

UTAH (ABC4) – Despite what you may think about the name, the positions on the issues, or their ‘The Black Menaces’ videos, they are tactfully engaged in something difficult to do in today’s political, social and cultural environment. Utah: Talking to strangers about things people don’t agree on.

the black menaces are a BYU-based social media account that is starting to turn heads among TikTok users in and out of Utah. With more than 450,000 followers on TikTok and other platforms, this coalition of college students of color brings attention to social and racial issues in a specific Utah context through a very simple method: asking BYU students to speak out.

ABC4 spoke with Nate Byrd, Kylee Shephard and Sebastian Stewart-Johnson, who are part of The Black Menaces team. They say that “the general idea of ​​the page is to highlight the existence of disparities for members of marginalized groups at BYU and predominantly white institutions (PWI).”

Commenting on the group’s name, Shephard mentioned that “people in history calling for civil rights have been called ‘threats,’” and that they want to “take the word back” as something positive. Shephard explained the “black” part of the group’s name by saying that it’s “because we’re black.”

Black Menace’s TikTok videos seem bland at first, but they pack a deep punch. Several representatives from the group ask BYU students brief questions about their thoughts on topics including LGBTQIA rights, police violence against African Americans, BYU honor code policies, and more. While this approach may sound too confrontational, all of the interviewers representing The Black Menaces approach their interviewees with grace; they don’t seem interested in the debate and always listen.

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This interview method, combined with the seemingly genuine responses of BYU students, generates powerfully viral content on social media. BYU students’ comments on controversial issues are often surprising, either because of what some perceive as veiled bigotry and racism or because of their strikingly progressive views on a socially conservative college campus.

Stewart-Johnson says that “BYU is isolating black students, because there are hardly any of us. They treat us like exotic creatures and homogenize us with the stereotypes that students have about blacks. I have to fight every day to prove my own worth.”

Shephard says that friendships and dating are especially difficult for BIPOC women at BYU.

When asked what they want Utahns to know about them, The Black Menaces told ABC4 that “racism, sexism and homophobia are a form of separatism” and that their goal is to “build a more inclusive community with safe spaces for all, which is new. for Utah.”

They included that the LDS church and BYU “teach to love everyone, but not everyone does that. ‘Everyone’ includes black and LGBTQIA people and anyone who is different from you, or who believes something different from you.”

Viewing content created by The Black Menaces can make people uncomfortable. This discomfort, however, could do something to smooth over the great cultural and political divide in Utah and the nation at large.

Bryd said that the more awkward conversations you have, the easier they become. In response to a question about the content of The Black Menaces making white audiences uncomfortable, Shephard says that “we’ve always felt uncomfortable walking around the BYU campus.”

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Finally, Stewart-Johnson mentioned that the future goals of The Black Menaces are not only to create awareness on social networks, but “to create a tangible community for everyone to express themselves freely.” She also mentioned the possibility of raising funds for future scholarships at BYU.