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Viral BYU Video Highlights Need for Campus Diversity

Brigham Young University has garnered some unwanted attention recently after a YouTube video surfaced of a white comedian in blackface quizzing students on campus about Black History Month.

Students at the racially homogenous Mormon school in Utah offered shockingly poor answers. Only one of the interviewees correctly identified February as Black History Month. When asked to name prominent black historical figures, they name Martin Luther King … and rappers. The students even offer offensive impersonations of what they think black people are really like.

Watch the video below:

“I wanted to raise awareness in an interesting way and get a conversation started,” said the star of the video, standup comedian Dave Ackerman.

He succeeded.

Both Ackerman and the students in the video have received criticism recently for their roles in the YouTube hit.

Some criticized Ackerman for the use of blackface, considered offensive by many in the black community. Others chided the Brigham Young students for their ignorant responses.

“The kids are extremely naïve, and Ackerman exploits that,” said Darron Smith, a former BYU professor. “Where it went south was the use of blackface. He doesn’t understand how offensive it is.”

Above all, the video is a stark reminder of how important diversity is to a college campus. Less than 1 percent of the 30,000 Brigham Young students are black, with white students comprising more than 86 percent of the student body.

With some states now serving as battlegrounds for race-based affirmative action lawsuits, this video is certainly evidence that a more muscular defense of the diversity promoting policy on the national level may be needed.

As far as BYU is concerned, there is little doubt that the school would benefit from an increased emphasis on multiculturalism. 

The video concludes with the tagline “Fight ignorance with ignorance.” One thing is for sure: When you fight ignorance with ignorance, ignorance wins.

Graham White was a former intern with Generation Progress and now is on the executive board of the Black Law Students Association at Yale. You can follow him on Twitter @GrahamWhiteNY.

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