Presented (Almost) Without Comment: Brigham Young University and Blackface

How do students at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah celebrate Black History Month? Well, mostly they don't. Obviously. There are roughly 176 African-American students out of the 30,000 kids at Mitt Romney's alma mater. (Surprisingly, one of those black students actually made it into the video above.)

But at least one ridiculous BYU student answered by saying that he celebrates Black History Month by eating "fried chicken" and drinking "grape juice."


I understand what it's like to attend a really conservative university with very few minorities and an occasionally clueless student population. When I was an undergrad at Baylor, one student organization -- the NoZe Brotherhood, which ran a satirical newspaper similar to The Onion called The Rope -- was kicked off campus after the NAACP complained about an article they'd written in The Rope describing (if I recall correctly; it's been more than a decade) an upcoming African studies course as containing a lecture on watermelon-eating.

Who knows what, if anything, BYU will do in response to so many of its students acting like ignorant if well-meaning racists in the video above, but my larger question is this: Why do white people still derisively associate fried chicken and grape juice with the black community?

I mean, for the love of God... Find someone who doesn't like fried chicken, grape juice or watermelon. Everyone loves fried chicken. Everyone loves watermelon. The foods have long crossed any and all social, cultural or ethnic boundaries.

The more pressing question, though, is this: How in the hell didn't any of those BYU students call out the comedian in the above video on his blackface? That makeup was even worse than C. Thomas Howell's regrettable turn in Soul Man, an absolutely terrible movie which I think all BYU students should be forced to watch as penance for their inane commentary on "black foods" and how "classy" us white people are.

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Katharine Shilcutt