The Black Menaces, Sebastian Stewart-Johnson, Nate Byrd, Kylee Shepherd, Kennethia Dorsey, and Rachel Weaver, have taken to TikTok to hold their predominately white institution (PWI) accountable for failed diversity and inclusivity efforts.
Byrd, a member of Black Menaces, said to NBC News, “There’s a lot of prejudice and discrimination that goes on here that people don’t know about.” He added, “And so our goal is to let people know that, hey, that exists here, and this is something that needs to change.”
In their TikTok videos, the Black Menaces put their fellow white classmates on the spot with questions about race, identity, and politics. Their account has reached over 670,000 followers and gained 23 million likes as of Friday (April 22).
“The Black Menaces aren’t affiliated with BYU, so they can’t hold our voice back,” Stewart-Johnson said. “We wanted to highlight everything that we go through in a way that millions could see it.”
With a Black population of 1 percent, Stewart-Johnson said Black students feel isolated and the burden to educate their white peers at BYU. The Utah university is affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – their followers are most commonly known as Mormons.
AP reports that only 6 percent of the globe’s 16 million Latter-day Saints are Black.
Byrd, who is also the president of the Black Student Union, said BYU formed its Race, Equity, and Belonging committee in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
In 2020, the Black Student Union worked with the school’s administration and recommended curriculum requirements to educate students on race, a plan of action to increase Black graduation rates, and more opportunities for Black faculty to serve in high-level positions.
However, Byrd said he hasn’t seen any tangible changes in the past two years since the committee was formed.
Since the school seems disinterested in helping Black students, the Black Menaces are on the ground asking students questions surrounding racism and LGBTQIA+ rights.
In response, BYU told NBC News that the school has created an Office of Belonging that will focus on creating a “community of belonging” for all students.