Racism at BYU: Your observations?

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jadesroom
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Racism at BYU: Your observations?

Post by jadesroom »

I ask because of the recent BYU survey and recommendations.

https://www.deseret.com/faith/2021/2/26 ... provo-utah

I attended BYU with a few years off here and there from 1976 to 1984. My dad immigrated to the United States when he was 16 and worked as a migrant farm worker almost all of his life. I grew up in a little farming ghetto in Central California. The most discomfort I ever felt at BYU was that I didn't fit in on some occasions because my family was so poor. But I never felt discomfort because of what anyone ever said or did to me. That said, I did notice a few instances of what I'll call inadvertent racism caused by insensitivity, usually around Halloween: a few guys dressed up as KKK members in my dorm building one year, a few guys dressed in blackface and wore Afro wigs another year in order to be the Jackson Five. But the one incident that I thought was most egregious occurred in the first day of the first class that I attended at BYU on Monday morning, August 30, 1976.

It was a health class in the Richards building, and one of those large classes that had about one hundred or more students. The professor decided to start the class with a little humor, so he read a letter from a student to her mother detailing all the things that had gone wrong at the end of the last school year. The punch line is at the end the student wrote that she had made all the disasters up and everything was fine; but she needed her mom to send her fifty dollars and thought that by detailing a series of disasters first, her mom would be more willing to send the money.

Well, among the disasters is that she met a man, was pregnant, and was now thinking of getting married. Then this sentence followed, "Oh, by the way, the man is a negro." I remember a girl sitting behind me gasping, "Oh no, that's terrible." That mention of race, the use to show that a non-white race is bad, and the girl's reaction bothered me then and, nearly 45 years later, it still bothers me.


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Re: Racism at BYU: Your observations?

Post by snoscythe »

The only time I witnessed it that I can recall 20+ years later was after the first sacrament meeting of a new Fall semester when there were a lot of new faces, including one African American student. She sat in the row in front of me and she wore a brightly colored dress and had long hair in tight braids--nothing out of the ordinary in what I might think of as African American fashion and nothing I hadn't seen in wards growing up in Texas and Ohio, but not a common sight at BYU in the late 90's.

The white wife of a bishopric member stared at her blatantly through the sacrament meeting, and when the benediction was over she hurried over to greet this student and asked her "Are you from Africa?" The student smiled and said, "No, I'm actually from Chicago." The woman was a bit flustered and confused by this, and after a moment's pause asked "Oh, so are you from the inner-city?"

It was one of the most cringe-worth interactions I have ever been privy to in my life. It was a Michael Scott moment, but from a woman who was supposed to be (and was trying to be) a maternal figure for the student ward members. It still blows my mind today to think about it, and I can't imagine how I would feel if I were the recipient of those types of well-meaning, but absolutely ignorant and demeaning questions.


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