One Student Asks, What Is It Like To Be Black At BYU?

Nov 22, 2016

Of the 33,000 students enrolled at Brigham Young University in Provo only one percent are black. And a student produced video released earlier this month asks, "What are some challenges those black students face?"

Johnisha Williams is a sophomore at BYU, studying psychology. She's also black and she says this project wasn’t part of a class assignment. It was simply an attempt to start some constructive conversation.

Williams grabbed a camera, a few microphones and walked around campus asking questions like, “Does white privilege exist?”

“I think that white privilege definitely is a thing and I think that it’s hard for a lot of white people to understand what it is just because it’s so much apart of them," says one student.

 

Another student adds, "And I think there are people who take advantage of that. There’s also plenty of people who don’t so for them it’s not really a thing.”

 

The interviews don’t have much editing. Williams says she just wanted the students to speak openly and she wanted as many perspectives as possible, including fellow black students.

 

“Being a black student there’s like this perception that you’re automatically like cool or hip," says one black student. "So everyone wants to be your friend but sometimes I feel like it’s unwanted attention. I didn’t ask to be the center of attention.”

 

The motivation for the video came when Williams searched YouTube for “black BYU students.”

 

“And the only thing that popped up was this comedian black face video," says Williams.

 

The comedian was not a BYU student. But he was on campus and he was in black face, quizzing students about black history month. Williams thought this was unacceptable and she set out to make a video that did justice to the black student experience.

 

“In no way was I trying to show that people are ignorant," says Williams.

 

She simply wants her peers to talk, and ask questions, and bring discussions of race to a predominantly white university.

 

“Open your eyes," says Williams. "Educate yourself, because ignorance isn’t always bliss.”

 

The video has more than 5,000 views and is now easily found with a search on YouTube or Google.