Trend Alert | The Black Menaces

Izzy Hall

Trend Alert introduces you to the latest trends that are impacting the daily lives of 16-24s.

A group of college students at Utah’s Brigham Young University are exposing the prejudices they experience on campus in the most Gen Z way possible: by going viral on TikTok.

BYU was founded by 19th-century Mormon religious leader Brigham Young, and is sponsored by the Church of Latter-day Saints. The majority of students are Mormons and all must agree to follow an honour code in line with Mormon beliefs, such as no sex before marriage, no same-sex relationships, and no drugs or alcohol. The student body is over 80% white, and less than 0.5% are black.

The Black Menaces is a TikTok account created by members of the Black Student Union at BYU, which has produced many viral videos and gained a total of 23 million likes since it was launched just two months ago. The content sees the creators asking other students for their views on issues related to race, gender, sexuality and more. They do their best to keep a poker face and allow the interviewees to share their honest opinion, without giving their own views. Sometimes they use “undercover agents” (white students) to ask questions related to race to avoid influencing responses.

The most viewed video they’ve released so far asked for students’ views on gay marriage, something which the Mormon church is opposed to. Interestingly, a common theme among The Black Menaces’ videos is that viewpoints among the young interviewees are more diverse than might be expected. While many of them do express views aligning with those of the Mormon church, just as many offer up more progressive viewpoints or a more nuanced take – they are clearly wrestling with the conflict between their religion’s teachings and the more tolerant consensus among their generation. Nonetheless, some of the videos’ most memorable moments are the ones where white students show a shocking lack of recognition of their privilege or of inequality in America, and these are the moments that are now provoking important conversations among BYU students and many others.

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