Comedian Dave Ackerman has earned a lot of attention these days. Ackerman’s skin was darkened with brown makeup before interviewing students at Brigham Young University in Utah. He wanted to determine how much students knew about Black History Month and whether they could “identify a Black person if they saw one.” Many have criticized the comedian for dressing up in “blackface,” a technique associated with derogatory minstrel shows. Ackerman explained that he wanted to “fight ignorance with ignorance” to justify his actions. Last time I checked I thought ignorance only breeded more ignorance. I guess we are from a different neck of the woods but who am I to judge, right?
It’s sad that students were unable to recall several important Black historical figures. Instead they named black celebrities and Martin Luther King, Jr as important black figures (surprise, suprise). A few did mention Malcolm X but it was clear the students knew little of his persona or contribution. Where did these people attend school before entering college? Not one teacher mentioned Rosa Parks, Marcus Garvey, or W.E.B. DuBois? Many students didn’t even know February is considered Black History Month which is pretty startling. Commercials celebrating Black History Month have aired for years.
This is an excerpt from The Daily Mail which really reveals how provincial some young people are in 2012:
One student says he celebrates the month with ‘fried chicken and grape juice’, while another tells Ackerman that, when it comes to dating, he knows some people with ‘jungle fever’.
One female student says white men who act black are ‘tools’, while black men acting white are ‘classy’.
BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said officials at the school, which is run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the comments were not representative of the students.
‘We are concerned about the remarks stated in this video and are disappointed by them,’ she added to the Salt Lake Tribune.
‘I have heard from students that know students involved and say there was some selective editing, perhaps manipulative editing.’
She added that BYU actively observes Black History Month with lectures and cultural events, as well as a Walk of Life on Martin Luther King’s birthday.
If Black History Month is truly observed at this University, the students interviewed surely missed it.