How ‘The Black Menaces’ Used TikTok to Talk Politics at BYU

Amid Utah’s current political climate, a group of Black students at Brigham Young University is using social media to highlight campus sentiments on sociopolitical issues.

Published May 5, 2022

Edited by Raneem Taleb-Agha
How ‘The Black Menaces’ Used TikTok to Talk Politics at BYU
TikTok
Photo by Bloomberg / Contributor / Bloomberg / Getty Images

  • Black students represent less than 1% of BYU’s undergraduate study body.
  • A group of Black students known as The Black Menaces has taken to TikTok to highlight their experiences at the school.
  • The account launched as Utah is seeing political shifts in inclusivity and acceptance of diverse populations.

College students have increasingly used TikTok to highlight their shared experiences. Over the past couple of months, one group of students on the app has stood out from the rest.

They call themselves The Black Menaces, and they interview students and faculty on campus about racism, sexuality, gender, and more.

Despite the moniker, there’s nothing truly menacing about the Menaces. Their tactic is simple: ask a question, listen intently to the response, and thank the subject for taking the time to give their opinion on camera.

@blackmenaces heritage or racist????? #fyp #byu #orem #provo #uvu #blackmenaces #blackmenacesvlog #pwi #poc #blacktiktok #BridgertonScandal ♬ original sound - the black menaces
@blackmenaces why do the majority people not have any black friends at byu? #fyp #byu #orem #uvu #provo #utah #pwi #poc #blacktiktok #SchickAsks #pwi #SchickAsks ♬ original sound - the black menaces

The group — which includes Nate Byrd, Kylee Shepherd, Kennethia Dorsey, Rachel Weaver, and Sebastian Stewart-Johnson — are Black students at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah.

All are Mormon, which isn’t uncommon at this private research institution. The college was named after the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon church.

“Being Black on BYU’s campus is uncommon. Less than 1% of their current undergraduate population is Black.”

But being Black on BYU’s campus is uncommon. Less than 1% of their current undergraduate population is Black. So it’s no surprise these students’ experiences differ from most of their classmates. And that’s what the Menaces wanted to show on TikTok.

Their account currently has 699,000 followers and has accumulated a combined 24 million likes as of Wednesday. One of the Menaces’ most-watched videos has garnered nearly 19 million views.

The Black Menaces’ videos gained significant popularity because of the shocking responses many students and faculty give to questions about gay marriage, institutionalized racism, feminism, and transgender rights.

@blackmenaces can you support the queer community without supporting gay marriage? #fyp #byu #provo #orem #utah #uvu #pwi #poc #gay #lgbtqtiktok #questions #black ♬ original sound - the black menaces
@blackmenaces …… i don’t know if i have words for this one #fyp #byu #uvu #orem #provo #blackmenaces #blackmenacesvlog #LizzosBigGrrrls #OscarsAtHome #pwi #poc ♬ original sound - the black menaces

Due to the school’s religious affiliation with the Mormon church, BYU students are expected to abide by an honor code that includes “abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman.”

@blackmenaces what are y’all thinking #fyp #byu #provo #orem #uvu #blackmenaces #blackmenacesvlog #AFairShotWithBlock #pwi #poc ♬ original sound - the black menaces

While much of the country, regardless of political affiliation or religious beliefs, has become more accepting and inclusive of progressive rights and ideals, BYU appears to represent a bubble. And this bubble isn’t just limited to the BYU campus.

As a conservative state that’s home to a third of the country’s entire Mormon population, Utah has faced more than its fair share of backlash for upholding traditional ideals in the past.

But in recent years, the state has turned a corner, particularly due to the efforts of Gov. Spencer Cox. Most recently, he vetoed a bill that would have banned transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports and played a part in helping ban conversion therapy in Utah in 2020.

Gov. Cox has also stressed the importance of racial diversity in his agenda, though he believes critical race theory should not be taught in Utah elementary, middle, and high schools. Instead, he says it has a place in colleges and universities.

“Amid the state’s shifting political climate, The Black Menaces have managed to spark conversation both on and off campus about the minority experience at BYU and beyond.”

Amid the state’s shifting political climate, The Black Menaces have managed to spark conversation both on and off campus about the minority experience at BYU and beyond.

"We wanted to create awareness and education so that people can almost self-correct a little bit," Weaver said in an interview with Insider. "It's helping the majority group to understand that these are real everyday issues for us, and it's helping them to begin the dialogue."