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A YouTube video of a white comedian who painted his face black and asked students at Brigham Young University about Black History Month has gone viral, both because the students at the Mormon school were depicted as ignorant and because of the comedian's use of "black face."
One student told Dave Ackerman he celebrates Black History Month with "fried chicken and grape juice" while another said he knows some people have "jungle fever" when it comes to dating. Still others were unable to name any significant black history figures, with one student suggesting Samuel L. Jackson and another saying, "the lady on the bus."
By Saturday afternoon, the video had been viewed more than 530,000 times and received about 1,500 "likes" to 2,600 "dislikes."
Ackerman, a standup comic from Utah, told Salt Lake City's ABC 4 he was going for the shock factor when he donned the dark make up, a technique considered racially offensive.
“I wanted to raise awareness in an interesting way and get a conversation started,” he said.
The video begins by showing Ackerman having the make up applied to his face and hands. From there he is shown interviewing students on campus, the majority of whom are white. Many were unable to name even which month Black History Month is observed, until one student correctly named February.
BYU officials pushed back against the video, saying they were disappointed by some of the remarks in the video but that it doesn't represent their entire student body.
"We feel this is a misrepresentation of the sentiments and feelings on campus. We are concerned about the remarks stated in this video and are disappointed by them," BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins told the Associated Press. "I have heard from students that know students involved and say there was some selective editing, perhaps manipulative editing. The remarks do not reflect our community of more than 30,000 students."
Some professors told ABC 4 they believed the entire video was fabricated.
“In a selective way it's choosing pieces he used in his film to make people look more ignorant than they really are,” Chris Crowe, an English professor, told the station.
Brian Roberts, another English professor, criticized Ackeerman's use of "black face."
“I'm disappointed and surprised that someone came to campus wearing black face. What I think is it reflects a lack of historical knowledge,” Roberts said.
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