Brigham Young University condemns 'racist' anonymous questions sent to Black History Month panel
© Getty Images

Brigham Young University (BYU) condemned racist comments anonymously submitted during a recent panel for Black History Month. 

After five panelists shared their experience about what it means to be black and an immigrant, they awaited questions from the audience sent in anonymously through phone submissions on the event page, according to The Salt Lake Tribune

Questions including, “What is the percentage of African Americans on food stamps?”, “Why do African Americans hate the police?” and, “Why don’t we have any white people on stage?” popped up on the screen, according to the Tribune. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Members of the largely white audience laughed, according to the Tribune, but those who spoke on the panel rebuked the questions. 

“The fact that the people made the effort to come to the panel and attack us is disgusting and honestly a waste of time,” Tendela Tellas, a sophomore at BYU who spoke at the event and whose mother immigrated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, told the Tribune.

“I honestly don’t know how BYU can stop this again, but there needs to be a solution,” she added.

Another student who spoke on the panel told the newspaper she no longer has the emotional stamina to deal with the “ignorant, racist, privileged folks” on campus. 

Brigham Young has an almost entirely white student population. The school of roughly 30,000 students is 81 percent white, according to the university’s demographic information. Just 1 percent of the student population is black. 

The university, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, tweeted the next day that it was aware of the “racist, anonymous comments” submitted at the panel discussion. 

“We reaffirm BYU’s stance of condemning racism in any form. We are committed to promoting a culture of safety, kindness, respect and love,” the school said as part of a series of tweets. 

Faculty advisers who oversaw the panel are creating a report of the incident that will be shared and discussed with university administrators, the university said, adding that it is unable to determine the identities of the commenters. 

Tellas told The Washington Post that the university condemning the incident was applying a “Band-Aid” to the situation. 

“The black students no longer feel that the campus is a safe space anymore,” Tellas told the Post. “This is a white space and we are just living in it.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Grace Soelberg, a Brigham Young student at the panel, tweeted pictures of some of the questions. Soelberg said she was sitting on her floor in tears, not because she’s surprised that some students are “proudly racist and promote white supremacist attitudes,” but because she thought she was in a safe space for education at the panel. 

“I’m crying because I know that tomorrow I am going to have to go to class and be on campus with people who generally believe I am inferior to them because of the color of my skin,” she added.