As the popular account expands to cover campuses across the country this fall, Davis predicts it will have a “substantive” impact.
Started earlier this year by a group of five Black students at Brigham Young University, the Black Menaces TikTok channel posts videos of themselves posing questions to their mostly white classmates about race and identity. Since launching in February, the channel has become a phenomenon, garnering 725,000 followers, reports Sara Weissman for Inside Higher Ed. This month, the Black Menaces announced they will expand their reach to campuses across the country.
Charles H.F. Davis III, SOE assistant professor of higher education, said he sees the Black Menaces’ work as part of a broader history of Black activism, in which activists used the media platforms of their day to share experiences and raise concerns; while abolitionists turned to newspapers to advance their cause, today’s student organizers are taking to platforms like TikTok.
“Every generation of activists and organizers do things kind of in their own way that build on existing traditions and sort of chart new paths that most resonate or connect with their peers,” said Davis, who studies student activist movements. However, the reach and scale social media platforms provide today’s students are far more significant. Because of this, more people have access to, and are able to participate in, the conversation. And that’s important.
“One thing we know for sure is the work of racial equity must include and has included white people,” he said. “Those who benefit from these systems of power and oppression have to be deeply involved in the dismantling of that.”