During February, many institutions take it upon themselves to signal that Black History Month is important. Companies post advertisements, create events, and even contemplate interviewing a minority for an entry-level position to demonstrate their commitment to diverse perspectives. The University of Chicago’s social media accounts are no different; this year, the IOP’s Facebook page attempted to highlight how integral Black people are to the university by asking a student about his own experiences. Unfortunately, 2nd year IOP intern Braxton Lee DiFabrio’s interview on what BHM meant to him was not well received, and the Facebook post was met with significant backlash. Many in the UChicago community were left questioning if interviewing a white man from Bumfucque, Idaho (population: 17) was ever a good idea.
When asking the head of social media outreach about the post, they said: “We felt it was very important to center Black voices. And what better way to center Black voices than to ask a white person how they feel?” This event has been somewhat surprising to the UChicago community, considering that the IOP has made numerous strides in increasing the number of Black fellows recruited to their organization. In spring of 2010, there were four Black fellows in the IOP. Now, in 2022, there are three.
The IOP released a statement after taking the post down, stating, “We apologize if this post offended any Black students. We commit microaggressions all the time, and we were honestly surprised that we’d be called out for this one.” The page has tried to correct for the turmoil by uploading convoluted infographics to their Facebook story, turning all their emojis into ones with brown skin, and posting a photo of Black and white hands interlocked with the caption “I understand that I never will understand.”
The University’s main Instagram account is also attempting to uplift Black voices by moving beyond having its sole diversity post be a picture of a mixed-race family moving in during O-Week. When asked why these posts only featured Black alumni in black and white photos, the account stated, “We asked current Black student organizations if they would like to be featured, but after they mentioned things such as a cultural centers or an African-American studies major, we felt it was best to just post distinguished alumni profiles without their consent.”