Many may feel that small-town Rexburg does not struggle with discrimination toward Black individuals. However, a Black BYU-Idaho student, Saidu Conteh, feels there needs to be a change.
Conteh, a freshman studying computer information technology, doesn’t feel excessive racism from his peers at BYU-I but finds dating difficult and fears for his safety. Unlike most students, Conteh often worries when he asks girls on dates what their family may think of his race.
“I had an experience where I was going on dates with a girl and her family didn’t like that I was Black,” Conteh said. “Ever since then, after two or three dates I always ask how their family feels about that. If they have issues, I usually stop it there. It would be nice to ask a girl on a date without worrying about the color of my skin.”
With no other means of transportation, Conteh walks everywhere he goes. He worries about his safety every time he leaves his apartment.
“I get scared that my backpack looks suspicious, so I sometimes carry my books underneath my arm, just to be safe,” Conteh said. “You always hear about Black men with backpacks getting shot. It makes me nervous.”
Despite his fear, Conteh does his best to stay safe.
“I do all I can to be law-abiding, plus Rexburg is full of LDS members and they are peaceful people,” Conteh said. “Regardless of all of this, I feel the real protection comes from God.”
Although Conteh believes things will get better in the future, he doesn’t think it will happen anytime soon.
“Apart from institutional racism, some people still choose to be racist,” Conteh said. “Their children are learning from them. I still hear, read and see racial speech every day on social media, until those people go home and teach their family what love is, they will be trapped with hate and bitterness in their hearts.”
Aside from change needing to happen in the family, Conteh believes change needs to happen within the government as well.
“I feel they should pass into law any form of institutional racism is a crime against the states,” Conteh said. “The department of education should include in their curriculum a core class about race and equal justice.”
Through it all, Conteh wants respect. He doesn’t want to worry about what officers may think of him and wants to walk to the store without being scared. He wants to be seen as a human with the same rights as anybody else and with the same opportunities.
“Black people do not need sympathy,” Conteh said. “All that I want is to live in a safe community and in a place of equality. I want people to see any Black man as themselves.”