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Black Idaho residents not surprised by racial threats

Black residents in Idaho say they are not surprised that the
person who is perhaps the state’s most prominent and recognizable black man
received racial threats leading up to his wedding with a white woman.

Ian Johnson, a star running back on the Boise
State football team, proposed to
his cheerleader girlfriend on national television after scoring the winning
points in the Fiesta Bowl. He and Chrissy Popadics were to be married this

“When Ian did that on television, every black person I
know said, ‘He’s a fool. That boy just asked for trouble,'” said Keith
Anderson, a former BSU football player who has been married to a white woman
for 14 years and they have two sons.

“I thought, ‘Uh-oh, this is gonna bite him,'”
Mamie Oliver, a leader in Idaho’s African-American community, told the Idaho

Johnson, 21, from San Dimas, Calif., ran into the end zone
on a so-called “Statue of Liberty” play to score the winning
two-point conversion as underdog BSU beat the Oklahoma Sooners 43-42 in
overtime on Jan. 1. The Broncos ended their season 13-0 and wound up ranked No.
5 in the final AP poll.

Johnson led major college football last regular season with
24 rushing touchdowns and averaged about 145 yards a game. He has been selected
as one of the team captains this year, and is a possible Heisman Trophy

Johnson said he’s received phone calls and some 30 letters,
including personal threats from people who objected to his plans to marry
Popadics. He has not described the threats, and it is unclear where they came

“It’s not a big surprise to us,” said Cherie
Buckner-Webb, president of the Idaho Black History Museum. “But he’s a
golden boy. He’s done wonderful things, and how can one of our icons be
derided? The truth of the matter is he remains a black man, and she remains a white

Idaho is the nation’s seventh whitest state, with a white
population of 95.5 percent. The number of black-white couples in Idaho is
unknown, but those who were interviewed by the newspaper said they were
generally welcomed by Idahoans.

“Idaho is no Mecca for racism,” said Booker Brown,
who came to BSU in the 1970s and married the daughter of a BSU executive vice
president. “But I’m not naive enough to say that covert racism doesn’t
exist in Boise, Idaho, or Timbuktu. It exists in 2007, and it’s probably going
to exist for another 200 years.”

Information from: Idaho Statesman,

– Associated Press

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