Monday, June 13, 2011

This is One Black Woman the Mormons Can't Fool

 Only in Utah...photo © 2006 Casey Serin | more info (via: Wylio)
I came across and article in the New York Times entitled A Picnic for Black Mormons.  I had to read it because I thought that outside of Gladys Knight, that Mormonism is something we as Blacks have largely avoided due to the racism built into church doctrine. A few years ago, I had two young White women knock on my front door as part of their mission.  When I asked them why they wanted to convert me, considering the racist history of the church, they looked me right in the eye and said that their religion is not racist. From that day onward, I have wondered how many Mormons actually believe that they have a race neutral doctrine?  It takes a lot of nerve to attempt to convert someone, when your prophet made it clear that Blacks should not be priesthood holders. I will be honest and say that even if Mormonism wasn't virulently racist, their anti GLBT actions would be enough for me to detest this religion. God is about love, not about setting one group over another.

The article at the N.Y. Times is largely based on the struggles of Ms. Harwell, who became the first African-American missionary in 1980.  Due to White supremacy, we have had a lot of first African American to do various things i.e. first Black president, first Black astronaut, first Black in MLB etc., however this is one thing in which I believe there was no reason to become a trailblazer. The article then went on to say:
Max Perry Mueller, who is writing a dissertation at Harvard on African-Americans and the Mormon church, and who attended the Genesis Group picnic last year, says that the church has “made a very sincere effort” to welcome blacks, but that so far few American-born blacks have joined the church. Mr. Mueller also said that “the idea that Mormons” were until recently “exceptionally exclusionary or racist is probably unfair.” While no other large, predominantly white church barred blacks from the clergy in the 1970s, none was particularly integrated or had notable black leaders, either.
 There is no doubt that Sunday is still the most segregated day in North America.  Whites go to their church and Blacks go to theirs.  Blacks may not be particularly welcome in largely White congregations however, the Black church has specialized in liberation theology and has provided a sanctuary from the effects of living in a White supremacist state. There is no room in Mormonism for this kind of liberation.  I know that the various protestant denominations have been guilty of all kinds of fuckery in the name of Jesus, thus making segregation necessary, but segregation has provided some benefit to the community in this singular instance.

Mormonism is not uniquely racist, but the racist elements continue to dominant the church and this is largely based on the beliefs of Brigham Young and Joesph Smith.  In 1970, the church lifted the ban on Blacks being priesthood holders, but they certainly did not publicly denounce the testament of their prophet. The fact that they continue to fail to do so, tells me that this declaration was for appearance and not from the recognition of a grievous wrong.

Blacks students at BYU continue experience racism.
Today, Deadspin published a piece that examines the history of enforcement of the honor code at BYU.  Using former athletes' testimony, Deadspin found that BYU treated white athletes and black athletes differently.  While it is important to note that the athletes who provided information to Deadspin may have an ax to grind with BYU, the findings are still fascinating.  
 
Deadspin reports that an overwhelming majority of athletes who were suspended for violating the code were minorities, despite minorities making up an incredibly small portion of athletes at the university.  The piece also alleges that BYU treats Mormon students differently than non-Mormons as it often allows Mormon athletes who violate the honor code to escape without punishment.  Mormon students are allowed to "repent" for their actions while non-Mormons are not given this option.  The article also alleges that recruits are taken to parties with alcohol and sex on recruiting visit, implying the honor code is not strictly enforced.(source)
If that were not enough, BYU students have been told that it is their duty educate the bigots when they are attacked after reporting racial attacks.
The students didn't mention any specific problems at BYU but did say they don't appreciate the folklore that they said is sometimes spread by seminary teachers or church leaders regarding blacks in the church.

One example, the students said, is when people say blacks "sat on the fence," or weren't fully committed to Christ in the pre-mortal life, and therefore are punished by the color of their skin on earth.

"Speculation about inferiority in the pre-earth life" is not part of the church's doctrine nor part of the curriculum, Corbitt said.

He advised the students, when they hear people repeating these stories, to take the matter to a bishop and/or a stake president and make them aware of what is being said.
Such folklore is definitely not supposed to be taught in the seminary program, said Thomas R. Valletta, director of the Church Education System curriculum. "That (folklore) is certainly not true, and it's not in the curriculum," Valletta said.

Several students at Corbitt's presentation said they wished church leaders would speak directly to racial problems during a general conference session. Entire talks have been devoted to issues such as pornography, the students pointed out. (source)
The fact that Blacks are still asking for the issue of racism to be raised, tells me that the church is not committed to making change, yet I am to believe that the Mormon faith is making a good faith effort to confront its racist history.  They may have managed to fool a small percentage of people into believing that they view Blacks as human beings, but the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. If the leaders cannot even admit the racial attacks are ongoing, is it any wonder that I have young women knocking on my door in complete ignorance of how their faith privileges their Whiteness?