Merely speaking about this incident and mentioning racism resulted in the common backlash accusation of playing this mythical item. It is used over and over again by some white people instead of engaging in dialogue through sharing and listening, the choice is made to stigmatize and scapegoat those that disagree that America is mostly a colorblind post-racial nation. There are certain scripts that the white majority learns and rehearses through subtle socialization in dominant culture. Rather than doing the hard work of careful in-depth investigation of the matter, quick cliché dismissals are used to uphold the status quo. The status quo is silence about racism other than pointing out the overt cases, as well as getting into extensive conversation about reverse racism. While I have often gotten frustrated by these little remarks that dismiss black experiences without doing the hard work of listening and wrestling with another perspective, I decided that from now on I was going to “play along” with their game.
After years of wrestling, I settled in a predominately white church. My logic was this: if every white person concerned about racial justice leaves white churches, then there will be few women or men there to help. This Sunday, I worried that Ferguson or other police shootings of African Americans would once again go unmentioned in the sermon or a prayer.
Over the summer I participated in a panel hosted by MennoNerds.com on Race and the Church. The video has been available on youtube for a while, but I figured I would repost it here for those that might be interested in the far ranging conversation that we had.
The failure in the white privilege stewardship model is that it inherently affirms and utilizes the very thing that it is called to resist and counter. If the answer to our racial problems is that white people must run things, call the shots, and be the saviors to the world, then we have missed the mark.
Jane Elizabeth Manning James, a black Mormon pioneer, was known to some Latter-day Saints historians in the latter part of the 20th century but was hardly a household name. Linda King Newell and Valerie Tippets Avery wrote the first well-researched article about Jane in LDS Church publication The Ensign. Subsequent Mormon authors focused on the early years of Jane’s life, particularly on founder Joseph Smith accepting her and her family into his home.
For most of my life now, I’ve been sucked ever deeper into various forms of Americana music. I love the simple forms and catchy tunes, the plainspoken emotion and humor, the fiddles and mandolins and banjos. In a worship context, I’m drawn as well to the music’s accessibility and its cross-generational appeal.
The musical The Book of Mormon portrays two naïve Mormon missionaries in Uganda proclaiming that “in 1978, God changed his mind about black people.” The joke isn’t mere whimsy; the LDS Church is widely perceived as racist. The irony is that had the church followed its initial trajectory, by now it likely would have become the most racially integrated and progressive church in America.