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.
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.
I keep seeing T. F. Charlton's Jason Collins post everywhere, and with good reason: Tim Tebow is an example of how the public face of Christian athletes, like the public face of American Christianity in general, is overwhelmingly white—despite the fact that black Americans are the racial demographic most likely to identify as “very religious.” A recent Barna poll found that Tebow is by far the most well-known Christian professional athlete in the U.S. (with 83% awareness from the public), with retired white quarterback Kurt Warner a distant second at 59%. Robert Grifﬁn III (RGIII), a black quarterback who’s had a far more successful season with the Redskins than Tebow’s had with the Jets, trailed at 34%. It's a good point, but I don't think it's the whole story.
Americans have always believed that the devil likes to play politics. Colonial leader Henry Hugh Brackenridge claimed in 1778 that Satan inspired George III’s allegedly ruthless policy toward the colonies. Two decades later, Federalists claimed that the nascent Democratic Party had put forward the antichrist as a presidential candidate in the form of Thomas Jefferson. Later Jedidiah Morse, inventor of Morse code and end-times enthusiast, explained to audiences the Devil’s role in Jeffersonianism. He even claimed to have a list of Democrats who belonged to the Illuminati (though like Joe McCarthy, Morse never showed anyone his proof). The History Channel miniseries The Bible has been alleged to continue this trend.
I thumbed through a stack of Xeroxed images, looking at the multiple faces of Jesus that a friend compiled for her theology paper. She had gone to the library and photocopied profiles from around the globe.
The good news: the U.S. will now have the highest number of African-American senators ever. The bad news: that number is two. Out of 100.
In Clearly Invisible, Marcia Alesan Dawkins explores passing—presenting oneself as a member of a racial group to which one does not belong. Dawkins argues that passing is a rhetorical act that “forces us to think and rethink what, exactly, makes a person black, white or ‘other,’ and why we care.”
The nation's changing racial and ethnic profile will bring political change. But we can also expect it to elicit fear and resistance.
Several current tales of Snow White nod at feminist critique—while leaving the old paradigms for female power and beauty intact.