Beliefs Culture Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

The new face of Mormon racism

Over the last week or so, the social media hashtag #DearWhiteMormons has given Mormons of color an opportunity to share their experiences of being in a mostly-white church. Like this:

Or this:

But it wasn’t long before some white Mormons appeared to feel threatened by the hashtag. Some called it “reverse racism” when Mormons of color explained how they had been treated or judged. The tenor of some of these tweets from white Mormons was that golly, gosh, and darn it, race just does not exist as a category in white Mormons’ minds! If blacks or Latinos bring it up, they are creating divisions and barriers where none exist. We’re all brothers and sisters in Christ, people; can’t we just get along? Stop playing the victim already.

As several people of color pointed out, such responses themselves revealed that Mormon racism is, sadly, alive and well. The very people who want to claim that racial differences do not exist and that we should forget the troubles of the past are often the same folks who perpetuate white culture and history as normative.

And these whites’ responses are only the less extreme or overt brand of racism — the kind that wants to sweep the experiences of people of color under the rug so that whites don’t have to feel uncomfortable about the privileges they take for granted.

There’s a darker current at work as well, which is even more sinister.

This type is represented by LDS blogger “Wife with a Purpose,” who retweets appalling claims about “white genocide” and the need for white people to have more babies to they can counteract the growth of minority races who have a higher birth rate. Otherwise, she says, white culture will be eradicated and whites will be oppressed.

Using hashtags like #whiteculture, #saveeurope,  and, of course, #altright, she begs Americans (read: white people) to wake up and smell their coming extermination. This morning she tweeted that white people are “under attack, dying daily” in America — this despite the fact that while there has been a 20% rise in hate crimes, the victims are overwhelmingly Jews, people of color, and sexual minorities.

Over the weekend she attacked Deseret Book authors Zandra Vranes and Tamu Smith, also known as the Sistas in Zion.

Um, what?!

She also told the Sistas, “We will not let you shame, harass, belittle, attack and degrade white LDS members anymore. This has come to an end!” But it sure looks like the shaming, harassment, and degradation are directed from her, not to her.

Wife with a Purpose says the Sistas are “fake Mormons,” and says that white supremacy (a term she rejects for herself, but if the shoe fits . . .) is baked right into Mormonism’s founding:

So apparently, because Joseph Smith saw “a pillar of light” that exceeded “the brightness of the sun,” that means that Jesus and Heavenly Father had white skin. Because of course.

This weekend she convened the first ever “Mormon Right” conference with “about a dozen” adults in attendance.

A dozen is small, but it’s a dozen Mormon racists too many. I call upon our church to speak out against this kind of injustice — or at least to speak louder. Those words are there from Jeffrey R. Holland, Gordon B. Hinckley, and many others. But the church has also never fully repudiated racist statements from earlier leaders like Bruce R. McConkie, Mark E. Peterson, and Brigham Young. Until and unless it does, it allows the ugliness of racism to fester and grow.

This story is available for republication.

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church," which will be published by Oxford University Press in March 2019. She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

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