On Being a Latter-day Saint and a Black American

Updated on August 27, 2018
Rodric29 profile image

Rodric has been a member of Christ's Church since he was 15 years old. He has a lot to say about his religion.

Mormonism in the United States is a microcosm of US culture--White dominated US culture to the extreme and Black expressionism of equal passion to the extreme

It Is What It Is

Being a Black person in a White society is stressful enough without throwing in another minority identity from a religious angle, but try throwing in the religious angle of Mormonism! Much is written on being Black and Mormon. Spiritually, it is a breath of pure air! Culturally, it produces a spectrum of experiences from social fulfillment to cognitive dissonance for some members--White and Black.

There is a slight difference in the experience of being Mormon and Black in the United States than being Catholic and Black, Jewish and Black, or pick-a-religious-society and Black. The common denominator of being Black gives the experiences of many Black Americans a common theme that will play out repeatedly in each group; however, those other religions have made more of an effort in recent history to reach out to the Black communities in America than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Recently, the President and Prophet of the Church, Russel M. Nelson, made a joint statement with the NAACP for more civility towards all people, which is a good start. The leadership gets it. The rest of us Mormons still need to work on it. The process of analyzing being both Black and Mormon in America would fill volumes of books, and I've tried to condense the major points about this dual identity into this article. In order to understand being Black and Mormon, an understanding of the cultural context of being an American, being Black in America, and being Mormon in America needs a little exploration.

Being American

Historically, Americans are considered White people. The majority of people who live in America are White; therefore, assuming an American will be White is not far-fetched. Americans come in all ethnic forms; however, most of those ethnicities are of European origin--White.

With recent political changes in the nation, White people are more prone to speak their minds about perceived injustices, while minorities seem more distant and a little disillusioned. Because minorities have been accustomed to the White Americans being silent about many things in the recent past, this new found First Amendment option indirectly inspired by President Trump causes some minorities to cry White privilege and foul.

A number of minorities believe that since most Americans are White and the cultural dynamics of America caters to White people, they should not feel free to speak on certain racial matters. Minorities, additionally--specifically some Blacks--feel that White Americans do not deserve the right to weigh in on certain racial matters due to the oppressive history of slavery and graduated levels of racism thereafter.

The United States of America is a country of freedom for all people, yes. However, it is a White nation. It is the result of Greek and Roman influence and philosophy packaged in the form of Christianity. In this worldview, most European-based nations exist. White people or people descended of European stock control the cultural complexities of language and culture. All of the Americas, Canada, Central America, Mexico, South America and the United States are the result of European culture. It is not wrong or racist. It just is.

European culture dominates the world. It is a truth that cannot be denied. It might not be liked or welcomed. We speak one of the European languages. You are reading English now! It is the way history unfolded. Again, it just is.

Source

White Privilege?

Understanding that our heritage and culture is influenced by and supports European culture now helps all people in the US understand why there exists White privilege. What is White privilege?

Let's change the name from White privilege to European Cultural Preference. Doing so provides a context from which to view White privilege that may be less offensive. Things that support the supremacy of the majority European psycho-social cultural construct such as art, music, custom, racial similarities and such, racial Politickers refer to as White privilege. Anything that supports preeminently the idea of accepted European heritage is a function of privilege. People who appear to be White, not just European--hair texture, skin color, cultural mannerisms and speech--are a part of European Cultural Preference.

It is not wrong for this to exist depending on the application. European Cultural Preference is used to profile and diminish people, which is negative. It is a ruler--a standard used by Western societies and most societies on the planet.

An example of this preference is that White people tend to be Christian. Islam does not typically have an association to being White. Christianity supports European culture and identity. Islam does not. Which one is more acceptable in the world?

The president of the USA supports sanctions against Islamic nations that do not share cultural aspects of Western Culture, which, of course, are European heritage friendly. Most Americans do not identify with Muslims culturally making it easier to accept disparaging statements regarding traditional practitioners. It will always exist. The idea of privilege will ever live to be more specific.

Privilege is not a concept or practice limited to White people, but the practice of all dominant cultures in any region on the planet. What makes it so powerful when White people exhibit it is the truth that European culture dominates around the world and every color/ethnicity of people perpetuate it. Think about it. In cultures dominated by European influence, society, whether purposely or unaware, teaches its people European cultural preference.

Examples are people of Asian descent who change their names to be less like their ancestral heritage and more like the dominant European culture. Africans who adjust their hair texture to appear less like their natural texture and more like European styles to fit in stating, "I just like that look."

Why do these people prefer that name change or look? The answer is because the dominant European culture affirms the practice of mimicking by others. It is the highest form of flattery. Adjusting to fit the lauded American dream lifestyle yields the reward of social acceptance and career advancement. It is a practice of all societies to include those who are willing to acclimate. It is also a tradition of all cultures to ridicule those who cannot assimilate. White people are culturally, politically, and financially, as a group, the most influential people on the planet, which is why so many in the US speak against European Cultural Preference.

© 2018 Rodric Anthony Johnson

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    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      5 months ago from Peoria, Arizona

      Bill, thanks for reading and commenting. You are always so encouraging. I know you do not share much opinion about politically or religiously charged topics. Your open mind to read and participate anyway is a credit to your character.

    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      5 months ago from Peoria, Arizona

      Elayne, thanks for reading. It was a great sentiment for you to apologize for something that you did not do wrong. There is no apology in my opinion that any White person member of the church or not needs to give for our culture. It is what it is and will not change. I am humbled that you would be willing to do so. YOU have NOTHING to be shamed of. I think that we need to be careful--especially me. I don't want people to think I want an apology for history. It really matters what people do now.

      I am so sorry to hear about your experiences with your family. It takes a special type of strength to raise a ethnically diverse family because of the way society is. My immediate family is all Black, so we deal with little discrimination most times. In mixed race families it is more difficult. Both sides may choose to reject the children or force them to choose one side or the other! Bi-racial children cannot be who they are most times. They have to choose. Depending on how they look, the choice is made for them. Now, that is hard. I pray you guys will be strengthen against the foolishness of extended family members and other socially challenged people.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      A fascinating read about our culture and your faith. Thank you so much for sharing this important article.

    • elayne001 profile image

      Elayne 

      5 months ago from Rocky Mountains

      I apologize for the ignorance of many of my family friends who have shown prejudice towards you or any other race that feels looked down upon. I am a Mormon and see it all the time because I am married to a Polynesian and they too have a lot of the same problems you mentioned. I am glad our prophet is reaching out and making a difference in the lives of minorities throughout the church and the world. Even my children have felt prejudice and that makes me very sad. There should be no angst against any person of a different color or race in Mormonism. We are all children of God.

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