8.5.1 Strategically choose antiracism, 406-408
Lori Taylor, Telling Stories about Mormons and Indians
If you have stayed with what I have said this long, I challenge you to become actively anti-racist within your sphere: get more information, talk, teach, confront racism and ask its owners to take responsibility for their words and actions. Suggest a better way. Once you say, “I had no idea,” help others say the same. Do not assume there is one right way to go about this. The experiences and actions of people who have been subjected to racism will be different from those of white people. Find models of anti-racism. Using your own situation as your guide, improvise. Be creative and strategic in freeing Mormons as a people. If you doubt that one person can make a difference when a church is run by the will of God, think of former LDS President Spencer W. Kimball who took many opportunities during his forty years of church leadership to ask questions and make changes. He may have been patronizing, but he often lovingly acted within his sphere of influence to make changes he thought would help.
Both individuals and institutions need to change. Individuals can unlearn patterns of racist thoughts and actions and prepare to change institutions, thereby dismantling the engine that runs racism. Anti-racism means acquiring skills, confidence, patience, and persistence to challenge, interrupt, modify, erode, and eliminate the problems in whatever situations they might present themselves.
Claiming not to see color in present or past does not make racism go away. That just allows the racisms embedded in the structures of our institutions and in our own minds to be perpetuated without calling its name. A little superficial tidying will not make it go away. We need to examine our very foundations to find what has shaped us. Bringing it up is not the problem; ignoring its implicit presence is the problem. We can actively choose our own relationship to racism. Some Mormons are too steeped in whiteness, supporting it with scriptural justifications from different historical circumstances than their own, leaving their choices to the characters in their sacred texts. I am not sure I can touch that referential racism, but I may be able to touch the inferential racism of those who find themselves innocent yet continually benefit from their whiteness not only economically and socially but spiritually. They do not have to contend with the questions of how to carry the label “Lamanite” with the clear implication of unrighteousness throughout the Book of Mormon. Those Mormons who perpetuate racism without recognizing it can be recruited to become active antiracists, pursuing the higher ideals of their religion.
There are many creative solutions to problems of racism being offered by cultural workers, communities, and artists based on their own situations. I am not suggesting that we adopt these, but we can consider these as catalysts to our own creative solutions which must grow from our own historical and social situations. In order to find those solutions, we must know the historical and social situations beyond the happy-faced and tidy lives Mormons present to the world. I have done little here but suggest some of the historical foundations and the ways we have created and recreated them in our memories and histories. I whole-heartedly support any work that will further antiracism among us, particularly that which makes us actively uncomfortable with the remnants of racism embedded in any aspect of our lives and encourages among us “coordinated collective action.” I am suggesting that within small groups we engage in strategic alliances toward foreseeable ends—then disband to find the next appropriate alliances.
- Main Page: Telling Stories about Mormons and Indians
- Chapter: Chapter 6: Forget Indians, Forget History, Forget Dangerous Memories
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Lori Elaine Taylor, Telling Stories about Mormons and Indians. Ph.D. dissertation, American Studies. State University of New York at Buffalo, 2000.