Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Darron Smith of Black and Mormon Fame

I have previously given a very positive review of the recent book Black and Mormon, edited by Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2004, 172 pages). This morning I was pleased to find that Darron Smith now has his own Website, DarronSmith.com.

Darron is a black convert who served a mission in the Church and, according to information in the book, was a lecturer at Utah Valley State College and an adjunct faculty member at BYU. Now, according to his Website, he teaches at Westminster College in Salt Lake City while completing his Ph.D. in education at the University of Utah (he also has a M.Ed. in Higher Education from Brigham Young University -- see his curriculum vita).

I consider Darron among the more interesting famous Mormons in the Church, and after reading of his challenges in dealing with a mostly white church, respect him greatly for maintaining his faith in spite of the racial tensions he has experienced. I hope his book will continue to help the rest of us be aware of the pains that our black brothers and sisters have felt so that we all may better shed our blinders and hidden bigotries. Many people trying their best to fully live the Gospel may unconsciously have racist attitudes, and books like Black and Mormon can do much to open our eyes and help us see more fairly. I suspect that nearly all of us have plenty of room for improvement, especially when it comes to the subtle issues that we just can't see without help from the outside.

Update: Apparently there has been some recent controversy with Darron, as a commenter notes. I'm sorry about that. As I've noted before, I think Darron has gone too far on some points. I think we all need to give each other a lot of slack and not be too quick to condemn, or too quick to find fault, whether it's with individuals or the Church.

22 comments:

Mark said...

I hope that black LDS are not having a lot of problems inside the church. In my own normal American extended family we have several mixed race families via marriage and or adoption. I hope and pray that we can all just be Americans instead of this kind or that kind, and that as LDS we can just be saints.

Anonymous said...

Jeff,

I hate to say it, as you are normally pretty sharp, but you are a little out of touch on this one and it appears that you aren't aware of Darron Smith's recent comments regarding the racism issue, the non response of the Church Hierarchy and then his subsequent firing from BYU(his words in the radio interview with KCPW.)

Also, he's had that website for a long time, at least a year or longer, it isn't something new, as you say. I guess for someone that just found it, it would be considered to be new.

It's clear that you haven't been following these issues at all and you should have done a little more research before writing this post.

I would also be careful about throwing my support behind him and his book, when it appears to be clear, according to Darron himself, that the Church is not supportive. In fact, they are clearly against what he is both doing and saying.

I wouldn't be surprised if he is called to a Church court and probably excommunicated, in the very near future, for both writing the book and then being outspoken regarding the issue of racism within Mormonism.

I predicted back in June that he would be fired from BYU and it took 6 months, but they finally did it.

Jeff, did you not listen to the latest radio interview that Darron did on KCPW, where he clearly stated that he believes he was fired from BYU(in an Email over the holidays)?

Also, in the Salt Lake Tribune article, this past Saturday, regarding Darron Smith, it says:

"Underneath the euphoria, though, lurks a continuing race problem.

"It's not the same kind of racism it was 40 years ago," says Darron Smith, an outspoken LDS black member. "Now it's happy-face racism - denial that there's a problem and shoot the messenger."

Smith worked until recently as an adjunct professor at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University and as a diversity counselor. Last month his contract was not renewed, he says, and he was told it was because of his constant raising of this issue with the media and in public forums.

But Smith, co-editor of an anthology, Black and Mormon, won't be silenced.

"I have remained faithful to the church, but that doesn't seem to count for much," Smith says in a phone interview. "They vilify me."

He and others have tried to get the LDS Church to repudiate what they see as racist folklore once used to defend the ban: The idea that blacks descended from Cain, the biblical figure who murdered his brother, or that blacks couldn't choose between God and Satan in the pre-Earth life, making them "fence-sitters in heaven."

"These ideas, though never based in revelation or canonical sources, were authoritatively taught by LDS leaders as late as the 1980s," says Armand Mauss, professor emeritus of sociology at Washington State University and author of All Abraham's Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Lineage and Race.


Smith also was quoted as saying:

"Racist folklore will remain in the church until LDS officials publicly repudiate it from the pulpit - at stake conferences, ward conferences and General Conference," he says. "All of us need to ask questions, not just blacks. It's only when the white boy asks the right questions that progressive things will happen for the church. We don't need any more white liberals, we need white radicals."


So, Jeff, I realize that you will most likely delete this message, but I felt that it was necessary to help educate both you and your readers, regarding Darron Smith, so that you knew who you were supporting. I was actually shocked to see that you had written a post supporting him. I would call that dangerous ground at this point.

If you haven't yet heard the radio interview, I would be glad to email it to you, so that you can hear it for yourself.

I would also, like Darron Smith, be interested Jeff in what you think, as far as why the LDS Hierarchy, won't repudiate and denounce these horrible, offensive and racist teachings?

Hopefully you won't delete this post in the interest of truth and honesty, which you proclaim to be a big fan of. I greatly respect Darron Smith for doing what he is doing and the fact that he is willing to risk his Church membership for truth,honesty and what he believes in.

The Church needs more men like Darron Smith as leaders, to make things right, for once and for all.

Anon

Richard K Miller said...

You may also like the site BlackLDS.org if you haven't seen it already. It is run by FAIR.

Matt Thurston said...

There is a very interesting three-part interview between Darron Smith and John Dehlin over at Mormon Stories:

http://mormonstories.org/?page_id=102

Regan said...

It's always very interesting to listen to and read white people discuss racism. Especially the unsympathetic ones, clueless about the more subtle forms of bigotry.
I listen to heterosexual people talk about gay people among themselves as if expert. The only information they have (and tend to believe) comes from other straight people.

But if the black person, the gay person, the woman...who has reality and experience on their side, just having those whose own experience DISMISS what is said....is prejudice in itself.
And insensitive.

How would a white person, a straight person...a MAN...possible know what a black, gay or woman feels?
Who put them in place to JUDGE the quality of what is said?
Subtle and covert bigotry would be harder for anyone to detect initially, but it's no less devastating or hurtful to whoever is on the receiving end of it.

As a straight, black woman...and seeing with my own eyes that there are NO religious groups lead by women, controlled or partnered by women, I can't say I trust ANY organized religion because of the inherent bias against women.
Only white men were enlightened by and chosen as the interpreters of God's word and will?

From the way history is recorded.
Sure looks that way...and why should I believe any of them?

Jamie said...

The best course i enrollrd in at BYU was Darron Smith's honnors sociology 230, African American Expierience. i expected it would entail discussions of Martin Luther King, jazz history, ghettos and Abolitionists history. i emerged with a healthier understanding of myself and gained more critical thinking skills than from any other class. It is a devastating loss for BYU to have let him go.

Ryan said...

I have to admit, that I too am surprised that Mr. Lindsay did not delete some of the remaining posts to this topic.

Good going Jeff for not taking the typical stance of: "If you can't get the response you want, erase the memory of what was said".

Good job!

Mormanity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mormanity said...

Thanks.

I recognize that Darron Smith has some views that the Church is not comfortable with - and that I'm not comfortable with. But he has made a valuable contribution and has some things to say that I'm willing to listen to. We cannot discount the pain that our policies have caused for our brothers and sisters of color, and understanding that is vital. But none of us should get caught up in the spirit of victimhood. The Ongofu blog has a great lesson that topic - more later.

out west said...

I live in a very mormon influenced area, and I am astounded at the racial ignorance. Well, not really. I don't trust any church that took til the 1970s to 'get a revelation' that black people aren't in God's disfavor. I don't want to raise my daughter here, and don't want her subjected to the ignorance and prejudice of our smiling mormon neighbors. Perhaps people should get their own relationship with God, and not wait for some old, rich white guy to tell them what God is saying.

chester hawkins said...

I am an African-American member of the Church, and I think one thing must be stated very clearly. I agree with Darron's concerns about the issues of race in the Church, because it is still happening before my own eyes, unfortunately. I still remain a member, and have been for 33 years (September 17, 1977). Before one talk about brotherhood, we have work to do in our Wards, Stakes, and others, to stamp out racism.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Chester, can you let me know a little more about the problems you face? How widespread?

Michael said...

Reagan, as a minority I find it offensive that you place gays in the same category as blacks and women. Homosexuality is a life choice and not something one is born with. If you are going to discuss prejudice, learn what it is.

Jeremy said...

Michael, that's pretty silly. So if homosexuality is a "life choice" how is it that animals can make such a choice? There is extensive documentation (even googleing it will lead you to primary sources), which demonstrates same-sex sexual intercourse in animals, so does that mean that animals are sinning?

If sexuality is a life choice, why did you choose to be heterosexual?

Michael said...

Jeremy, I do not place humans on animals on the same level. Apparently you do. I had pet guinea pigs as a child and we had to seperate the father from the babies because he would eat them. Should that acceptable for humans too? I beleive that there is enough persecution in the world for things people cannot help that when people want to claim that their civil rights are being violated because society doesnt like what they DO, they need to get in the back of the line. If you want to compare humans and animals than our standard just got lowered

Jeremy said...

Michael,

You say, "I beleive [sic] that there is enough persecution in the world for things people cannot help..."

So, you think people can choose their sexuality? Then let me ask you a question: why did you choose to be heterosexual? Did you do research on the social, economic, and cultural benefits of heterosexuality and then conclude that it was the best decision for you?

Or, would you state that you did not choose your sexual orientation, but that homosexuals did choose and that they are actually straight. That's pretty convenient that anything different from you is a "choice," but somehow you are all natural.

Anyway, your Guinea Pig example is a helpful one in illustrating the diction between socially sanctioned behaviors, socially condemned behaviors, and their relation to that which is natural. Just because something is natural does not mean it is good, which some assume. Such and assumption is often at the heart of the debate about the naturalness of homosexuality (or other controversial behaviors). The problem is that violence is natural too (look at young children who have a conflict), but it is not something we sanction as a cultural because it directly harms others. The harms of homosexuality are tenuous at best and in no way direct like violence or pedophilia. Yes homosexuality is natural, but that is not why it should be viewed as an acceptable behavior, the reason it should be viewed as acceptable is that it does not direct harm to individuals and does not usurp another person's agency.

Michael said...

Jeremy,
you said "Anyway, your Guinea Pig example is a helpful one in illustrating the diction between socially sanctioned behaviors, socially condemned behaviors, and their relation to that which is natural."
Is it safe to say that polygamy is a socially condemned behavior, even if between consenting adults who are "in love". What about marriage between a brother and a sister?
My point is, you are right that the harms of homosexuality are minimal. But if we are to allow gay marriage and the homosexual lifestyle in general, we cannot leave out other forms of love between consenting adults. It is convenient that gay supporters dont bring up polygamy or relations between family members.
If your claim is that we should not prevent relationships between any consenting adults in love, than you must include every group. Otherwise leave it to men and women.
oh... and I DO believe that heterosexuality between one man and one women is the only natural way, and any other form of relations is a choice and something that should be overcome.

Jeremy said...

Michael,

I can appreciate the concern about potential implications on marriage in the future if gay marriage became a reality. I think it is useful to consider elements of things like polygamy or incest or other related possibilities. I agree that the questions of the viability of polygamous unions (meaning both polygyny and polyandry) naturally come stem from a discussion of gay marriage, but just because gay marriage is sanctioned, there is no necessity of other forms being approved as well. I would say that it is only to the level of questions and not the to the necessity of implementation that the questions stemming from gay marriage lead to.

Here is a response from an attorny which addresses the Slippery Slope argument which you present (the relevant portion is just the first few paragraphs up to the all caps "UPDATE"):

http://volokh.com/posts/1156371992.shtml

Like I say, it's not just whether or not such relationships are natural, or whether or not people are in love which leads to a desirable marriage union, but the benefits/detriments to the current social system. Gay marriage doesn't really cause a lot of problems with the legal understanding of marriage in the U.S., but other forms, especially polygamy, create a whole mess of problems for our current understanding of marriage as a legal union. So I think you're right to ask the questions about the implications of gay marriage, but I'm not so sure that there is clear substantiation of the possibility of something like polygamy becoming a real problem.

Michael said...

Jeremy,
I appreciate that link, it was definitly interesting and had valid points. My concern with it is the authors reason for us not to worry about gay marriage leading to polygamy is simply that it "would require a great deal of adjustment". Essentially he argues that it is not a slippery slope issue because modern day polygamy does not fit well with how we view gender equality in our society.

But that argument seems like a stretch. Gay marriage has taken years to become generally accepted in our society by some, and it overcame all the issues that the author claims will prevent polygamy from following. And the only reason why polygamy is not in the same discussion is because it has a bad reputation right now and does not have the popular support and representation that the gays have. Homosexuality is the hip, cool thing right now but EVERY SINGLE argument used to justify gay marriage is exactly what proponents of polygamy or incest would use.

Back to my original point, I have made it clear how I feel about homosexuality, and in my opinion supporters of gay marriage cannot conveniently leave out all other forms of relations between consenting adults. When you give all types of marriage equal face time, I will take the issue seriously but right now its just the "cool" thing to do.

Michael said...

And to my original point, as a minority I find it frustrating when gay people wish to be put in the same category as women and minorities in terms of prejudice.
It is unacceptable for our society to simply say "you are born this way, just be yourself," which has become such a popular justification for not trying to be better. Homosexuality has become more and more accepted and "cool" and therefore more young people find it convenient to sink to that lifestyle but that does not make it right. Until a "gay gene" is discovered, it is irresponsible to assume that because you have certain tendencies, that must be who you are. If I have a tendency to clean, am I a Janitor? or can I be more?

Mercury Mongoose said...

Addressing Michael's point: I'm a minority and i'm gay. I didn't choose my gayness any more than I chose my blackness. It's frustrating to hear other minorities decry the inclusion of gays in the class of "people who deserve to be treated like human beings." Bigotry is bigotry, regardless of the source.

Whisperatnight said...

HE obviously is a racist. His use of the phrase, "white privilege", insights violence and discrimination against the caucasian race and is used to demean the person to whom he is labeling.