Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Forthright Conversations: Blacks and the Priesthood

As reported by CNN today (Holder: U.S. a 'nation of cowards' on race discussions), Eric Holder, the nations first black attorney general, gave some counsel we should take to heart. In giving "a blunt assessment of race relations in the United States", he "called the American people 'essentially a nation of cowards' in failing to openly discuss the issue of race."

He also suggested that Americans of all races use Black History Month as a "time to have a forthright national conversation between blacks and whites to discuss aspects of race which are ignored because they are uncomfortable. The attorney general said employees across the country "have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace," but he noted that "certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks at best embarrassment and at worst the questioning of one's character."

I got to thinking about how this could also be appropriately applied to discussions within the Church about blacks and the priesthood ban.

"It's a question of being honest with ourselves and racial issues..."It's not easy to talk about it. We have to have the guts to be honest with each other, accept criticism, accept new proposals."

So in that spirit, here are some very good "conversations", each dealing with issues of race and the priesthood ban. Do yourself a favor and take the time to read not just the posts themselves, but also the conversations that take place in the comments section:

Blacks and the Priesthood, a Request to the Media--Times and Seasons

Teaching About Racism (Including the Priesthood Ban) in Sacrament Meeting--Juvenile Instructor

More Unbridled Speculation — the Priesthood Ban--Mormon Matters

Commemorating the Revelation--By Common Consent

Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons-a documentary about African American Latter-day Saints, headed by Margaret Young and Darius Gray


David said...

Thanks for this post. Being honest with ourselves really is crucial.

FYI, J. Stapley also wrote a good post along the lines of those quotes above. Here's the link:

Clean Cut said...

Thanks David. I appreciate your words and for providing that link. I've added it to the list above.

Mike said...

I can't speak to applying the AG's speech to the history of the LDS church because I'm only an investigator/potential convert at this point. I think the more pernicious, though less shocking statement in Holder's speech is, "Simply put, to get to the heart of this country one must examine its racial soul." That is profoundly wrong. The soul of America is not race, it's freedom. America is an idea, a shared set of assumptions more than anything else. We are not loyal to clan, tribe, race, religion or even the land. We are the descendants of people who believed in an idea and welcomed (often imperfectly) those who shared that ideal.

That’s not to say race isn’t a very important element of America it clearly is. That’s mainly because it's one of the most obvious ways in which the rhetoric of America did not match the reality. Yet no one who is remotely honest denies that astonishing progress has been made and continues to be made (see Obama, Barack and Holder, Eric for proof of this) despite the efforts of those who would live only in the past.

To say that race is the heart of this country is to insult not only America but to many, many blacks throughout history. Personally, I think some of the most remarkable people this country has ever produced are blacks who volunteered to fight and often die in the service this nation before they were recognized as full citizens. Imagine fighting in a segregated unit in WWII on the side of freedom and against a racist regime only to return to the Jim Crow south. Yet many did because they believed that some day America would do the right thing and they wanted to be a part of it, to contribute their share to the idea of America and make it possible.

Today we live in a world where students think they should get A’s for trying and yet here were men who were willing to die for a nation that did not embrace them as full and equal citizens. Their faith in America was simply incredible and it has been proven to have been well placed. Those men didn’t fight for ‘black America’ or their race. Just like every other serviceman they fought for America the ideal, America the imperfect, America the possible. To say that America is at it’s heart and soul about race seem and attempt to cheapen that. And that is unforgivable.

Clean Cut said...

Welcome Mike. I appreciate your perceptive comment. I had actually missed that particular quote, but I think I actually agree with you. Well said.

I was originally impressed simply with his thoughts on having more forthright conversations--even about sensitive issues. Obviously I chose to use them as a springboard to introduce some rather localized, yet similarly sensitive, conversations relating to Latter-day Saints.

Nonetheless, I appreciate your insight.