I have something to say and I’m not sure it’s my place to say it, but I have tried to bite my tongue all day, and I have been so concerned about ALLY THEATER (which I suck at) that I didn’t want to claim a voice in this controversy. But I can’t take it anymore. I am seeing things posted on facebook from friends whom I love and respect that are turning my stomach.
J. Kirk Richards painted a “Eve and the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge” which I adored. I fell in love with the piece. A few days ago I heard a different perspective of how for a few black mormon women they saw the image and actually felt pain and hurt. I was really defensive at first, but I decided to talk less and listen more.
Yesterday it went public with an article in the SL Tribune where Peggy Fletcher Stack quoted the negative feedback from those African-American LDS women. I think all three women I’ve seen publicly speak about it (Mica McGriggs, Bryndis Roberts, and Janan Graham-Russell) have been pretty eloquent in the hurt and pain that the portrayal gave them. I’m not going to add any words to that what they have already said, but I’m going to say that I can tell that most of you are missing the mark.
For the past 24 hours all I have seen is white, progressive Mormons negating their voices. Silencing them, discounting them, trivializing them — telling them they are over-exaggerating and choosing to be offended. I have seen a beloved artist be defended by others and even seen him come out in his own defense — to communicate that the artist had good intent, even righteous intent. It’s obvious that no pain was ever intended but many think it would be ridiculous to interpret something that was done from a place of love as negative.
Earlier this week on facebook I shared this article by Dr. Julie Hanks about how people respond defensively to criticism with “You’re choosing to be offended.” My commentary:
In an effort to make the world a better place I try to talk about situations that hurt people. This is a frequent response I get in return (You’re choosing to be offended). Just because someone has been hurt doesn’t mean they are offended. Wounds may be inadvertent, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need healing. I liked this article – it points out that people who respond with “You’re choosing to be offended” can use the more apt “Is it I?” approach that encourages reconciliation.
“If someone tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.” – Louis CK
I want to flash all of us back two weeks ago when Elder Bednar said “There are no homosexual members of the church.” This caused LGBT Mormons we love pain. They felt erased and silenced and that the value they derive from their identity doesn’t matter/was a bad thing. Progressive Mormons rose up en masse to defend and show an outpouring of love towards the injured. Many conservative Mormons raised their voices back in response to say “You are misunderstanding what he is saying. What he is saying is from a place of deep love. This was never meant to cause pain and you all are just choosing to be offended.” Two weeks ago we cared about the people who felt pain.
In the last 48 hours I want to ask you: whose pain and discomfort are you most concerned about right now? The white progressive Mormon man who had pure intentions (and whose intentions reflected our own) or those who were inadvertently hurt by him? And why has this been our reaction?
Why do we easily understand this dynamic when white women are being injured? Or when the #LGBTQ+ community is hurt? But almost every single damn time we can’t, for the life of us, empathize with black women?
P.S. Demanding that these women come and educate us or explain their positions (that we don’t understand) is further alienating and discounting their experience. Guess what: I bet they don’t want to go through the time and effort (and yes, reliving and holding onto the pain they feel) to educate our sorry-excuse-for-an-ally white mormon progressive arses.
P.P.S. It feels kind of self-congratulatory to me to have the response be “this is such an important conversation to be having and it’s really great that this piece is causing it to happen.” I’m not sure that any of these women agree with that sentiment.
P.P.P.S. Yes, I know you have a black mormon friend who loves this piece. Yes I know they aren’t hurt or offended by it. Black mormons aren’t monolith. They will all respond differently. Doesn’t mean the critique isn’t valid.
P.P.P.P.S. I’m sorry if you don’t know exactly what this is referring to – but mostly to things being said on facebook in response to this critique, and those aren’t easily linkable.