A former colleague of mine posted on Facebook asking her friends what we had learned this week. She is a black woman I knew when we both worked in the same group at American Express in Salt Lake City. Her call for reflection is helpful so we can be clear on what we’ve learned and what we will do as a result. My response to her was:

1) Some white people really like to make everything about themselves.
2) The idea of cops having qualified immunity from prosecution is way past its expiration date.
3) Schools should quit having students read To Kill a Mockingbird, and start reading The Hate U Give or any number of more contemporary books, preferably by black authors.
4) The Harlem Gospel Choir is AMAZING.

5) There can be no racial equality until we recognize the injustice that exists. You can’t learn from what you ignore or refuse to see.

I also saw some other things that I have found disturbing, along the lines of #5. While I don’t think these people are hate-filled racists or people who would go out of their way to avoid black people, and I know for a fact that most of them consider George Floyd’s death a murder and believe the bystander cops are accomplices, I continue to hear statements that are in fact *racist*. Maybe I can even call it low-key racist. I know it’s not intentional. It’s just that they haven’t yet taken off their eyeglasses of privilege. To paraphrase M. Night Shyamalan’s whispered revelation, “I see racist people. And they don’t know they are racist.” Here are a few things I’ve heard that qualify:

  • All lives matter.”
  • “Blue lives matter” or the claim that nobody talks about it when a cop is killed in the line of duty, but “one black man gets killed and everyone riots.”
  • This is a temper tantrum by the black community.
  • The “leftists” are chaotic and violent, but the people on the right are for order.

  • Black people are burning down their own neighborhoods.
  • LOL, everyone out there protesting is going to get Covid!

  • Protests = riots.
  • Protesters = looters & vandals.

  • These protests aren’t even about empathizing with Floyd’s family!
  • Floyd’s death wasn’t a race thing. The cop might have had a personal grudge.

  • I have met some really nice black people.
  • We need to end the riots and “restore law.”

  • If we would just quit talking about racism, people wouldn’t be so angry.
  • No matter what Trump does or says, he’ll get criticized.

  • We need to let the justice system handle the cops. They deserve due process.
  • Violence never solved anything.
  • It was one bad cop. Most cops aren’t like that.

  • “These people” are bringing this on themselves.
  • Floyd may have died from underlying conditions.
  • Why do people have to bring up race all the time? It just divides us.
  • We have to fight violence (looting & vandalism) with violence and military might!

  • If only black people would . . .

  • Why doesn’t anyone care about prejudice against white people? That’s racism, too!
  • We just need to vote.
  • Members on Pres. Nelson’s FB page falling all over themselves in praise that now they know how to feel about things (too numerous to recount here).

  • The Church has never been racist or contributed to racist attitudes, and doesn’t tolerate racism. [1]
  • The claim that Joanna Brooks’ new book on Mormonism & White Supremacy is just pot-stirring.
  • That racist individuals, who are rare, are the problem.
  • That all this is just more political correctness, making it impossible for anyone to say anything.

Unfortunately, Pres. Nelson’s statement will not make any of the above people feel like they have lessons to learn or are at all in the wrong. Because they would not have personally killed George Floyd, they are all OK in their minds. They aren’t racists. But you can’t have an organization that welcomes both white supremacists and black people. Joanna’s book is pointing out just how baked in these ideas of white supremacy are in the Church, and so far, we have not fully repudiated them (we’ve asserted we have without doing any actual heavy lifting). These two groups of people really can’t co-exist in one Church, and looking at our membership numbers, they mostly don’t. As we see, these two groups struggle to co-exist in one country.

I’m tired of speaking up to people who say these things. They don’t appreciate it, even when I try to be kind and inclusive in my language, but I will continue to try to keep the conversation where it needs to be. I will advocate for the people who are largely absent from these conversations. I will do my best to care enough to bring people along who may be getting their information from poor sources, who are afraid, or who may be struggling to keep up. I will not be silent, although I will defer to and listen to people of color when it comes to personal experience with racism. My fatigue is nothing compared to the fatigue of my friends in the black community. Nothing I’m doing is enough.

  • Are we learning or is this going to be another forgotten protest in a long string of forgotten protests about the injustices rained down on black bodies?
  • What have you personally learned as a result of these events?
  • Are you hearing pockets of low-key racism designed to minimize the outcry or are you hearing a rising voice declaring a commitment to change?
  • What are you going to do better?


[1] This one takes a lot of chutzpah. And willful blindness.