Monday, September 29, 2014

sistahs in zion & a mormon moment part 2 ::: on missing out on kumbayah

sistah beehive and sistah laurel
this weekend a black woman, that is to say a woman of african descent*, prayed at the opening session of the very important international meetings mormons call "general conference."  this was a historic event, as it was the first time a black woman had prayed in a session of general conference. this was an important time for showing the world that mormons are trying to overcome racist practices that have haunted our legacy, a legacy that,  to my mind, should be much more radical and inclusive than it currently is.

sister dora mkhabela, "natural hair diva" of the young women's general board.  the first woman of african descent to pray in general conference. 
i listened to the sistahs in zion radiocast this morning, and really felt how deeply white sisters, and especially progressive white sisters who espouse inclusion and progress so vocally, have failed black sisters.

"i wanted to celebrate.  i waited.  time will tell, and time did tell.  there was nothing." (on the silence in social media from white mormon sisters, particularly mormon feminists after sister mkhabela's prayer.)

nobody put out a hand to start up the kumbayah circle (an african song, the sistahs said.)

white mormon feminists did not speak about this historic moment until their black sisters started the ball rolling.

this was not okay.

it is not okay.

a caller on the show phoned in to say that we shouldn't be surprised--that american mormons should be expected to enact racism in the same way other americans enact it--with awkwardness and silence.

the sistahs defended their pointed attack on mormon feminists, saying that mo fems, of all people should be on this--should be a lot better than we are--because we are so loud in our criticism of inequality.

i hold mormons to a higher standard, just like the sistahs expected more from white mormon feminists in recognizing the milestone of sister mkhabela's prayer.

when you're raised mormon, you're taught from early days that there is something special about your religion.  that with mormonism, you can embrace the entire globe of humanity, future and past, with the gospel of jesus christ.  the mormon gospel of jesus christ, the one that is both similar to and different from other christian congregations.

the one of supposedly the ultimate inclusion.

like the sistahs in zion, i have always expected more from my mormon brothers and sisters.  maybe i shouldn't, but i do.  i was raised to be aspirational and idealistic, because of my religion.

it might be okay for people "of the world" to be hypocrites, but mormons should be less hypocritical, far less hypocritical,  because we are so loud at proclaiming and proselytizing our ultimates.

so it's not okay with me when mormons:

1) embrace & enact racism
2) vote to deny health care, food, clothing, housing and human rights to our brothers and sisters
3) embrace capitalism above the care of individual human beings and the health of our planet

being a mormon is pretty hard.  it might be why mormons succeed in such large numbers relative to our tiny minority status (14 million members, according to official mormon church data).  we learn to sacrifice by spending a lot of hours at church, in service, in donations to the church, in trying to be better every day, and in learning to be part of a community that we didn't necessarily choose to be a part of, from the day we are born, for those of us who are born mormon.

we can do hard things.  we do hard things.

and we can do even harder things.

i expect us to.

despite all of my questions, doubts, and the tiny amount of understanding, or maybe even the complete lack of understanding, i hold about god, the universe, this planet, the weirdness and majesty of humanity & nature, i stay a part of my religion because of its aspirational qualities.  listening to the sistahs in zion, i was struck by their devotion even within a hostile environment--a racist and largely white american mormon setting where they nonetheless have found truth and the motivation to serve, teach, and work to be better every day.

we aspire to hold all things equal (our doctrine says this).  we aspire to be a zion people in zion (meaning the utopic time when jesus comes again and the lamb lies down with the lion)--and we aspire to that NOW, not only when jesus comes again.

sistahs in zion once again don't get to rest.  they must be exhausted.

they have to tell white sisters that we hurt them again, especially the ladies who are working for gender equality and should know better. we need to give them a break.  they can't keep up the work on their own.

we owe them, the world, all our sisters, a break.  and a kumbayah.

*mormons historically denied "peoples of african descent" the priesthood, and some prophets reinforced teachings about the "mark of cain" as reasons for the priesthood ban.  so it's important to note that sister dora mkhabela is of african descent, not a "woman of color" as some are calling her.

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