Choose Right, Not Racism, Gov. Romney

Dear Gov. (Bishop) Romney:

I’m assuming you’ll understand why, as someone who teaches the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a classroom, your comment yesterday at a rally in Michigan irked me tremendously. In case you’re trying to forget what you said, let me repeat it for you. “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this [Michigan] is the place that we were born and raised.”

I have tried my best to give you the benefit of the doubt. It seems however, that you are the same bully who cut your classmate’s hair back in high school. The reality is, you are the product of white privilege; some from your money, but also from the racist history of the LDS beginning with Brigham Young. You might think that it’s unfair to bring up the LDS’ troubled past, but I think it is, in part, a big issue for you in this campaign. Let me explain.

Most reporters focus on the 1978 revelation that black men could be part of the Mormon priesthood as the end of Mormon theology regarding race, though a recent op-ed in the New York Times by John G. Turner suggests that “race is still a problem for the Mormon Church because they have never repudiated nor apologized for it.” I agree with Turner. It is a problem for the LDS.

It is a greater problem for you, however, because you are running against the first African-American President of the United States. You are also from a persecuted minority, though you have chosen to take the trappings of whiteness, prosperity and privilege and make them your own. That is within your right. It is not a good look for you however, nor is it for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that you represent, whether you want to or not.

When you talk about “welfare” or the birth certificate “joke,” I think they are much more than a “dog whistle” to your base. I wonder if it also comes from Mormon theology which taught that black people are black because they are cursed as “fence sitters in heaven” and had the mark of Cain. If that’s not enough, the Book of Mormon, specifically 2 Nephi 30:6, said the Laminites would become “Whitesome and Delightsome” if they accepted the Book of Mormon. Perhaps you have not noticed the text was changed to “Pure and Delightsome” in 1981. So, for you to continue to pick up race-bating is not only a tea party tell, it is a reflection, whether you like it or not, on the LDS past—no matter how many “I am a Mormon” commercials feature people of color.

What’s more, your own family history points to a painful past. Your grandfather escaped to Mexico to be able to practice his belief in polygamy (you and President Obama both have polygamy in your family history). Mormons have been persecuted for a long time, though your money and your father’s position protected you from associating with that persecuted past. It is part of you, no matter how much you cling to your privilege. Would it be too difficult for you to exercise some discretion, noting your own past, and realize that many African Americans are sick and damn tired of white people questioning the President of the United States about his birth certificate?

I hope you realize that because President Obama won in 2008, he had made it easier for you to run for president in 2012. Both the Republican Party and the religious right shunned you in 2008. Many Christian power brokers are holding their noses to vote for you because they hate President Obama more. Many wonder if you even are a Christian. So please, before you use racism and dog whistles against the president, consider your church’s past of persecution, and bigotry. Choose the right, if you can.