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6 places to start as you seek to understand and navigate conversations of racial strife

by | Jun. 09, 2020

What do you say when people’s hearts all over the world are hurting? What do you say to try to make up for the pain that has been felt over generations? Where do you start when you are determined to be better and do better? These are all questions we, at LDS Living, have asked ourselves over the past few weeks.

Like many of you, we have been a bit at a loss for words and maybe that’s a good thing—maybe not knowing what to say will lead us to act. But because we still aren’t sure exactly what to say and are trying to listen more, we wondered if you might want to join us in doing the same. Here are a few of the posts from our black brothers and sisters that we have found to be helpful in understanding the issues at hand. We recognize that many of our readers are ready to listen but may not know where to start. It is our hope that these links might be helpful in starting conversations in your homes and within your families.

Fatima Dedrickson, author of the book Ready, Set, Be Still, has shared many of her personal experiences as she has encouraged people to show up for one another even if our efforts are imperfect and doing the right thing can sometimes feel uncomfortable.

“Growing up in Sweden, I was almost always the only black girl at church gatherings. I remember when I got to go to girls camp for the first time, I can’t even explain my excitement. We met up with the girls from my ward and loaded up the bus. As I got on it and started walking towards my friend, I heard someone yell very loudly ‘black people sit in the back of the bus’ followed by laughter,” she wrote on Instagram. The girl told Fatima she was just kidding but words, even if said jokingly, can be hurtful and the sting can be lasting. Fatima continued, “Beyond teaching our kids to love all people no matter our differences. Talk to them about our history so that when they get older, they will understand that these type of comments aren’t funny.”

Julie Boyé, wife of singer and former Tabernacle Choir member Alex Boyé, shared her perspective as the wife of a black man.

“I’ve learned that sometimes Alex is late to an appointment in NYC because it takes twice as long for a black man to hail a cab than a white man, unless he’s dressed to the nines and appears to have money,” she writes. “I’ve learned that oftentimes when Alex is being interviewed for radio and says he has seven kids, he also has to explain “from the same mother.” I’ve learned that he puts up with a lot of black jokes from some of the best of friends who feel like they can say it, because they know him (or their brother-in-law is black, so it’s fine), and he can get his feelings hurt.”

She concludes by suggesting that one way to improve as a society is to listen to the experiences of others, like Fatima’s. “Some of us white kids just need an explanation. We need to hear the stories—not the ones in the media, though they’re important, but the everyday experiences of black people having to justify themselves when we do not.”

Another Latter-day Saint who has shared his personal experience with racism is Abe Mills, a former member of Jericho Road, whose family is followed by over half a million subscribers on YouTube on their channel “Sunshine Mafia.” He sat down with his family this week to discuss racism together.

“We may not all be the same but we all have value,” Mills said after sharing examples of racial profiling, which included being threatened for being confused by traffic redirecting in a construction zone. He continued, “Do not miss this opportunity to look inside yourself to see ‘What is it that I can do to help change the way things are going down right now in society?’”

Brigham Young University’s campus newspaper The Daily Universe addresses racism in the Church and at BYU. The solution-driven article includes suggestions from black students at the school, whose student body is just one percent black. These suggested changes include racism being defined and added to the school’s honor code as a reportable offense.

Kofi Aidoo, a BYU advertising student who is black, said that he recognizes that empathy is important in understanding why change is needed. “When you come to BYU, it’s the Lord school; it’s the perfect place. For a lot of the students, that’s how it’s perceived as,” he said. “We fail to realize that not everyone’s experiences [are] perfect like that.”

Two Latter-day Saint sisters, Alexis Janique Bradley & Chanté Stutzneggar, started an Instagram account called @letstalk_sis, which they kicked off by inviting people to join them in a “Recharge to Connect Challenge” over three days by taking the following steps:

1. Quiet the noise! Be careful of the energy and content you let in right now.

2. Take time to center yourself through meditation, prayer, or nature. We have to be ready to dig in deep and do this!!

3. Don’t fuel the fire!! We all have strong opinions and perspectives but right now take a rest on social media about sharing content that could personally hurt and divide. Let’s be gentle right now with ourselves and others.

4. Open your heart!! We’re going to dive in deep next week and we need to be ready.

J. Spencer Fluhman, the executive director of Brigham Young University’s Maxwell Institute, wrote in the Deseret News about the need for white Latter-day Saints to recognize their “covenantal obligations” to “bear one another’s burdens” and to “mourn with those that mourn.”

“Authentic communion at the congregational level surely means making space for the burdens that come with our national history of racial injustice. Is there any hope for congregations of 'one heart and one mind' if segments of Christ’s body cannot speak their pain or their anger at the persistent inequities that have long defined this national crisis? Surely membership in our covenant community requires more from us than comfortable obliviousness to the realities of our neighbors’ lives,” he wrote. “Such a weighty history of American racism and its effects on our fellow Saints must demand our attention.”

Lead Image: YouTube screenshot of Abe Mills and family
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