At the Crossroads of Being Black and LDS
Guest post by Dumdi Baribe Wallentine
I remember when I made a Facebook post commenting about how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ leadership lacked diversity, especially for it being a global church. The post was made about three years ago and slowly I believe it’s improving. At the time I made that comment, a former friend’s sister commented on the post and asked me if I even had a testimony of the gospel. I didn’t have a clue as to what that had to do with me pointing out that global church leadership should be a bit more diverse and representative of its members. As Facebook is known to go, a simple post turns into a heated debate, sometimes filled with attacks of the original poster’s faith or character more than the actual topic being posted about.
To this day I still have friends who have long left the LDS church expressing to me how they don’t know how I do it, stay in the LDS faith that is.
I feel as though when you’re Nigerian, like I am, you grow up with some sort of religious belief. It’s basically an integral part of how your parents raise you. When you become an adult you can either stay with the faith or find something else to believe in, but oftentimes you end up still believing in a higher power even if it is not in the same church your parents took you to when you were a child.
I think that when you grow up with so little to your name you tend to cling on to things that give you hope, something to look forward to the next day. Personally, I can easily see why believing in a higher power provides meaning for some people. Sometimes that belief is all that a person has, especially a person that is trying to survive in a world that doesn’t want them to. And to be honest, being Black in America can at times feel this way – that you’re living in a world where some people don’t want to see you thrive or even breathe.
When I became brave enough to speak up regarding the experiences I encountered with old white LDS roommates, college buddies, and former mission companions, I noticed that the ones I called my friends would slowly disappear or fight to dismiss and excuse away the racism that I had faced, even when there were witnesses there.
“How did you know they were being racist?”-a former college friend.
“Stop talking like that, you’re not from the ghetto!” – a former mission companion.
“I’m NOT going to be made to feel threatened in my own apartment!” – a former roommate in the middle of an argument she initiated.
“When black girls wear weaves it just looks like they’re trying to be white.” – a former co-worker.
And it goes on and on. All from white LDS women. Some of them had the decency to just disappear without a word as to why after years of friendship.
I hold no anger nor animosity towards the aforementioned women. I have only learned not to trust white women so quickly and to put some sort of guard up to protect myself. I don’t think people realize how cutting those comments are and how it basically tells a Black woman that her very presence is threatening to them, how the very skin they are in offends them.
At the crossroads of being Black and LDS is an imperfect woman that has a deep-rooted belief in God and His Son Jesus Christ and His Gospel. A human being. A daughter of God who wants to be able to walk in a world that preaches everyone to be a child of God and wholeheartedly means it. Because if I am a child of God, like it is preached in the LDS faith, then that means my life matters, too.