Guest Post: Diversity Training
By request, from the inimitable Margaret Young.
I did at least one thing right as a mother—and it was not an easy thing to do in Provo, Utah. I raised my children in an atmosphere of diversity.
For seven years, I taught Spanish Institute, which me ant that we had Hispanic visitors frequently and several Mexican-style parties in our front room. (I also took my kids to Guatemala, but not everyone in Provo can do that.)
Starting in 1998, I became involved in the Genesis Group (a support for African American Mormons), and we often had a front room full of black Latter-day Saints. One of my favorite memories is when Marvin Perkins looked at me and did a double take. “Whoa,” he said. “Margaret’s white. I just realized it. Margaret’s white. I had forgotten.”
A friend of mine (black, though it’s ironic to identify skin color in this post) told me that my son, Michael, would be prepared for his mission precisely because of what he had been surrounded by. “Most missionaries from Utah or Idaho get hit with a question about the priesthood restriction and they say, ‘Huh?’ But your son will be able to answer it.”
So I gave it a whirl. I told Michael what my friend had said. He said, “Okay, Mom. Ask me a question about the priesthood restriction.”
“Why did you Mormons keep blacks from holding the priesthood until 1978?” I said.
His response was predictable. “Huh?” Then he laughed and gave a short talk about how people in the past had believed in some strange folklore like the Curse of Cain. Yes, he did know his stuff.
I do not regret the fact that Bruce and I live in a pretty middle-class neighborhood, nor that we have used some retirement funds and even life insurance money to travel. When Bruce said that we wouldn’t have much life insurance at all if we were to withdraw as much as we wanted, I answered, “Nobody in Guatemala has life insurance. That’s a gringo expectation.” And I’ve always said that if Bruce dies before I do, I’ll head to Guatemala, where I can live easily on $200. a month.
Do my kids know they’re lucky to have traveled and to have had such diversity in our little house in Provo? Actually, they do. Everyone of them has thanked me for that.
Btw, the trailer for Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons is now online. (We did not get permission to use footage of President Hinckley from April Conference, so we have removed that.) Here’s the link. www.untoldstoryofblackmormons.com