Guest Post: Do You See Me?

 

By Ramona Morris

Like many saints of color, when the video of George Floyd circulated on each news channel as the “story of the moment”, tears ran down my face each time.

Like an alarm clock that rang shrilly in my ears, each report caused a torrent of emotions. I remember rocking myself back and forth, trying to convince myself that this wasn’t real life yet with each bolder headline, the safety bubble of my small island home evaporated.

During my travels to Idaho/Utah in 2018, I met a really nice police officer who despite my nervousness seemed to be one of the good ones. Fresh off the “N Word Saga.” After returning from a girl’s night to help a friend get over a guy who wasn’t worth her time, a driver slammed on his brakes which eventually led to us getting rear-ended by a truck. As the back-seat passenger, I took the brunt of the impact. Police and an ambulance arrived, I was cleared and could return to our apartment. Still, I knew I was one of the lucky ones. I was lucky because unlike so many… I got to go home.

In the weeks following George Floyd’s death, saints of color formed what would only be likened to an unofficial support group. I got used to my DM’s being filled with messages from friends who wondered why their priesthood leaders hadn’t reached out to them or why the church seemed to go radio silent at a time when we needed to hear words that would make us feel like we still mattered.

During this time, I really struggled being a member of the church. Although I tried to post educational content on my page, I became angrier as I watched the silence within the influencer community.

As a black woman who is often one of the few saints of color when you search through LDS hashtags, I felt more alone than ever. I was used to being alone. I was used to my messages going over the heads of those who had spent their life in the church. Yet, when the silence came, I felt discarded and alone. I felt invisible.

I was used to breaking glass ceilings and stand alone in a community that didn’t seem to be made for me. But as I watched, becoming angrier by the second, I asked myself the question that still plagues me to this day.

Do you even see me?

 Those saints of color eventually bonded over our anger, frustration and invisibility. Our cause became a hashtag soon forgotten as we faded into the background with our feelings brushed aside. All it took was one day of activism before the majority moved onto the next cause that piqued their interest more.

I found myself unravelling and spiraling into raging anger as I watched members of the church who I had come to know and love as family condone racist behavior. Eventually I discovered that when it came to white and black issues, most preferred the white way over the right way.

I mourned the loss of these friendships, yet I held firm to my convictions. This was one time I wasn’t backing down without a good fight. Still, I was plagued by conflicted emotions wondering why these persons failed to comprehend that with a good face swap, George Floyd could’ve been me. I could’ve been the person dying that those friends claimed to love as a sister. I asked myself why my concerns for people to do better didn’t matter now.

To protect my sanity, I took a break from Instagram to disconnect from the anger I had felt.  I returned with a clearer mind and with the ability to speak more openly about the injustices that saints of color and black persons faced.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Most times, I feel like a lone soldier who has gone to war and is fighting against a thousand-man army. My goal now is to reach that one person to open them up a deeper level of understanding. I’m not aspiring to take the mote out of anyone’s eye or to make them feel like a bad person for things they don’t fully comprehend.

I just want us to do better.

All I want is just for people to look beyond themselves and acknowledge those who look like me, to hear our stories without diminish our pain and to understand us by learning how to act as a disciple of Christ by become an ally with those who may feel persecuted.

That’s how we begin the process of showing the true Christlike love we brag about so often. Enough talking that talk…it’s time to step up to the plate and “walk the walk” that will bring us closer to returning to Heavenly Father one day.

 

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31 Responses

  1. Nat Whilk says:

    It’s a delicate balance. You complain if we don’t look at you. The BYU Racism Task Force complains if we look at you too long.

    And speaking of looking, if you can overlook George Floyd’s flaws in order to speak up for him, why is it wrong for me to overlook Brigham Young’s flaws in order to speak up for him?

    • Em says:

      I don’t think it is fair to act as though Ramona speaks for all people of color or all feminists. She’s not asking to be stared at, she’s asking to be seen — to have people think about her experience and her feelings and to care enough to reach out. I don’t see anywhere in this post a peep about Brigham Young. I don’t know Ramona’s wider speaking up on social media, perhaps she’s a passionate critic of Brigham Young. But that isn’t the sense that I’m getting from your content. What it seems like you’re saying is “how come we should care that a flawed Black man was murdered but we shouldn’t be encouraged to ignore the problematic legacy of a powerful white man?”

      How does that make any sense at all? How are those two even related to one another? I doubt you make a habit of attending funerals, grabbing the microphone, and listing the mistakes the deceased made. When mourning is fresh, when a family is grieving, when friends and those who see themselves in him are grieving, focusing on the mistakes a man may have made is best case scenario in poor taste, but in this case is downright cruel and a deliberate attempt to downplay the severity of his murder and the grief of survivors.

      It is not the same for Brigham Young. Nobody alive today knew the man, and probably nobody even knows someone who knew him. His personal connection to the world is gone. Nobody is actively grieving his passing or feeling that his death is somehow emblematic of their own fears and losses. Moreover he wasn’t murdered, and his legacy has been endlessly celebrated. The voices standing up for him are loud and legion. The fact that this woman-led feminist space is where we acknowledge and explore the ways his legacy was harmful doesn’t silence you. Go to your facebook page and write a long post about how much you love Brigham Young. Be my guest. I won’t read it, like it, or share it, but you’re not being silenced.

    • Caroline says:

      Wow, Nat Whilk. Way to prove that you indeed do not see Ramona and that you are incapable of acknowledging her pain. You just exhibited exactly the same type of behavior she explained was so hurtful.

    • Emily says:

      I’m not familiar with the specific BYU racism task force statement you’re referencing, but I think there’s a big difference between noticing/seeing people who are feeling sad and angry (mourning with those who mourn and comforting those who stand in need of comfort) and staring at people because their skin color is different from yours.

      Also, I’m not quite sure why you’re comparing the two men, but Brigham Young was a powerful man who led thousands of people, and he died of natural causes. George Floyd was just a regular guy who was killed by a person who had legal power. No matter what drugs he was on or what counterfeit money he spent, he didn’t do anything he should have been murdered for. We should speak up about that injustice. As for BY, we can certainly recognize his leadership and also recognize that his decisions still affect people today, in positive and negative ways. It’s good to try to address the negatives.

    • melodynew says:

      Your comment is blatantly racist. Go away and don’t come back.

  2. Andrea Forsythe says:

    Momo. I see you!!! You are amazing.

    I sorry for the loneliness and hurt!!! Love you!!! Thanks for making the world better!!

  3. Nancy Ross says:

    “All I want is just for people to look beyond themselves and acknowledge those who look like me, to hear our stories without diminish our pain and to understand us by learning how to act as a disciple of Christ by become an ally with those who may feel persecuted.” Thank you for this vulnerable post, Ramona. I see you and hear you.

  4. Libby says:

    I don’t know you, but I wish I could give you a hug. This has been such an important summer for protests and for white people waking up to the nightmare of police violence.

    Many of us stand with you. We need to have good discussions about living the gospel in ways that are meaningful for all of our brothers and sisters. We need to organize as saints to protest injustice, denounce white supremacy, and preach the gospel of equality.

    • RamonaMorris says:

      I think we also have to be ready to have those serious and challenging conversations as well. I think that basically starts with education. Read books other than the scriptures, watch movies and reconnect with the world by realizing its not as safe and wonderful as we see it when we wear our rose color glasses. This will allow us to be able to become better allies and better members of the church

  5. Caroline says:

    What a vulnerable, important post, Ramona. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I see you. And I hope for a day when white people in the church abandon their racism, their defensiveness, and their unwillingness to self-reflect and change. You deserve a church community way better than it currently is.

  6. melodynew says:

    Ramona, thanks for this courageous commentary. Our black sisters and brothers shouldn’t have to educate us. You have enough do deal with. Ditto what Libby said: here’s a virtual hug. And linked arms to walk with you. God bless.

    • RamonaMorris says:

      We shouldn’t but I’ve realized that a lot of people don’t know where to start learning about issues. You can’t throw someone into the fire and expect them not to get burned or put a baby into a college level class. So while I don’t feel it necessary to constantly educate, I feel like through conversations, I might be able to educate a little more.

  7. EmilyCC says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Ramona. I appreciate the opportunity to learn how my silence can be hurtful, and the imagery of you (and other saints of color) as a lone soldier is powerful for me to remember.

  8. Thank you, Ramona. Your words are such a gift to all of us who are eager to find concrete ways to take up Christ’s teaching to truly love one another in ways we may not have been awake to before. The loneliness and grief you have experienced from the silence of white church members deserves our collective mourning and requires focused, repentant action. It is so little to ask that we just “do better,” and yet we see in this very thread how difficult that is for some of us. Thank you for calling us all in to the kind of anti-racist work that is the only hope for a true Zion people.

  9. Chiaroscuro says:

    Sending love and support and knowing how to carry those into the hearts that are hurting are two different things. may we all get better at seeing, but also showing that we see

  10. Tiff says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. While I know it’s not your job to educate me, the most educational moments I have had since George Floyd’s horrific death have been while listening to Black people’s stories. When you invite us to “hear our stories”, I can’t think of a more powerful invitation. While stats and figures can be impressively shocking, it is the stories that really allow us to see inside another person’s experience, understand what they are going through, and move us toward compassionate action.

    I know it’s painful for you, but thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you for helping us see you. If Christ is the Light of the World—in that he illuminates truth for us—I see you and thank you for your Christ-like service in illuminating truth for us as well.❤️

  11. Em says:

    I wanted to add that I loved your post. I ended up responding more to a comment than I did to you, but I really thought this was an important insight into the events of this summer.

  12. Thank you. This post gave me a lot to think about.

  13. David Trichler says:

    Thank you for this post. Our family is trying to see more (although we have a long way to go). Your voice matters and it changes how we engage with our church community.

  14. Sue Tarkin says:

    My heart hurts for you, Ramona. I wish you were in our ward so we could all love on you. This pandemic has given me a lot of time to pray and reflect on many things. I never want any member of our church or anywhere else to feel alone. Thank you for reaching out. We all need to wake up to what we are doing and pray we are there for those who need us no matter what color they are. Please don’t give up on the church. It is the true church restored by imperfect people. Thank you for reaching out. You are loved.

  15. Andrew Deifel says:

    Ramona, my heart is heavy after reading your story. It makes me sad to hear so many stories of people inside the gospel who still close their hearts to those who are different from them. I am a white, middle-class male, which could make us polar opposites. But we’re really not, as my heart hurts for you and others who feel the same way. I have 3 beautiful daughters, the oldest of whom is dating and sees so many examples of young men both inside and outside of the church who clearly have racist or bigoted tendencies and attitudes and love to debate her on politics and how ‘there is no racism in Utah’, which both baffles and disgusts me at the same time, and her as well. And I think to myself, what if she marries someone who is black, or hispanic or an Islander, or anyone who is different than us? Then your story becomes her story and as such, my story. And would I be much more proactive with what is going on in the world if that were the case? If I saw how much it directly affected my daughter and her husband?
    Would I mourn more with those who mourn? Would I cry more with those who cry? And if so, why don’t I do that now? That is what it means to be christian. And I need to be better.

    There are many, many great people I know as well who constantly reach out to those around them to lift them up, regardless of race or background or religion. There will always be both. Everyday we choose which side we will be on and your story has inspired me to be better, to be more proactive in my choices and my relationships and to be more empathetic and kind to those who I may not understand. And to try harder to put myself in their shoes and learn from them. Don’t give up your fight for change and for justice. Even if you’re the last one left standing.

  16. Susie says:

    Ramona,
    I’m SO SORRY you have felt so alone! One of my old Laurels is Black and I’ve heard from her and her family about how lonely it is to be Black in our church. I don’t understand how we claim to be followers of Jesus but refuse to see your pain, let alone mourn with you. Yet, I see it in ward members whom I love and it HURTS knowing how much it hurts you guys. You are SO brave to write this. I wish I could do something more. But I mourn with you guys from afar and on Instagram and I’m educating my kids on how to be anti racist.

  17. Locke says:

    Sister Ramona,

    I am sorry. My being sorry won’t help you much, but I am sorry that you are so alone among your fellow Saints, us who should be your friends. Your life matters. Black lives matter. Yes, of course all lives matter, but at this time in our history, Black lives, and the lives of other people of color, matter! But to too many, Black lives somehow don’t seem to matter as much, and that is wrong.

    My faith teaches me that God loves all His children (and the Mother loves Hers), one as much as another. Until all of us, most especially those of us who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, come to truly believe and live by that principle, we are not truly Christ’s.

    George Floyd’s mortal life mattered. It doesn’t matter that he have been a less than perfect human being–just like the rest of us–he is a son of God and did not deserve to be killed.

    I am sorry. May God bless you.

  18. SisterStacey says:

    Ramona, I see you and I wish I could give you a hug! There are those of us out there. We do exist and we are standing with you to make sure you are seen and heard. <3

  19. Wendy says:

    Ramona, you are incredibly brave and clearly have a powerful voice. These words from your post especially struck me:

    “I could’ve been the person dying that those friends claimed to love as a sister. I asked myself why my concerns for people to do better didn’t matter now.”

    Your desire for the church and it’s members to do antiracism work matters. You matter. Black Lives Matter.

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