Guest Post: My Apology for My Complicity
by Monika Crowfoot
First of all, I want to apologize. I want to apologize for my complicity and support of a religious institution that was inherently racist, oppressive, and prejudiced. And to do my part in honoring Juneteenth, not just today but everyday, we are dismantling white supremacist systems in our home.
I grew up Mormon. My culture was Mormon. I did not speak my language because my parents feared I would have an accent. They were beaten in government boarding schools for speaking their language. With every whip and every pounding fist, their culture died.
My mother went on the Indian placement program created by the Mormon Church. She learned to curl and set her straight Navajo hair. She learned to make three course meals. She learned that Mormon Jesus would turn her cursed brown skin white if she was a righteous Mormon.
My dad went on a Mormon mission at the age of 26. He gave up his Navajo name for a Christian one. He spoke of it once, perhaps by accident, how his grandfather was a medicine man and took him through a special naming ceremony. But it was the Mormon name that stuck because it brought salvation and eternal life — not the savagery of the “incorrect traditions of our forefathers.”
My brother died when I was 15, and ever since I’ve discarded anything that would get in the way of not reuniting with him in “celestial” heaven. I cast off my culture long ago, taking only the pretty parts that would allow me to be accepted by my white Mormon peers at BYU. Turquoise necklaces. Long flowing hair for petting. And frybread, because white Utah Mormons love their “scones.”
I stayed, hoping to turn white. But through the years the language changed and it became: “Oops! We’re sorry, did you think it meant literally? No, silly. It was *metaphorical*, duh. Where did you ever get an idea like that?”
So, in my Mormon teacher callings I assimilated for the billionth time, adopting the apologetics, changing what I taught my indigenous friends and black friends. Because for every soul I brought to the “true” gospel of Jesus Christ, to Mormonism, my place in heaven would be solidified and I’d get to see my brother again.
I changed and changed and changed, performing the mental acrobatics needed to force this damn puzzle piece to fit.
I assimilated and followed orders not to ask too many questions, to read and research from the “appropriate” material.
I wore myself down until my son came to me and said his fellow Mormon classmates told him that his faith was weak because he was cursed with dark skin. My son was told he asked too many questions because he was cursed with dark skin.
I stopped assimilating.
It’s one thing to grow up disgusted with MY skin, MY culture, and MY absence of indigenous language. But I’d be damned if my children grew up in that same shame. I would not allow this toxic and white supremacist colonization to destroy my children’s sense of self like it did me.
I tried to reconcile. And the reconciling was over.
We left Mormonism for the health and well being of my children. We left, because once I opened my eyes I could see what a threat my Mormonism was on my black friends and fellow indigenous friends and family, and LGBTQ friends and family.
I want to apologize to my black and indigenous friends and to my LGBTQ friends and family for all the ignorant and racist things I said or believed when I was Mormon. I’m sorry my belief hurt you or threatened you or belittled you and kept you in oppression by my spreading and teaching of these hurtful doctrines. I was wrong.
My children — and children in general — have a way of teaching real truth. Truth that god is love. Truth, that religion is not spirituality. Truth that all humanity deserves equal rights to LIVE and LOVE.
My son came to me and said, “Mom, I can’t believe in this. I love my friends too much. This hurts them. This doesn’t feel right. It’s too racist. It’s too misogynistic. It’s too homophobic.”
He knows what he’s being taught by his Mormon leaders. He hears the awful things they whisper or shout outright. I couldn’t defend it because deep down I knew, too. I knew.
We didn’t leave Mormonism because we wanted to give up our eternal salvation for sips of morning coffee or “porn shoulder” tank tops. We left because all of the racism, oppression, colonization, and injustice finally broke our shelf. We didn’t leave because we had too little faith. We left because our faith was too big and wide and refused to fit in a glass cage. We left because our Creator was just and loving.
I refused to play Simon Says a year ago. I was tired of trying to make it make sense, of jumping through hoops to be accepted, and I wanted to be free.
Despite what Mormon leadership says, leaving everything I knew and everything I was taught was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I felt betrayed. I felt resentful of the things that had been ingrained in me of never being enough. The scars of words telling me I’d only ever be half as good still speckle my flesh.
Leaving is hard and scary because we risk the punishment of shunning from our friends and family. We are seen as tainted and poisoned by worldly thought. Thankfully, we have some pretty amazing friends who understand us and remain by our sides. There will be some people who will cut off ties, and that will be sad, but it will be okay. It will be okay because standing up and speaking out against oppressive and racist systems means more to me than anything else. I can’t in good conscience be a good friend and ally to my black friends, my indigenous friends, my POC friends, my LGBTQ friends, and all other marginalized groups if I remain in Mormonism.
And I know you mean well when you tell me, “but that’s not what is taught –Jesus and God love everyone.” I know what was taught. I’ve known and learned and researched for the past 38 years. I was dedicated. To deny these things were taught and are still taught, even in secret, is to support the white supremacy system. I lost myself for this religion and I’m ready to reclaim myself. I’m ready to fight for the rights and happiness of others. And if that means dismantling racist religious ideologies and racist language in myself, I’m ready and I’m sorry. The world is changing and I’m ready to do my part. I know better, and I will do better.
My Mormon friends and family already know this, but I’d like to reiterate — just because we left, does not mean we’ve rejected *you*. We love you just the same, if not even more, because our god is love. And love is love is love is love, and that is our religion now. We love you.
Monika Crowfoot is an Indigenous actor and writer, currently writing a memoir and would have finished years ago had she neglected her four very needy children. She enjoys traveling and learning about new cultures and dispelling negative stereotypes.