Guest Post: My Experience as a Caribbean Latter-Day Saint in Utah

By Ramona Morris

 I didn’t hear what I thought I heard.

I had to be hearing things

This didn’t make sense.

Even know as I write this article, two years after being called the “n” word for the first time, I still find myself making countless excuses for someone’s else ignorance and flat out racism.

In the fall of 2018, following the death of my grandmother, I packed up my life into two suitcases and flew to Idaho to be near to my adopted second mom (the mom of one of my first missionaries). As an avid traveler, I was pumped yet saddened for the adventure that lay ahead.

As a caretaker for my grandmother who suffered with dementia during my early twenties, this trip signaled more than just an unconventional grieving process, but also meant that for the first time in almost six years since dropping out of college, I was actually doing something for myself.

Still grieving heavily, I found it difficult to talk to those who loved me most. Despite this, I found Idaho refreshing. My mom Jolyn and I would spend our time going to Costco or to the temple. When I recognized early on that no one looked like me, we would play how many persons of color we saw that day.

A few days in, Jolyn and I drove to Utah and in the parking lot of a tiny Snowville gas station, my friend Anna and I hugged after reuniting for the first time she left the mission field in the Barbados Bridgetown mission.

I began to feel like a fish-out-of-water almost immediately. No less than ten minutes into our drive, Anna’s roommate began making fun of my accent. It might have seemed funny but as a proud island Barbadian girl who lived in the Caribbean who was proud of the person she was, I remember crying that night feeling judged and out-of-place.

Still, I painted a happy face on. I became an expert at this. I tried to smile when someone asked me if I came to Utah by boat. But what happened next surprised even me.

A few weeks in, my friend invited me to an event where a group of guys in passing referred to me as the “n”word. It felt like someone had poured cold water all over me. Not wanting to rock the boat, I tried but failed to plaster a smile onto my face so that my friend could enjoy the event.

What happened in the weeks following derailed my experiences in Utah. I began to question friendships. I began to tear myself apart and have massive panic attacks. I spoke even less to friends. When I saw a group chat describing the details of my trips from missionaries who had served where I lived, I wanted nothing more than to go home. Everyone had made Utah out to be the celestial kingdom and here I was feeling like gum under someone’s shoe.

Eventually, I found that friendship from those who stepped in when I was struggling most was all that mattered. I chose to move on from that difficult event to speak out more about the things that often get pushed under the rug.

The things those guys said don’t define me as a person. I am still me. I am still Ramona Morris. I am still Momo and even the Sassy Day Saint. That hateful word has no power over me.

Ramona Morris is a sassy-day saint from the small Caribbean island of Barbados. In her almost four years as a member, she’s dealt with the good, bad, and in-between of being a convert to the church. Her goal is to live the gospel as sassily as she can.

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9 Responses

  1. Violadiva says:

    Momo, these experiences are so painful. I wish we as a church and culture could more quickly understand how to show true compassion to our brothers and sisters with our words and how we activate for equality. Thank you for sharing here, and I hope you find places within the Mormon community that are healing to you.

  2. Caroline says:

    Thank you for sharing this tender, painful story. What inexcusable, horrific behavior from those guys. I’m ashamed that they are (presumably) members of the church. Also utterly inexcusable is the behavior from the others that made you feel unwelcome. We have so much work to do in this church. I hope that, among other things, our general church leadership starts to more closely reflect the demographics of the church. If the white racist Mormons see more people of color in general church leadership positions, maybe they’ll think twice about acting like racist bigots.

  3. Dava Marriott says:

    Ramona, I’m sorry that you have had these appalling experiences. If these people are members, they are not living their religion. I hope they see the light. I hope our leaders try to show them that light. I hope your good friends can speak up and help that process along. I’m happy to see your strength.

  4. April says:

    Thank you for graciously gifting your time and energy to share with us these hurtful experiences of bigotry and disrespect! I deeply appreciate your willingness to freely share the impact of unholy behaviors from people who should know better. No one enjoys being made fun of or called names. I need more of these stories in our lessons manuals and conference talks to teach empathy and to help me to see and repent of wicked bigotry.

  5. LauraN says:

    Years ago, in Boston, I had a dear friend at church who came originally from Barbados. I thought her accent was really sweet. But I don’t know if it was really the accent of just that she was such a loving, caring sister that I perceived her accent that way because it was a part of her. She has now gone on to her reward, but she really helped me during a challenging part of my life. Dear Esther!

  6. Chiaroscuro says:

    I am so sorry you were treated that way

  7. Heather says:

    Ramona thank you for sharing your stories with us. I love that you can acknowledge pain and power.

  8. Risa says:

    Ramona, this is incredible. Thank you for sharing with us.

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