“White on the outside; white on the inside”

There is a baptism card sold at the BYU bookstore which shows a white girl (cartoon) apparently preparing for baptism.  The upper part of her body is viewable, and she is dressed in white.  The front of the card says, “White on the outside…”  The inside says “And on the inside.  Congratulations on your baptism.”

A friend of mine, an African American woman, was offended by the card.  She’s not the first.   Another person was offended enough to write to the Bookstore.  The response was dismissive:

“Apparently you misunderstood that the white on the outside is the white clothing that we wear at the time of baptism. It has nothing to do with the color of the skin of the person being baptized. Being white on the inside has to do with the purity that is within as we are cleansed from our sins. Because of this the card will remain in the Bookstore.

Have a great day and thanks for your comments.”

Note that the response assumes that the card can be interpreted in ONLY one way, and that anyone who would find some racial component in it is at fault for misunderstanding (implicit: being over-sensitive).

I’m assuming that the artist did not intend this card to suggest that “white on the outside” referred to skin tone, but authorial intent is not an adequate justification when someone gets another interpretation from a text.  Any author gives up the right to define what he/she meant as soon as the text is published.  The reader gets to decide.  Not even an English teacher should say, “You misunderstood” and then explain authorial intent when somebody has been offended by any text, whether the offense came because of sexual content, language, or imagery.  The offended party has a right to be heard.

When 20th Century feminism was coming into its own, the term “consciousness raising” came into vogue.  Many women demanded that they be addressed as Ms. rather than Mrs., and worked to change other vocabulary to indicate some gender equality and inclusion.  As a Church, we have some consciousness raising to do in vocabulary as it relates to race as well.

I am concerned not just by the card itself (which I do think is problematic, but which I’m certain was created with no malice) but by the response of the person who at least two people complained to.  That response, which accused both of misunderstanding and summarily dismissed their right to question the card’s appropriateness, then announced that no change would be made and the card would stay on the bookstore shelves, is troubling.

I suggest that accusing someone–particularly someone who has been told that they will be made white as they become more righteous or that they will become white after death if they live a good life–of “misunderstanding” a card which could validly be interpreted as racist puts the onus on the wrong person.  We have allowed racist folklore to continue for centuries, even after the priesthood revelation SHOULD have removed it.   It would not be hard to change the phrasing of this particular card to “clean on the outside…and on the inside.”   We have some work to do, and part of it is to remove anything even slightly attached to racist attitudes or phrasing.   The answer is not to point an accusing finger at someone who sees a problem with a particular product (whether it’s this card or “Races of Men” in Mormon Doctrine), but to listen openly to the concerns and do everything possible to move us all forward “towards becoming the kind of Church our Savior would be proud of” as Ted Whiters says in Nobody Knows.

Comments

  1. Margaret, do you know whom we an contact at the BYU Bookstore who has more clout and responsibility and express our concern?

  2. or an administrator who has oversight responsibility?

  3. Steve Evans says:

    “The reader gets to decide.”

    Margaret, of course I don’t disagree with you on this — authors have a responsibility to make their words clear — but your post might leave the notion that it is impossible for a reader to truly “misunderstand” a text. Your post also suggests that authorial intent is irrelevant, or at least subject to the reader’s interpretive whim. I agree with your analysis of this situation, but are you saying that whenever a text affects one reader or one group of readers disproportionately, that those readers cannot be misunderstanding things?

    Or am I misunderstanding you?

  4. Margaret, what I appreciate about this post is that it highlights the degree to which we are called to be compassionate. It is easy to see how someone who was raised in a largely white society might not naturally see the card in racist terms. I’m certain that I frequently make interpretations that are constrained by a limited experience. That said, it is the Gospel of Christ to empathize with those who have had disparate experiences; and in this case it appears to me that the only sensible position is to empathize with the individual who has repeatedly been mistreated because of their race and informed that their race is the result of sin.

    The card really is unfortunate.

  5. Ray–I believe the woman I referred to is going to take her complaint to higher places. She has some good connections. (And I do mean at BYU, not just with God.)

    Steve–sure a reader can “misunderstand” a text. I had a student who was convinced that “Walking Through the Woods on a Snowy Evening” referred to Santa Claus. I know you know that some literary criticism pretty much nullifies authorial intent and gives the text wholly to the reader. I remember being offended by a text years ago because of sexual content. My professor answered my concern with “The author didn’t intend this to be salacious.” These many years later, I might say that AFTER listening carefully to my student’s concerns. But I do hope I would be willing to listen.

    In this case, one word is problematic, and comes with a history. I have so many black friends who have been told not to worry about being black, because God would make them white as they lived good lives. I suspect all of these friends would be troubled by the card because their lives have imposed some extra-textual meaning to the word “white.” I doubt any would be troubled by the word CLEAN.

  6. Given the official Mormon racism of the past, Mormons must indeed avoid the very appearance of racism. Thus, the card must go. I agree with you Margaret.

  7. J.: “it highlights the degree to which we are called to be compassionate.”

    Yes! Thanks — I was trying to find words.

  8. I think you’re exactly right on this, Margaret. The card creator meant no harm. But even so, any reader of the card–and most especially a person of color–is well within reason to find the wording offensive. Our history, though not our fault, demands extra deference to those who might take offense. And the bookstore’s response was jerky.

  9. You may issue a complaint to BYU bookstore here.

  10. There’s no question that the card should go, or at the very least should be changed (as Margaret suggests). However I’m a little bothered by the interpretive leeway given to the reader in this situation.

    Should the bookstore stop carrying White Out because it functions to primarily coverup “black-ink” mistakes?

  11. I just sent to following to BYU bookstore:
    Your CONCERN (OR COMPLAINT) is:

    There is a baptism card sold at the BYU bookstore which shows a white girl (cartoon) apparently preparing for baptism. The upper part of her body is viewable, and she is dressed in white. The front of the card says, “White on the outside…” The inside says “And on the inside. Congratulations on your baptism.”

    This card seems unfortunate, and racially biased, though unintentionally so.

    What you would like BYU Bookstore to do to resolve this issue:

    Might I suggest the wording be changed to “clean on the outside…” so as not to give off a racist overtone, especially considering our church’s history with the same.

  12. SmallAxe, does whiteout still exist? Still, there are lots of “white” things in a bookstore…but copy paper typically doesn’t bring up the same issues of race, history and sin as the card does, no?

  13. “does whiteout still exist?”

    Indeed, but you pathetic types have failed to notice The Bic Corporation’s INGENIOUS race-avoidance naming techniques. Behold…….. WITE-OUT!

  14. THANKS, MattW!
    SmallAxe–I assume you’ve got your tongue at least partially in your cheek. I am curious about what labels for liquid paper say if they’re pink or yellow etc. Just “liquid paper”? Genuinely curious. I’m guessing they just say “Liquid Paper.”

  15. Margaret, thanks for taking bringing this incident to readers’ attention. Ultimately, I think it’s important that we’re aware of how our words are heard–because it demonstrates care for others. I’m afraid that I’m guilty of saying thoughtless things that hurt others, and I don’t want to be that person. Sometimes I read a blog and think “I’m glad I read that, because I think it can help me become a better person.” This is one of those blog posts. Thanks.

  16. I’m pretty sure that if a phrase on a card had an unintentional sexual meaning instead of an unintentional racist meaning, the store would have taken different action.

  17. That is an excellent point, Tim.

  18. After you’ve read the comment above, delete the word “taking” and imagine that I was able to express myself coherently…. :)

  19. it’s highly unlikely that the BYU bookstore actually prints this card. Do you know who does? They would be the ones to talk to about a change in the card (although the bookstore should certainly stop carrying it in the meantime).

  20. From the bookstore’s website:

    “If you have any questions on our products call us
    Toll Free at 1-(800) 253-2578 or Local at (801) 422-2400 Monday through Friday 8am to 5:00pm.”

    I called the tool free number and explained that I wanted to speak to someone about a very deep concern I have about a product being sold there. I was transferred to Vickie Cox, and I left a message on her voice mail describing the card and my concern about the message it unintentionally sends. I mentioned my concern in light of things that have been said in the past, that they have been repudiated by our current apostles and prophets and that they “should have been stricken from our vocabulary by now”. I left my cell phone number and asked for a return call explaining why BYU would be selling something like this card, when the racial implications (though unintentional) are so obvious.

  21. Considering that the organization I currently work for does a fair bit of publishing in an educational setting, we have to be extremely careful regarding fairness and sensitivity. EVERYTHING we publish goes through a review. Everything. Something like this would have been completely vetoed.

    As I write anything I’m always conscious of this sort of thing–there are so many good and useful words in the English (and other) language that not being aware of this sort of problem is simply silly.

    At the same time, I think it is also very dangerous to edge down the path of denying authorial intent. This is a case where people can complain, the author and bookstore be made aware of the problem, but I would consistently side with them on their right to publish (however foolishly) the materials from a legal standpoint (1st Amendment rights are pretty darn important).

    Now, should the BOOKSTORE or the PUBLISHING company have internal policies that would prevent this? Absolutely. But that is internal.

    And yes, the word ‘clean’ probably conveys the message the author wanted, without the rather unfortunate racial subtext. (I think, without being a mind-reader or the author, that the author was trying to tie into the fact that we wear white when being baptized–which is an interesting little tradition, but not mandated in scripture from what I can tell…). After all, if military personnel can wear non-white garments…

  22. Indeed, but you pathetic types have failed to notice The Bic Corporation’s INGENIOUS race-avoidance naming techniques. Behold…….. WITE-OUT!

    LOL. You can tell that I haven’t bought, used, or really even paid attention to wite-out in the recent past.

    In any case, I think the point still stands (we can use something other than wite-out. Chess, for instance, where white gets the advantage of going first). If, “[t]he reader gets to decide”, why should the card go, and not chess-sets that have black and white pieces if I, or anyone else, finds them offensive (do they even sell chess-sets in the bookstore?).

  23. Yeah, Tim beat me to it. I suspect a double standard here.

    For the record, I am against store.bought baptism cards in the first place.

  24. For the record, I am against store.bought baptism cards in the first place.

    Amen.

  25. Where’s Peggy Stack when you need her? Seems like this should be front and center in the Tribune.

    Maybe I should reference this next time BYU calls me for money…

  26. For the sake of clarity, and to answer Margaret’s #14 more directly: There have to be more nuanced grounds than “I find ‘x’ offensive” to elicit an appropriate response from the offending party (i.e., it’s all up to the reader). There have to be legitimate reasons for the offense, and an expression of those reasons. The issue is one of legitimation, and how the reasoning process of legitimation binds together the multiple parties of the interpreter, text, author, and community.

    My guess is that the BYU bookstore does not understand the legitimate reasons for removing the card, and perhaps by thinking through the difference between this and a more mundane example of wite-out (or chess), we can highlight some of the legitimate reasons beyond “so-and-so found ‘x’ offensive”.

  27. I’m pretty sure that if a phrase on a card had an unintentional sexual meaning instead of an unintentional racist meaning, the store would have taken different action.

    I really hate to bring this up … but did the Bookstore know the race of the person making the original complaint?

  28. SmallAxe, I think the fact that such language “white and delightsome” has been stricken from the Book of Mormon itself is grounds enough for this complaint. I agree that there must be legitimate context. I remember when I thought my comparative lit teacher was nuts when she said scenes which show Judy Garland through a window in “Meet me in St. Louis” represent that women are repressed in society.

  29. What would your response be if the if the same card showed a black girl?

  30. The original complaint was issued by a Caucasian person. I was not that person. I did buy a copy of the card, however.

    Norbert, why don’t you like baptism cards? Do you also not like BoM action figures? How about gold CTR rings? Christmas ornaments depicting various temples? (I’m assuming you have an ornament of the Helsinki temple for your tree, don’t you? Otherwise, how do you initiate a missionary conversation when a non-Mormon pays a visit?)

  31. Howard–if the girl were black, the caption would almost certainly have been changed, don’t you think? That in and of itself says a lot.

  32. Margaret, Norbert’s CTR tatoo is plainly visible when he goes to the Sauna

    (thus begins a salacious rumor)

  33. The card is in poor taste, though not intentionally, imo. Still, I would certainly favor removing and changing the card. On the outside, and the inside.

  34. OK, so my wife (never having lived in North America) doubted the existence of the action figures and ornaments. (The rings we’ve seen on missionaries.) I had to google them to prove it.

    I am afraid I am not the target demographic of

    Meridian

    advertisers.

  35. Maybe I’m cynical today, but I suspect that if the original complaint had been from an African-American, there would have been a better response.

    I only say this based on my very limited experience working for three very distinct BYU entities when I was a student*. BYU administrators didn’t seem to care for complaints of people they deemed unaffected. At one of these places, BYU staff blew off concerns repeatedly and it one case, it resulted in an EEOC complaint being filed. At the other two, there were employment issues, but it never got that far.

    I personally didn’t have any problems, because I am a white male.

  36. Ouch.

    Margaret has got a point.

    biblically – is “light” white? and is “darkness” black?

    It has nothing to do with more or less of a color pigment.

  37. White is a symbol for purity throughout the scriptures and in baptismal and temple ceremonies. Is this bad? Is it racist?

    If not, then what’s the big deal about the card? Is it just white liberals who are offended at these things?

    In a way it’s a good sign that this is even a point of discussion. We know civil rights and racial sensitivity have come a long way when we have to look this hard for offense.

  38. Important note: I just heard from the artist, who is a truly gifted woman and feels very bad about the phrasing. Of course it was done innocently, but she saw the problem at once when someone apparently referred her to this blog. Bless her. I don’t fault her in the slightest (in fact, her gracious communication with me impresses me deeply and makes me want to buy some of her art, which I looked at with awe on her website.) I find the problem to be with the bookstore representative, not the artist.

  39. What a cheesy card.

    Oh, and fairly insensitive too.

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    I just got back from a trip to the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. Those of you attending MHA next May will have a chance to go there; I highly recommend it. I learned a lot I hadn’t previously appreciated.

    We as a people and as a religion gave up the right to defend something like this by careful nitpicky parsing when we insisted on canonizing ridiculous attempts to scripturally justify the practice of slavery and then for generations we weren’t smart enough to see the ghastly thing we had done. We’ve failed to teach our people enough manners to avoid saying stupid things about how blacks will become “white” After all, we don’t want to offend anybody. We’re sickly sweet nice that way.

    If we had stood up tall and told our own people to stop with the idiotic talk about blacks becoming white in the resurrection, then I’d be fine with defending a card like this. But we haven’t done that or anything like unto it; we’re afraid we’ll offend the poor sensibilities of some racist old Mormon woman in Twilla. Well, if someone is going to be offended anyway, I vote for offending the racist old Mormon woman in Twilla and not the people who by tremendous faith and courage somehow manage to be believing and practicing Latter-day Saints even though the color of their skins for some reason leads all too many idiot Mormons to say such stupid things to their faces, and worse things behind their backs.

    As a consequence, our words and our conduct vis-a-vis matters of race simply must be beyond reproach, even supernumerarily so. That clerk at the BYU Bookstore doesn’t get it. I’m hoping that someone with a little more brains and experience in the church and the world does, and that the complaint will ultimately be heard.

  41. I am pointedly ignoring SL’s comment by pointing out that I’m ignoring it.

    I will not reveal the artist’s name right now (this has got to be awfully painful for her), but at some point in the future, I want to introduce the rest of you to her work. She is truly gifted. Seriously, I want one of her paintings in my home.

  42. I don’t know Margaret. What if the card was printed for distribution in Africa?

  43. Margaret, that is just incredible that the artist found the blog and the problem seems well on its way to getting fixed–all in just a few hours!

    I think we all agreed from the start that it was completely innocent on the part of the artist. I hope she doesn’t sweat it too much. Such is life and the learning process.

  44. If it makes you feel any better, I plan to vote Obama and hope he goes to the White House (Not that I believe the White House is any better than other houses just because it happens to be white.)

  45. Preach on, Kevin Barney.

  46. Howard, this is not a card which would ever go to Africa. And since I work in an MTC branch which sends missionaries to Africa and other French-speaking places (and I do hear from many of my missionaries as they serve), I am extremely sensitive to race issues for them. Many of them need to re-learn some vocabulary and even perception before they can wholeheartedly serve those they’re called to.

  47. StillConfused says:

    When I read “White on the inside; White on the outside” it reminded me of the perjorative used for certain types of black people, called Oreos “Black on the outside; white on the inside.” THis is a very common term here in the US. I think this card is very tacky because of its close resemblance to that.

  48. Peter LLC says:

    Preach on, Kevin Barney.

    +1

    [Psst: Tooele]

  49. Kevin, your comment reminds me of a gospel doctrine lesson I taught once where a brother said of black people, that they didn’t have to worry, they’d be made white skinned in the resurrection.

    The card should definitely be removed. (although I’m with Norbert too – I dislike baptismal cards altogether and they can all be removed.)

  50. “As a consequence, our words and our conduct vis-a-vis matters of race simply must be beyond reproach, even supernumerarily so.”

    Okay, I can buy into this–a kind of affirmative action of sensativity because of our racist past. However, it is a tacit acknowledgement of my original point, that intepreting the card as racist is a case of supernumerary sensitivity.

    I also agree with your other comments, including the anger directed at the hypothetical Twilla person.

    It is hard to have discussions with white liberals who have a passion for racial history. I don’t consider myself racist in the slightest bit (as I said, I plan to vote for a black man to occupy the highest and most powerful office in the world), but even the slightest hint of dissent with such people is considered beneath comment. I think they would win more people to their side if they didn’t have their finger on a hair trigger all the time.

  51. #38 – Margaret, it is wonderful to hear about the woman who created the card. She sounds remarkably humble. Not that it will make any difference coming from one member way out in Ohio, but please communicate at some point how much I hope I can react to criticism as she has done.

    When it is appropriate, I would love to see her work that impresses you so much.

  52. SL, I have no idea what you are talking about. Who says it is just “liberals” that take issue with this stuff? Ridiculous.

  53. SL, spoken like a white person! Tremendous of you not to think yourself racist though — “kindness begins with me,” as the song goes.

  54. Mark Brown says:

    SL,

    Your entire argument is based on the premise that only white liberals find the card offensive. You would do well to give it up now, since your premise is wrong.

  55. I think we need to be nice to every one who is using Obama to get past their racism–or at least to suggest that they’re post-racist. They all vote, after all. Hoping SL lives in Arkansas.

  56. Yeah, Mark is BCC’s affirmative action redneck.

  57. Steve–did you censor yourself? Did you, perchance, originally say to SL “Very WHITE of you not to think yourself racist”?

    I’m hoping SL continues to comment. I’m taking notes. He’s giving me some really good lines for a Coen Brothers-type film.

  58. Margaret, I censor myself all the time, sometimes more than others, unfortunately.

  59. Kevin Barney says:

    Ha, thanks for the Twilla/Tooele correction!

  60. The problem here was not just the card on its own. It was a card on the shelf of a bookstore at a University, the Religion Department of which (as of 5 years ago) still had professors teaching in “Doctrines of the Gospel” courses (in the presence of African students) that non-white people would resurrect white (among other things).

  61. I’m torn! I see how this card is inappropriate, but I don’t know if I would’ve ever noticed the issue had I seen the card myself. Maybe I’m just not-so-aware of these sort of offenses.

    Either way, I’m annoyed by the response given to those who complained. The problem is just too easy to fix. I doubt BYU bookstores turn a huge profit off of this ONE card. Get it off the shelves and wait for it to be redesigned.

  62. CJ Douglass says:

    Brad’s right. The problem goes much deeper (as you all know). It hardly surprises me that this complaint was dismissed.

  63. Oh, and as for the teachings regarding white/non-white resurrection, I can’t see my testimony being strengthened by these sort of statements. I’m not too familiar with the doctrine behind any of these statements, so I won’t pretend to be, but I really wish lessons would emphasize the concepts of the Gospel that change people’s hearts and strengthen testimony. These sort of statements completely draw away from Christ’s pure love, acceptance, and charity towards all.

  64. The card was likely conceived in innocence. But to some it functions as a Rorschach test, saying much more about the reader than the author.

  65. Jessica–that’s why we do consciousness-raising. To be honest, I doubt I would have seen it a decade ago. My eyes and ears have been opened as I have grown to love my brothers and sisters of color. Their pain is MY pain.

    I believe this card will be off the shelves soon. I wish that we could as easily get other books off which validate racist ideas and keep us from becoming one in Christ. I loved Elder Uchtdorf’s talk on unity. We certainly will not attain it, however, if we are more concerned with a Church authority’s reputation than the damage his words might do, or if we are nervous that taking certain books off the shelves will open a black hole in the universe and shake the faith of Kevin’s aunt in TOOELE.

    “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

  66. saying much more about the reader than the author.

    Indeed, Howard — it speaks volumes.

  67. (i’m a different Brad than the previous post) I agree that the most troubling aspect of this unfortunate event is the oblivious, even hostile tone taken by the Bookstore purchasing supervisor in his response. My wife Susan was the first to complain and request that the bookstore remove the card from its shelves. The correspondence Margaret quoted in the original post was a response to her written complaint. It was troubling enough to me that the man said no corrective action would be taken, but significantly more so to hear his reaction to the complaint. After reading that email to my wife, I called him (thinking he simply misunderstood her initial complaint), so I could perhaps come to a reasonable exchange with him (“surely he must’ve misunderstood,” I thought, or else why would he have reacted with this language?). Despite the calm, non-finger-pointing way I approached him, he became noticeably flustered and annoyed on the phone. “You think this is racist?!” he exclaimed. Yes, I said–adding that I wasn’t sure how you could give that card to an African American kid about to be baptized and not recognize it as being really inappropriate. He said he’d give me the contact info for the card company and I “could take it up with them” (which of course is a good idea as well), but I said I thought it more appropriate to talk to him first about the more immediate and doable idea of removing the card from our bookstore’s shelves, since he could make that decision. He thanked me for my feedback as if it were a telemarketing call and clearly did not intend to change his position. I was left feeling shocked and disheartened that someone at the BYU Bookstore could be so ignorant of this problem, and not more anxious to avoid even the slightest insensitivity in this area–even if they personally didn’t feel offended by it.

    Later, my wife responded to the bookstore employee’s email (the one quoted in Margaret’s original post) expressing her disappointment, and clarifying her concerns a bit more. He then wrote her back the following:

    “I really appreciate your position. I am sorry that you feel like this card slights some of the members of the church. Please understand that we are not racist nor is the company that produces this card. They have cards where there are people of color. We simply feel that the card has value in teaching the purity that is so central in the doctrine of Baptism. The card has been here for some time without anyone feeling a concern until you folks. Not that your opinion doesn’t count but to pull the card would deny others the opportunity to say what it does in congratulating a little child on their baptism. Little children are color blind, let us be also. I hope this helps you to understand our position.”

    [Perhaps it should be noted that my wife never called the bookstore or any person there racist--she said she felt the card was racist.]

    Again, the tone here is really troubling. He ends the email with this sort of condescending faux-sermon, and we felt more frustrated still. We need to do much better than this as a people. I don’t expect every byu bookstore employee to respond perfectly to all such situations, or all byu employees, or even all church employees–this could’ve been any of us. I believe this is a fundamental problem we *all* need to examine honestly and correct within ourselves–any lingering relic of racism no matter how big or how subtle that we accumulate from whatever source–especially given who we are in this faith and what we’ve been endowed with. This experience has been beneficial for me, to think about how far we all still have to go in this journey of discipleship. It made me re-examine my own tendencies, and mistakes in judgment I make. I hope that this experience may be constructive for the bookstore employee as well–perhaps even simply a first step.

  68. Great post, Margaret. This is exactly the kind of consciousness-raising that we need to see more often.

    I’m not surprised that the artist didn’t realize the problem. That’s exactly why this kind of discussion needs to take place — so that we can learn to see from others’ perspectives.

  69. “Little children are color blind, let us be also”

    That explains why my son keeps confusing red and green jellybeans. Let us be also. Can I get an amen??

  70. There is a word for people who are more scandalized by minority over-sensitivity toward perceived racism than by white insensitivity toward it.

  71. I’m curious as to what commenters think as to the effect of such a card on the actual recipient. Does the average 8-year old child (white or non-white) read into the message the same way we do?

    Not that I mean to threadjack. It’s just in my nature to wonder about things that affect children’s perspectives.

  72. I’m just kidding. I don’t think my son really is color-blind; he eats whatever jellybean is placed in front of him, regardless of color. Let us be also.

  73. Steve –

    I don’t eat orange candy, and I haven’t for many years now. Am I un-Christ-like? =/

  74. …”kindness begins with me,” as the song goes.”

    Oh! that’s why the gracious compliment.

  75. But aren’t we, as a society, overrun with people “playing the race card”? Certainly the race card is appropriate in some instances. Is it always appropriate? Who has the right to determine when accusations of racism are valid? Only minorities? Only those making the accusations? Only the wise majority? Have Mormons, as Kevin suggested, lost all rights and abilities to ever discount a racial accusation again because of our past? If so, then it is likely that noone can.

    While I agree that this particular card should be changed I find it a little troubling at the implications made by many in this disucssion that I must accept every single claim of racism simply because I am white and LDS.

  76. But aren’t we, as a society, overrun with people “playing the race card”?

    That’s a hilarious pun.

  77. Jacky, that’s me at my most gracious!

  78. #71–Good point, Jessica. My black friend did mention her concern over the card as INAPPROPRIATE for her children when she was talking with the bookstore rep. Certainly, a typical Utah kid wouldn’t see a problem. But then we need to look at the sorts of phrases and paradigms which allow racism to dwell quietly under the pretty places of our culture.

    I was raised by a wonderful grandmother who referred to licorice bits as “nigger babies.” I was raised during the years of priesthood restriction, which automatically divided me from any black person–and I knew that from a very young age. I attended mostly white schools (in Utah, they were all white). I heard racist jokes, and can still remember my father doing a parody of a black man–which I would now find insulting, but which I thought hilarious at the time.

    If the world view we convey through our language and actions includes racism–regardless of how innocuous it might appear–we Latter-day Saints will not transcend our reputation for racism for several more generations. Now is the time to weed it out vigorously. I believe we were called to do that by President Hinckley. It must be done at every level. That’s not “playing the race card,” it’s repenting. And in this case, over-sensitivity is a virtue.

  79. I appreciate your thoughtful insight Margaret. I think that we have some deep, and often very hard to find/identify/change, ideas that can get us into trouble.

    Because you do seem to have such insight into this topic I am interested to know if you think that racism is ever alleged inappropriately? Or is every claim of racism valid? This is something that I have been wondering about alot given the current national election.

  80. If we were truly color-blind the card would not offend.

    Some are offended because they read the black American experience and/or the priesthood ban into the meaning of the card. A meaning likely unintended by the author.

    What would you think if the same shelf held two cards one with a white girl and the other a black girl?

  81. Someone up there said:

    I’m pretty sure that if a phrase on a card had an unintentional sexual meaning instead of an unintentional racist meaning, the store would have taken different action.

    Actually, probably not. Since there is almost no phrase in the English language that someone, somewhere, hasn’t attached a sexual meaning to, there’s probably nothing that does not have an unintentional sexual meaning.

    The only solution is to ban words from the BYU Bookstore. In fact, better ban those three letters too!

    As to Kevin’s rant (let it rip, Kevin!) the proper phonetic spelling of Tooele is “Tawella”.

  82. Brewhaha–it’s time for me to head home, so this will be brief.
    YES, charges of racism can be flung as red herrings or used as camouflage or smoke screens. We have certainly seen it during this election season. And it can be done from many places in the color spectrum. I think charges of racism should usually be considered thoughtfully, but nobody should follow the trail of accusation into the realms of nonsense. That’s manipulation. You do have to trust the piper before following, and that requires honest reflection, common sense, and brains.

    Howard–you keep coming up with new versions of the same card. This is one of those instances where it’s better to say “Oops. Bad draft. Start over.” Good writers and artists–and bookstore representatives–learn that the garbage can is an indispensable tool.

  83. Would someone else then be offended that we left out a red girl and a yellow girl card?

  84. Mike "okie" Troutt says:

    The problem is with the word “white” and I agree that it is anybody’s right to be offended. Some people however will be offended no matter what it might say or which race is depicted. At what point should charity and forbearance outweigh insensitivity? -

  85. Margaret: “Howard–you keep coming up with new versions of the same card.”

    Howard: “Would someone else then be offended that we left out a red girl and a yellow girl card?”

    bye, Howard.

  86. In this example we could come up with two different responses to seeing this card. One would be the response given so far. “Please remove the card.” This is reasonable and even handed. It is not over sensitive. Over sensitive would be the second response. “Ban all of that artist’s work, and boycott the BYU Bookstore.” There is a difference.

  87. I don’t consider myself an extraordinarily sensitive person, but my first reaction to this card (or rather, my vicarious experience of this card) was, “Well, that’s messed up.” I don’t think it’s the same as reading something racial into every mention of color. When you’re talking about a person, saying “white on the inside” does have racial implications. It certainly wouldn’t be any less problematic if the picture were of brown-skinned child and there was no mistaking the reference to the white clothing. White ritual clothing to represent purity isn’t a problem. The word “white” as a synonym with “pure” or “clean” when referring to a person is a problem.

  88. Sorry Steve, I didn’t see Margaret’s comment before posting.

  89. Great post Margaret! Very important observation.

    I’m curious who decides what is racist. Is it the person who is slighted? The reason I ask is two experiences. Right after my mission I became good friends with a blind women. I became scared to death to say anything that I was afraid might offend her (in my imagination). I screened myself from saying ‘See you later” or “You look nice today” because I was afraid I would draw attention to her blindness. I would go into the most awkward constructions to avoid words that had any connotation with ‘seeing’. Then one day she said, “Watch out.” and “See you later.” Both. I confessed what I was doing and she had a big laugh at me. I never occurred to her that these English expressions had anything to do with her blindness.

    Second, when I lived in Hawaii I was called “Houlie” all the time. Not in a derogatory sense I could tell. That’s just what I was. They did not seem to mean anything by it. But I found it demeaning and it seemed, in slight and nuanced ways, to suggest that I might not be something that was not quite up to par. Or at least it felt that way sometimes, but never to the extent that I could demonstrate or make an argument that I was being slighted and I never really knew if I was or not. It just made me uncomfortable that language was used that seemed exclude me from the culture.

    So in one case I was being unnecessarily over sensitive to someone who didn’t care. And in the second I got no say in what I was called and I didn’t like it.

    So who says what’s the appropriate connotation? Was it the blind woman in the first one and me in the second? Or in the first one did I get to play out my discomfort with her blindness by avoiding words and did the culture that invented the word in the Hawaiian case get to use it as a description of me because it was their culture?

    I also work with lots of Africans in my Tsetse fly work and they use ‘black’ metaphorically in English much as I would, as in “Black Magic.” And obviously, from my first story, I’m terribly over sensitive and air on the side of caution, but isn’t that a manifestation of my keying too much into race? If I have to talk about “Evil Magic” haven’t I in some sense just divided us in ways they don’t expect or demand and that actually separate us?

    These are genuine confusions. Of course I’m easily confused. I’ll believe whatever you tell me.

  90. Here’s a thought. What if we just stopped the use of sacred ordinances to turn a buck?

  91. nasamomdele says:

    I think Kevin Barney addressed the situation the best here.

    However, what sort of hypocrisy leads such sensitive people to thrust out the likes of SL and Howard for legitimately questioning such sensitivity?

    How sad a sharing opportunity wasted in such an unrighteous dominion sort of way.

    Howard makes a great point- If we were truly colorblind, this card would not be an issue. Perhaps the time simply is not right to be colorblind. Perhaps we must wander in the wilderness for a generation or two before we look on each other without the racially-discerning eye.

    Growing up, I played with asian boys and girls, black boys and girls, brown boys and girls, white boys and girls, etc. I feel that I am less sensitive to race as a divider of humans to the point that I would rather not see it so.

    It is hard for me to agree with such stubborn sensitivity, as it often is exhibited in Anger- which is not a proper medium for tolerance. But sensitivity like this is warranted in the context of the Church, as well as being welcome, when carried forward in the right ways.

    It’s been good to see these events unfold through the comments. It’s been interesting to see how those wishing to do right for tolerance’s sake betray tolerance as well. All in all, I see a positive- we can all do better at the bookstore, but also on the comment line.

  92. I am reasonably sure that being baptized doesn’t change our internal color anyway. I still bleed red. What a dumb caption, in addition to being offensive. And I expect the artist had very little to do with the wording – it is my understanding that the text and the illustraion on a card are usually done by separate individuals.

  93. nasamomdele says:

    I am stubbornly against commercial Mormon art/miscellany in almost every way. It perpetuates a superficial spiritual culture.

  94. I sincerely hope #85 is a banning. Rarely (and I mean *very* rarely) do a series of comments make me want to come through the screen and punch someone in the face, but Howard pulled it off in this thread.

  95. what sort of hypocrisy leads such sensitive people to thrust out the likes of SL and Howard for legitimately questioning such sensitivity?

    You must be kidding. This card is so obviously objectionable that you have to be racially tone deaf not to see why people might be offended. Unfortunately, racial tone deafness and general insensitivity is relatively widespread in the Church. That doesn’t, however, excuse it.

    The response of the book store employee is telling: “We’re not racist and neither is the company that produces the card.” Such a statement is staggeringly wrongheaded. There are several possible responses: “Says who?” would be one, but the best is probably, “So what?” The question is, what do you plan to do about a card that some people find offensive? Your response to that question is the best way to determine whether you are racist or not.

  96. Steve Evans says:

    “Growing up, I played with asian boys and girls, black boys and girls, brown boys and girls, white boys and girls, etc. I feel that I am less sensitive to race as a divider of humans to the point that I would rather not see it so.”

    incredibly generous of you to have done so nasamomdele. Good thing you’ve left those days of seeing race behind you. Those asians, blacks and “browns” should follow your noble example. Let me know when you’re done wandering in the wilderness on racial issues.

  97. Left Field says:

    It’s funny that this should be posted today. I have a stake presidency counselor who is not only racially tone deaf, but just culturally tone deaf in general. He seems to have absolutely no idea what things are inappropriate to say. He spent the whole 3 hours with us yesterday, and I suddenly realized that nearly every time he opens his mouth something cringeworthy comes out.

    The first time I remember noticing it was at the father-and-son outing when he literally went around the campsite insulting everyone’s cooking. Apparently he thought it was hilarious to suggest that you were burning the food even though you weren’t. And of course it only gets funnier if you repeat it to everyone. And really funny if the person actually is burning the food, I suppose. Advise: Never Insult The Chef.

    Insulting the chef may be a bad idea, but relatively harmless compared to some of his other gaffes. Several weeks ago in high priest’s meeting, he related anecdote that included the implication that people ought to be insulted by the suggestion that they might have biracial children.

    More on the topic of white clothing, I’ve been to a couple of temple open houses in recent years, and it occurred to me that it’s probably not a good idea to overplay the idea that white is a symbol of purity. We may think it’s obvious that the symbolism of white clothing has no racial implications, but lots of people are already predisposed to see us as racist. It’s not that big of a jump for such people to conclude that we think white people are more pure because we make such a big deal equating white with purity.

  98. CJ Douglass says:

    The idea that we should all be colorblind is actually pretty ignorant.

    Its funny, I only hear white people talk about being colorblind – its easy for them to say. And I find, in my experience, that they are the same people who say things like, “Why isn’t there a WET (White Entertainment Television)?” or “Why don’t White people get there own awards show?”. Uhhh….maybe because the mainstream culture IS white culture??

    Of course we’re different – why would anyone want to be blind to that? Celebrate differences…love each other anyway… at least that’s what I keep hearing at GC.

  99. While I agree the card was racially insensitive, the idea of white and purity are very Biblical.

    “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as cwhite as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

    I can see how this scripture could easily accompany the caption of “White (clothing) on the outside and white (spiritually clean) on the inside.

  100. “incredibly generous of you to have done so nasamomdele. Good thing you’ve left those days of seeing race behind you. Those asians, blacks and “browns” should follow your noble example. Let me know when you’re done wandering in the wilderness on racial issues.”

    Holy cow, does Nasamomdele’s post really warrant that kind of mean-spirited sarcasm?

    Actually, I struck a more strident tone with my first comments than I really believe (caused in part by a misreading of the original post and a desire to stir the pot a little), and I deserve some of the crap I got. I think the card should go, and some of the good points made in the comments reinforce that thought.

    But the viscious tone in some of the responses really suprised me, especially coming from people who claim the virtues of being oversensative and the call to be compasionate. Why not see folks like my (online) self and the BYU bookstore guy as a teaching opportunity, instead of smugly scoffing at our incredible ignorance and insensitivity of daring to question your conclusions? I suspect MOST members of the Church would not immediately identify the card as racist. I also suspect that with a little calm reasoning and historical background, they would readily change their minds. Not everyone has spent as much time studying and pondering the racial history of the Church. Instead I was labeled a racist and there was even an ugly bit of reverse racism (so WHITE of me to say such and such).

    Like I say, it’s hard to have a conversation on this topic because of the browbeating one might get if he accidentally says the wrong thing.

    Consider this timid statement:

    “These are genuine confusions. Of course I’m easily confused. I’ll believe whatever you tell me.”

    Poor guy is scared poopless for asking legitimate questions.

  101. CJ Douglass says:

    Instead I was labeled a racist and there was even an ugly bit of reverse racism (so WHITE of me to say such and such).

    This might have been directed at me. Either way, I suppose my generalization about “white people” was out of line/not helpful to the discussion.

    I still stand by my comment about colorblindness…

  102. Steve Evans says:

    SL, if you believe that racism is a topic where you need to “stir the pot a little” to highlight people being “oversensative” [sic], then that is just plain dumb. You are not presenting a teaching opportunity; you’re just acting like a troll. Browbeating on people that accidentally say the wrong things is in poor taste — you are right on that point. But browbeating someone like you who apparently knows what the right thing to say is but deliberately says otherwise… why, that’s just gravy.

    PS if you think Steve P is being timid, you’ve got another thing coming.

  103. CJ, actually I was referring to these:

    “SL, spoken like a white person!”
    “Steve–did you censor yourself? Did you, perchance, originally say to SL “Very WHITE of you not to think yourself racist”?”

    It was sort of funny actually. Those darn whites. Can’t ever trust ‘em, especially when they claim they aren’t racist. Nasamomdele made the same fatal mistake of claiming she isn’t racist. Obviously in denial.

  104. Steve Evans says:

    okay SL, you’re in the mod queue until you can learn to keep tongue in cheek and head out of ass. If it helps, though, SL — I agree that I was pretty harsh with nasamomdele, and wish I’d said things differently.

  105. Isn’t Nasamomdele a guy?

  106. Maybe someone could check and get back to us.

  107. I mean, just ask him (or her). Don’t do anything, y’ know, inappropriate. (Thought I better clarify).

  108. I guess Nasamomdele could be a guy. I was going off Nasa/Mom/Dele.

  109. #107 – Thanks for that clarification, MCQ. I was wondering who would step forward and volunteer.

  110. “SL, if you believe that racism is a topic where you need to “stir the pot a little” to highlight people being “oversensative” [sic], then that is just plain dumb.”

    I would never throw out a racist comment to stir the pot, and I don’t believe I did. My throwing out the white liberal diss was out of line, and as I reread the post, I realized totally missing the point.

    In reality, I was taking a somewhat devils advocate position—not in playing the part of a racist—but to see what others thought about the symbolism of whiteness in the scriptures and how to reconcile it with this problem. A few of the comments were really “aha” moments, or “Duh, of course, I should have realized that…” I haven’t spent as much time thinking about this topic as many of you. It was a learning experience for me, but by that time things had gotten nasty enough that I had a hard time feeling warm and fuzzy about it all. I’m sure there would have been a better way to go about it, but there’s my full disclosure.

    I’ll try to keep tongue out of cheek, but head out of ass….no guarantees.

  111. See here.

    Can women be in a sunday school presidency?

  112. Thomas Parkin says:

    I’m reminded of the Morrisey lyric:

    “I wear black on the outside, cause black is how I feel on the inside.”

    My only comment is … if it can be agreed that this card was not created with malice, then the responses to the bookstore should _highlight_ that awareness. In the world we live in, anything that fails to highlight that awareness will read like an accusation of racism. Sensitivity is great, and there ought to be enough of it to go around.

    I think nasamomdele makes some relevant and thoughtful points. I especially love #93. :)

    ~

  113. right again, TP. I liked #93 too.

  114. #93 is utterly truthful, more evidence of my wrongness against him/her

  115. Thomas Parkin says:

    Oh, I’m going to be right a lot more often, now that we are living in Logan. (As of two days ago.) Being right goes with the territory.

    ~

    PS. Pray for us
    PPS. The temple _is_ so beautiful

  116. LOGAN! ohhh TP…

  117. Cool! You are now officially closer to me than you are to Steve, which means you’re getting righter all the time!

  118. Not that it matters at this point but I have never met any American (nor, really, anyone) who isn’t a little bit racist and people who insist that they aren’t (even a little bit) are deep in denial in my humble opinion. If you were raised in America, you got plenty of racial messages, concious and unconcious, growing up; so if you think you are the sole person to escape that unscathed I’ll need more proof of it than your assurance. Calling people oversensitive for expressing their offense at a card (however well intentioned) is not a good first step.

    Since no one has brought up the parallels with Chris Buttars’ black baby and the Obama sock puppet, I will. Ignorance might explain the initial mistake, but it shouldn’t justify the continuation of it afterwards. The is far from Utah’s first offense in this arena this year.

    I was raised in the South. I encountered virulent racism and benign racism there. When I arrived in Utah, I was often told that people here weren’t racist and, therefore, better than Sountherners. To counter, I would point out the frequent references to Mexicans and Polynesians. But obviously, that wasn’t necessary.

  119. Unintentional racism is one thing, and I again applaud the humility of the woman who created the card – as Margaret described in an earlier comment. Virulent racism is quite another thing, as evidenced by the following (hat tip to Rich, who linked it on FMH):

    Check out the shirt AND the unfortunate bumper sticker.

  120. We still have a long way to go in this country. We shouldn’t forget that – or why things like the unintentional racism of the card still hurts so badly.

  121. I would suggest to anyone who does not consider themselves racist to refrain from broadcasting it. Many of us assume that anyone who announces “I’m not racist” almost certainly is. So often, the phrase is followed by “but…” and then goes on to say something outrageous. I realize that the internet keeps our faces from view, so the love we feel for others isn’t immediately seen. But a person who is truly not a racist will have no need to announce it. Attitude shows. This goes for most pronouncements like “I’m not sexist” or “I’m not anti-Mormon…” The statement itself draws questions and even raises suspicions.

  122. What I find interesting is the approach advocated by so many commenters here. Ideas like:

    -If there’s no proof that it was intentionally racist, it’s not a problem.
    -If there’s a good alternative explanation for the phrase, then that’s what everyone should focus on.
    -We ought to not be oversensitive.
    -The card doesn’t bother me, I don’t see why it would bother someone else.

    There’s an implicit assumption that puts the burden of proof, so to speak, on Margaret.

    Compare this to how other issues are handled. For instance, the Word of Wisdom. Green tea is healthy, and so’s red wine in moderation. Why the blanket prohibition? Well, one common response is that the WoW is a way to show solidarity with the weakest among us. The church says to refrain entirely, because any indulgence will hurt some people (who are physically susceptible to alcoholism).

    Why not take a “weakest among us” approach to race issues?

    If the card didn’t bother *you* — great. You’re not the one we’ll worry about.

    Could it potentially hurt others? Yes, it could.

  123. SteveP writes:

    Second, when I lived in Hawaii I was called “Houlie” all the time. Not in a derogatory sense I could tell. That’s just what I was. They did not seem to mean anything by it. But I found it demeaning and it seemed, in slight and nuanced ways, to suggest that I might not be something that was not quite up to par. Or at least it felt that way sometimes, but never to the extent that I could demonstrate or make an argument that I was being slighted and I never really knew if I was or not. It just made me uncomfortable that language was used that seemed exclude me from the culture.

    The word is haole. (Yes, it’s pronounced kind of like “howl-lee”). It’s Hawaiian for “foreigner,” but it’s become a sometimes racially derogatory term.

  124. Re 110, women are not supposed to serve in SS presidencies, although it has happened in some cases, especially prior to 1980 (also “Report of the Regional Representatives’ Seminar,” Ensign, May 1980, item 9).

  125. nasamomdele says:

    #121 Kaimi,

    You make a very good point. I’m sure all commenters are interested and overjoyed with a potentially divisive issue being resolved in such a respectful manner.

    Whether or not the card or the response from the Bookstore worker are racist is impossible to determine except by passing rather leaping judgments.

    The action of bringing a concern to the artist in a generous manner and her equally sensitive response is indeed the model for these potentially hurtful situations. This is what this post has preached- taking time to express in generous terms an issue and taking time on generous terms to respond. It should not be only for issues of race that such a model is used. And we shall call the model…charity.

    Steve Evans,
    I appreciate your remorse for harsh words. I express my own appologies for ill-put, offensive words.

    P.S. nasamomdele is Russian for “in fact” or “a matter of fact”- the “mom” is not indicative of anything. I am male.

  126. Steve Evans says:

    Then I take back my apology! I was trying to be generously paternalistic..no point if you’re just some dude.

  127. nasamomdele says:

    Shoot, and here I was feeling all warm and fuzzy.

  128. 117:

    To counter, I would point out the frequent references to Mexicans and Polynesians.

    Don’t forget Lamanites.

    120:

    Many of us assume that anyone who announces “I’m not racist” almost certainly is. So often, the phrase is followed by “but…” and then goes on to say something outrageous.

    I’m not charitable, but nice post.

  129. The card does bother me. I would not carry it if I was BYU. Esp after a black member confronts you about it. I am a little bit uneasy with people setting themselves up as the “authority” on who gets defined as a racist.

    As a dude I am not a big fan of cards for every event anyway? Who came up with this idea and why am I always somehow in trouble over it? I taught RS last month and they mailed me a card?????

  130. Kaimi–I was thinking EXACTLY what you expressed about the WoW being geared to protect the one who would be at risk of alcoholism were we not to provide a communal net wherein we all choose not to partake. I think the link to the original post is excellent.

    Btw, my son had a rather hard time being called a haole when we lived in Hawaii. He had a wonderful teacher, however, who took him under her wing and really tried to help him deal with his sense of solitude. I can’t imagine how I would have felt had she accused him of over-sensitivity. I was moved by all the extra steps she took to make him feel accepted in his class.

  131. I am a very humble nonracist person. In fact, some of my best friends are nonracist and humble too.

    *****************

    I am impressed with the sensitivity of the artist after having the potentially harmful interpretation pointed out to her.

    I actually do not put a lot a blame on the bookstore representative. I imagine that at BYU the bookstore would constantly get complaints about the inappropriateness of what it sells, usually, though, I suspect, from the more “conservative” element of the population.

  132. Bro. Jones says:

    #38 Margaret, if you have located an LDS person capable of lovely art, then it is your duty to share her name. Now may not be the right time, but danged if I wouldn’t want to patronize a gifted LDS artist who doesn’t churn out crap.

    #127 I don’t get the fascination with cards either, bbell.

  133. Re: Ray’s #119 and the photo he links to.

    Isn’t the man wearing that T-shirt a Black man?

    If so, it underscores the irony of the N-word–it’s most common users today are Blacks. Shortly after I moved to Chicago (over 30 years ago), I was living in the racially diverse south side, and standing in line at McDonalds. (That was before I gave that vice up.) Someone came in behind and called out “Hey, N_____, what’s happenin’?”

    I didn’t dare turn around, figuring that if a race riot was going to begin, I’d just as soon get hit in the back. But finally I did and discovered two friends, both Black, having a great time together.

  134. MarkB–Darius and I will be in Chicago for the American Academy of Religion and will show our documentary there. You can find their website (AAR something). I don’t know if you can get in to the screening there, but we’re also working on getting a screening somewhere in Hyde Park. One of Bruce’s former roommates is working on that. I’d love to see you.

  135. “Many of us assume that anyone who announces “I’m not racist” almost certainly is.”

    Bizarre.

    Margaret,

    You too often hold yourself out as the definitive authority on questions of race for my taste. I think your consciousness-raising would be more successful if you had more empathy for people whose consciousness is not yet as raised as your own. That isn’t meant to be a smug comment about “enlightenment.” If you are more enlightened on a particular issue and you truly care about advancing the issue (which I think you do) rather than flaunting status (which I think you do) I think you could work with people who don’t immediately see things your way. Any discussion of race, especially in the American context, could benefit from a dose of charity all around. Sadly too often race is used as a cudgel. Those who lack the designated vocabulary or are otherwise unready for polite society are cruelly beaten for their missteps–often forced into permanent exile for unknowing mistakes. Too scared to broach the topic, or broach it in any honest fashion where true understanding of differences and sameness can take root, we retreat–never improving, never understanding, but firmly put in place. Help me to understand. If I am not a quick study consider me worth the effort–my soul and your own may yet benefit.

  136. Mathew,
    You’re reading a different post/thread than I am.

  137. Brad,

    I don’t doubt it. If you find it more relevant I posit for consideration your #60 in which you implied a false and stupid teaching propogated in the Religion Dept. would somehow be more acceptable if it didn’t take place in the presence of African students. We are indeed collectively in need of some consciousness-raising. And some charity towards one another in the process (see your #70 for the sort of distinctly uncharitable comment I was suggesting does not advance the ball).

  138. Steve Evans says:

    Mathew, I have a hard time considering you as being so uninformed as to issues of race. What is it that convinces you of your need for re-education?

  139. Steve,

    I am probably not as sensitive to some important issues as Margaret and there are lots of people who can discuss race in more impressive terms than me. I was merely using myself as an example of the position we are all in–imperfect in understanding, limited by our experience and thus in need of both guidance from wise teachers and charity from all.

    I’ve spent significant amounts of time in environments where race, and the term “racist” in particular is waved around like a loaded gun with consequences that can be nearly as severe. Just as we would a gun, we need to be careful where we point some of the terms commonly used in American racial discourse. If it has a place in a discussion, it shouldn’t be near the start of it.

    It isn’t any trick for me to turn Brad’s words around and impugn him with meaning divorced from authorial intent. The reader does not, Margaret’s intention notwithstanding, get to unilaterally decide the meaning of a text. The obvious truth is that we have a responsibility to engage in real discourse with one another rather than supplying meanings that have only a glancing relationship with the idea. Hearing what the other is saying is difficult and admittedly not helped by the way most of us mangle language. We can never be entirely successful. But to abandon the effort and ridicule those who do not subscribe to our neat orthodoxies is itself a betrayal of our would-be interlocutor’s human dignity.

    And if we should encounter a racist intention, consider what is the appropriate response–derision or active compassion.

  140. Steve Evans says:

    Mat, I tend to agree with your thoughts here, even if my policing of the thread might indicate that I draw the line differently than perhaps you might. I do not believe that compassion requires coddling or acceptance of ignorant or racist views in public discourse. If someone is a racist or is stuck using racist terms, I believe they should be confronted with such racism and that their language should be held up as a mirror. If we are to stick with the gun analogy, I believe in very strict gun control, not just education about safe gun use.

    But the larger point — our responsibility to engage with others — of course your point has real merit.

  141. Mathew,
    I didn’t defend my comments. I defended Margaret’s.

  142. There are any number of instances on this thread alone where it seems folks are more interested in identifying someone or something as racist than educating, persuading, engaging. That is a serious problem and points to some of the reasons why our discourse about race has become so impoverished. Confrontation of the kind of virulent racism you still encounter in pockets of America may be useful as a signalling device of unacceptable behavior within our society. I’m less convinced of its merits when we are talking about a dismissive response to a customer complaint. That is probably due to my view that confrontation of the kind you are referring to (making known, labeling, showing strong aversion towards) primarily is a signaling device to third-parties rather than a tool we use to engage someone. What’s worse, it is often a signaling device we use to telegraph something about ourselves rather than the behavior we condemn–i.e. I am NOT a racist and by the way I can be trusted in polite society.

  143. 135: “You too often hold yourself out as the definitive authority on questions of race for my taste.”

    Wow. That’s a huge accusation and a very big blanket. Are you responding to the post or to me as a person?

    No time to wait on a response. I’m off to the MTC, where I will hold myself out as merely a helper for the remarkable young men and women who are preparing to be ministers of Christ in languages they have yet to learn and in places they have hardly imagined.

    As for my own intent–believe it or not, Mathew, it IS for the building of the Kingdom of God, and for the unity of His saints. I come to the well full of sin and eager for understanding. I apologize if my particular tone or style has been offensive to you.

  144. I used to work at the BYU Bookstore, do you have any idea how many complaints they get there? If they got rid of everything people complained about they would lose half their inventory. They had to weigh the complaint to decide if it was valid. Besides, how many times does it refer to being clothed in white and their sins becoming as white as snow in the Bible? I think they had valid reasons for keeping it, and we ought to try to be less knee-jerky. I do understand that someone could find offense to it, but shouldn’t we try to control our reactions, and not take offense so easily?

  145. Steve Evans says:

    Cheri, shouldn’t it be a no-brainer that the bookstore at the Lord’s University shouldn’t stock potentially racist items?

  146. Mark Brown says:

    Cheri, I think the point is that with our very recent history of tone deafness on the issue of race, this is an area where we need to be especially careful. As Brad pointed out earlier, as recently as five years ago, RelEd teachers were telling their classes that black people become whiter as they repent. I agree that we need to be careful about claiming offense, but can we not also agree that there are some issues where we must be above reproach?

    Put me down as somebody who thinks the BYU bookstore would be a lot better store of it got rid of at least half of its merchandise.

  147. Steve Evans says:

    keep the giant peanut butter cups, enormous Turtles and fine chocolates; ditch the racist cards. That’s all I’m sayin.

  148. Mark Brown says:

    Steve, what about the cougar-ette Barbie?

  149. Margaret,

    No need to convince me of your interest in building the kingdom of God. I never thought otherwise. Also no need to apologize to me–although I sort of like the fact you used what my wife refers to as a “non-apology apology” (I’m sorry you feel that way). It cracks me up.

  150. Eric Russell says:

    Mark, have you ever actually been in the BYU bookstore? It’s not a Deseret Book.

  151. Mark Brown says:

    LOL Eric. Between the RULDS2 license plate holders, the Bronco Memdenhall motivational DVDs, the CTR mirror decals, and the Plan of Salvation puzzle set, you would hardly know that you are in a bookstore.

  152. I’d like to [foolishly, foolhardily] support some of Mat’s position, using myself as an example.

    I feel pretty well accepted in the bloggernacle, aside from a handful of participants who can’t stand me any more than I can stand them; none of those have participated in this thread, though. I’m well enough known that few people would mistake me for a rabid redneck where race is concerned, although I have no doubt that some of you don’t find me completely enlightened, judging by your indignation when I have joined in race-topic threads in the past.

    My objectionable contributions have tended in two directions: I admit that I am unsettled in my opinion as to the origin of the priesthood ban; I don’t flatly deny that its only source is Brigham Young’s racism, but because I don’t enthusiastically endorse that theory which so many of you have adopted as the only acceptable one, I have sometimes been sniped at rather unpleasantly. Also, I have noted that each February my Tribune column tells some story about Utah’s black history; one very prominent participant in this thread has told me that I have no business doing that because those aren’t my stories and I cannot possibly tell black stories as a black woman would. Believe it or not, I know that I am not black, and that I can’t fully get inside anyone else’s life. My purpose in telling those stories is not to usurp someone else’s story, but to tell stories that would otherwise remain unknown because Utah’s black history is so invisible in our documents that no casual or amateur historian is going to be able to pull out the scraps I have scavenged through thousands of hours of sifting records. It’s either me or nobody, for the time being.

    If someone like me with a healthy ego and a track record of contributions to point to can be made to feel spat upon by supposed friends whose only motive appears to be to assert their superior race bona fides, how much more unwelcome (and unreasonably so) can someone else of good will but slightly differing opinions be made to feel? I endorse Mat’s call for more charity on this specific topic.

  153. Eric Russell says:

    Yeah, there are a few such odds and ends. But it’s really not a Seagull/Deseret. You should check it out sometime.

  154. If BCC can conjure up 150+ comments on this, other blogs stand no chance.

  155. Mark Brown says:

    Eric, I’ve been in that bookstore at least once a year for the past twenty years. The best think they could do is expand the fudge counter to take up the entire gound level.

  156. Mark Brown says:

    Ardis, please allow me to attempt a response.

    Let’s begin by taking Pres. Eyring’s advice on unity and outlining where we all (presumably) share common ground.

    We have a history with racism. Regardless of what one thinks of the divine origin of priesthood ban, we chose to justify our beliefs with doctrines that are repugnant and which have since been disavowed at the highest levels, but which still remain with us. Are we agreed so far? OK, given our history, we have no margin of error on this topic. We simply have to bend over backwards, if that is what it takes, to avoid giving further gratuitous offense. Because of our very recent outrageously egregious offenses (repentance = lighter skin), it is not up to us to decide whether somebody is being petty or oversensitive. We just don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, yet.

    As you can see, in my opinion this belongs in a category by itself, apart from almost all other sources of contention. I think what you are seeing as an attempt to establish “superior race bona fides” is actually an honest attempt to put some distance between oneself and our very recent past, even more recent than 1978.

    By the way, I don’t know about any “supposed friends”. There are friends, period, even though there are differences. I think that sense of alienation that occasionally happens is just a re-affirmation of our uniqueness.

  157. Margaret:

    Thanks for the note about the Chicago screening. But, I left Chicago for New York 28 years ago, so let me know when you’ll be showing the film in New York.

  158. “Now is the time to weed it out vigorously. . .It must be done at every level. That’s not “playing the race card,” it’s repenting. And in this case, over-sensitivity is a virtue.”

    Thank you Margaret–I think repentence is the word and the prescription, for both individuals and institutions, in this case. Would someone accuse Christ of being over-sensitive with the merchandisers at the temple? His passion for what was right was His virtue and the power of His love.

    “If we were truly color-blind the card would not offend”

    I have to say very directly, that is such a “white” thing to say. How convenient to suddenly ignore the racial identity of another person as if it means nothing. Well, it does to that person–it’s a part of who they are. This idea of being “color-blind” is a white defensive response to the uncomfortable subject of racism in our society. If we can say we don’t “see” color then suddenly there isn’t a problem anymore–how convenient. But of course, there is a problem. What we need to do as disciples of Christ is to not “blind” ourselves to color, but to see color even more clearly. To be able to see through the life experiences of another (even a person of color) is to truly become Christ-like.

    Racism mostly has to deal with issues of power–who is on top and who is on the bottom. To pretend that is doesn’t matter because “I don’t see color” is to ignore the reality of power. And if that doesn’t matter to you then chances are, you are on top. In a racist society, then being on top is a matter of color.

    When you are on the receiving end of exclusion and put-downs (hualies included) just as a daily matter of course in our society–I think you get to answer even the nit-picky things with a bit of anger and resentment. You earn that right from oppression. Extra credit goes to those who respond gently, yet firmly, to those who just don’t get it–even those with the best of intentions.

    The gospel proposes that what we think and feel and desire is secondary to what someone else thinks and feels. We are to have compassion, even to the point of loving our enemies. We can’t do that until we get to know our enemies, even see through their eyes.

  159. Left Field says:

    I haven’t set foot in either Deseret Book or the BYU bookstore in more than 20 years. I take it that DB has gone downhill? I used to get some pretty good titles there back in the day. As for the BYU bookstore, it was about 25% candy, 25% Mormon kitsch, 25% BYU licensed merchandise, and the rest books. I remember a pretty good diversity of books among that 25%, though. You could get such things as scriptures, GAs, Broadie, Sunstone, Dialogue, Ensign, and a range of fiction and nonfiction.

    Maybe 40% candy…

  160. Mark, as you say, this is an area where there is no margin for error, so I feel bound to state that your “Because of our very recent outrageously egregious offenses (repentance = lighter skin), it is not up to us to decide whether somebody is being petty or oversensitive” has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with me. I do not believe nor perpetuate such false doctrines, nor do I believe nor have claimed that there is anything petty or oversensitive in the complaints about this baptismal card. Someone who didn’t know me could easily think you were correcting beliefs I hold, and that’s not fair to me.

    I do believe that some commenters have genuinely not understood our indignation over this card. They have asked questions for understanding, without necessarily saying we’re wrong for our group indignation. Such questions should be answered calmly. Some responses on this thread, though, have treated questioners as though they were scum racists for simply asking about something they did not understand. That’s not right. That’s where I’m calling for charity.

  161. I have a black son, and much of my reaction to this card is influenced by my experiences when he lived with us. The current YW Pres. in our ward is a black, single mother – and we are very close to her. I hope, somehow, some of this will help explain why we need to be aware of even subtle racial messages:

    1) When you are the only black face in a congregation of white faces, you already feel isolated and alone in a very real way. You already are hyper-aware of and sensitive to racial issues. After all, well-meaning members automatically start playing match-maker every, single time (without fail and without exception) whenever there is a black man with the missionaries on Sunday.

    2) Being “color-blind” is an illusion when the 6’7″ young man sitting amid the short, pale white family is dark black. As my sons says, “You don’t see color, you blind.”

    3) When you see a good young man cringe and reflexively look for an escape route every time he hears a police siren – simply because he’s tired of being targeted as a potential trouble maker as a large, black man . . .

    4) When you hear a school teacher say, the very first time he meets you, not to worry about your son in his classroom – because, “I know how to handle these kids” . . .

    5) It is eye-opening when you realize how you would react if someone told you that being white is fine for this life, since the righteous white people will be black in the hereafter.

    I could go on and on for hours – and my repertoire of examples comes primarily from only 18 months of raising a black teenager. I understand that racism is charged in instances where it doesn’t exist, and I also understand that it is very possible to be overly-sensitive to possible racist statements, but I just don’t accept any statement at all that says we don’t need to do all we can to be aware of and eliminate anything that would cause reasonable people of any color to be offended by something that has racist undertones – intentional or not. I believe the tone we take must be civil and meek to be most effective, but this is one area where I believe we owe it to our children and others to eradicate one of the worst results of the Fall – the judging and belittling of our brothers and sisters based solely on mortal race.

  162. #160 – Well said, Ardis.

  163. I’m happy to announce that the employee who my wife and I (and I believe Margaret’s friend) had originally talked to emailed us today to say they are removing the card from the byu bookstore shelves.

    Thank you to Margaret, her friend, and each of you who voiced your concerns here and elsewhere to help make this happen.

  164. Ardis, as one of the chiefest bloviators I take responsibility for being a big hothead on this thread. What can I say? I got rankled.

  165. If I could start over again, I would like to have expressed something closer to what Ardis and Matthew have said. Instead, I was feeling grumpy and fired off something that set off some bad feelings in me and other commenters.

    I apologize for that. In real life I’m not a jerk, and I’m not sure why I decided to start off as one. And I didn’t like spending a day thinking other commenters were jerks, when in reality they seem like nice people.

    Anyway, I don’t think this blogging thing is for me. I’ll be checking out now. Again, sorry for any hard feelings.

    All the best.
    SL

  166. Ray,
    Thanks for sharing your son’s experiences.

  167. a random John says:

    Personally I’m splotchy on the outside and mostly red on the inside, though parts are shit-colored.

  168. a random John says:

    I should note that since I was baptized there are more splotches and I smell worse.

  169. SL, I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot.

  170. SL–I wouldn’t give up on participating in blogs. You are clearly a reflective person. Yeah, you didn’t start off too well, but pretty much all of us have made asses of ourselves on the bloggernacle at some time or another. (Not that you did…) We all get over it. I hope you hang around. I’d like to find out more about who you are “in real life.”

    Ray–thank you. Any of us who have black children or close black friends know these stories very well and we keep longing for a better day–and trusting that it’s coming. We do recognize how very far we’ve come, and thank God for that.

    Brad–HOORAY!!!! You just made my day. We have all made a difference–not just in having a card removed, but in helping someone understand that dismissing concerns about sensitive things is not a good idea.

  171. As one of the chiefest bloviators I take responsibility for being a big hothead on this thread.

    I forgive you, Steve, with the moral authority of one who is never ever rude or sarcastic. Ever.

  172. Steve Evans says:

    hee! Thanks, Ardis!

  173. Btw, my son had a rather hard time being called a haole when we lived in Hawaii.

    He should lighten up (pardon the expression). It’s not as if native Hawaiians are trying to establish preference for their race in law. Er…

  174. Ardis (#152):

    I feel pretty well accepted in the bloggernacle, aside from a handful of participants who can’t stand me any more than I can stand them

    If there’s one area in which BCC commenters can reliably find common ground, it’s the universal, non-racial hatred of Adam Greenwood.

  175. 174: {gasp} {twitter} {guffaw}

  176. huh

  177. gst,
    hatred of or hatred toward AG?

  178. a random John says:

    my feelings towards Mr. Greenwood are completely racial.

  179. Adam Greenwood says:

    Enough of your racistry!

    Also, I quite like Ardis Parshall, much to her disappointment.

  180. Mat writes:

    “Margaret,

    You too often hold yourself out as the definitive authority on questions of race for my taste.”

    Err, Mat? She’s a woman who has (1) written three well-received books on race, (2) written a number of articles about Black Mormons, (3) interviewed a zillion individual Black members, (4) been in close contact with the Genesis group, (5) kept an eye on all of the race literature (Mauss, Bush, etc.), (6) produced a very good documentary on the topic.

    Treating her as an authority on race/Mormonism issues makes sense. She _is_ an authority. Seriously, who knows more on the topic than she does? Darius and Armand and probably Newell Bringhurst, and that’s about it. (Maybe Jessie Embry or Darron Smith could make that claim too.)

    If Armand or Newell wants to say Margaret may be wrong on some issue, I’ll listen. It would be interesting. There are genuine debates and disagreements. And Margaret certainly isn’t infallible.

    But if her interlocutor is some dude whose background in race issues is that he watched The Cosby Show a few times — I’ll take Margaret’s word over his, every time.

    If you personally want to do the ground work to make an educated challenge to Margaret’s conclusions, great. If you want to invest the time in getting the background that would be required to mount an educated challenge to her conclusions, please, be my guest.

    But otherwise, please, wake up.

    It would be idiotic to treat every internet yahoo as equal to Richard Bushman on issues about the life of Joseph Smith; or as being equal to Jill Derr on issues about Mormon women. And it would be similarly idiotic to treat every yahoo as Margaret’s equal on race and Mormonism issues.

    Folks treat her like an authority on the topic because she _is_ an authority.

  181. Adam Greenwood says:

    Bow down.

  182. Kneel before Zod, son of Jor-El!

  183. Adam Greenwood says:

    Confession: I am white-(ish) on the outside.

  184. Also, I quite like Ardis Parshall

    All evidence to the contrary? Thou art an inconstant worm, Adam.

  185. Adam Greenwood says:

    I’m a human country-fried “steak”: white on the outside, hamburger in the middle.

  186. Adam Greenwood says:

    Evidence is in the eye of the beholder. Also, like WSC, I insist that I’m a glow-worm.

  187. Mark Brown says:

    I take issue with Kaimi’s dismissive treatment of internet yahoos. There’s no need to get personal.

  188. Stop plagiarizing me, Steve. I’ve been the Chief Bloviator a lot longer than you have. I don’t think you’ve quite earned the title yet. But keep up your blandiose aspirations. You’ll get there one day.

    Adam will probably beat you to it, though. And Ardis doesn’t have a chance.

  189. #184 – I read “incontinent worm” initially.

  190. Adam Greenwood says:

    You’ll be the Chief Bloviator when I *say* you’re the Chief Bloviator and not before, Wm. And you’ll like it, too.

  191. Adam Greenwood says:

    I am disappointed that the universal hatred towards me has no racial component.

  192. Thanks for your words, Kaimi. I have to add that Newell has indeed corrected me–very sweetly. I love him dearly. But there’s another matter here, which is that I’m not black. I can certainly understand someone questioning my authority to speak on behalf of Darius or Tamu or any of those who have lived a life I haven’t lived. I have often questioned it myself when suggesting to Darius that he do a presentation without me. His answer has been always that this is not just a black story, but it is OUR story as Latter-day Saints, and that my presence is actually important. It does matter that I have wept with my friends in their hours of grief and need, and that they have wept with me in mine. (In fact, the Genesis Group took care of our whole family when Bruce’s mother died.) If I have any authority to speak, it comes as much from love as it does from the stuff on my resume. But that doesn’t mean I won’t sometimes come off as some arrogant “yahoo.” I’m fully capable of that.

  193. Margaret, you mentioned a screening in Chicago. Please let us know more info when you have it. Thanks.

  194. I can’t dismiss the card and would not buy it. I would complain about it. I’m happy that others in the church feel that way.
    I am more disappointed in anyone trying to explain the card.

  195. Kaimi (#180),

    Yes, but does Margaret have bi-racial kids like me? I mean that is what you are doing isn’t it-engaging in silly resume comparisons instead of responding to ideas. You’ve illustrated beautifully the impoverishment of discourse I referred to above.

    Speaking of ideas–I advanced what should have been the non-controversial one that we need to show more charity to one another when discussing a charged topic. I suggested that those who did so were liable to be more successful at achieving their sincere aims of promoting increased understanding. I would be very interested to hear what Darius and Armand and Newell Bringhurst thought about that. And Jessie Embry or Darron Smith.

    In this particular thread it didn’t take long for the rump crowd, led by Margaret (#55), to brand SL racist (props do go to Mark Brown for a better response) and, predictably, run him off the thread. Maybe SL is racist. Maybe everyone is a little bit racist (as the song goes). I don’t know. What I do know is that approach stinks. Or at the very least it is, as they used to say in the MTC, less effective. While those types of little morality plays may assure the participants of each others’ moral superiority, they don’t promote the kind of discourse that fundamentally changes the way a person sees the world. Instead you get a cosmetic effect where we choose our words carefully but not knowing why or, more likely, avoiding the topic altogether.

    The irony of wanting to defend one person’s fuandamental human dignity while assaulting another’s should not be lost on us.

    You know, I’m not worried about myself here. I’ve been around, ya know? If it comes to it, I can muster up enough racial resume bona fides to assure most people I’m one of the good guys. I’m worried about my dad–a kind, loving person who has good will towards everyone he meets. But I can very easily imagine him saying the wrong thing. Because he didn’t know any better–he hasn’t been around. And if you explained it to him he might not get it at first. It might be a completely new concept. And depending on who he is speaking with and how big the crowd that gathers around to watch grows he could find himself in the middle of a shit storm that he didn’t see coming and he doesn’t know how to get out of. I worry about that.

    Kaimi, it may be that Margaret’s professional accomplishments make her an authority on race issues. But I’m looking for an authority on treating people the way I want my dad to be treated.

  196. Point well taken, Mathew. If we don’t have charity, it really doesn’t matter what else we have. I had a good conversation with the person who initially complained to the bookstore about the card. The experience of having others understand the issue and not dismiss it was important for him, and even made him hopeful.

    Mathew, I’m sure you’re a good son and a good father. Most of us have friends or parents who could find themselves in awkward positions were they to say something insensitive. I certainly do.

    I intensely dislike accusation (Lucifer was the Accuser) and being held up as either a good or a bad example. I do frequently talk about race issues, because they’ve been my focus for the past decade. I do not compare resumes. And I believe all of us are seeking messengers from our Father. We can, nonetheless, learn from each other and serve each other well in our flawed conversations and musings.

  197. If only I had previously known one could submit complaints to the BYU bookstore …

  198. “Speaking of ideas–I advanced what should have been the non-controversial one that we need to show more charity to one another when discussing a charged topic.”

    Sure, Mat, but don’t pretend like people rejected your ideas, when your the point of your overall comment has been generally well-received. (see, e.g., my reply to you)

  199. “If we don’t have charity, it really doesn’t matter what else we have.”

    Margaret–those words sound familiar. I like the cut of your jib. Now if I could only convince you to love the scouts. . . :)

    Steve–my response was addressed specifically to Kaimi. Besides, you make a better foil as heartless winner than thinking sinner.

  200. Mat, how about heartless sinner?

  201. Some times we can feel like we aren’t “racist” (whatever that means) because of our experience living in different parts of the world, or even of the US.

    For example, when I was on my mission in Korea, I am pretty sure that there were weeks or even months where I was the only blond, blue-eyed, white person within several miles of any direction. I know that I stuck out in a crowd. But I didn’t notice it so much because I couldn’t see that contrast from where I was. Every where I looked, I saw people with black hair and skin darker than mine. Looking out from my eyes, everyone around me looked similar, and since I couldn’t see myself, I didn’t feel that different. I had no context otherwise. You can be sure that people around me saw that difference, though.

    I suspect that part of why I didn’t feel so conspicuous was that I was also a dumb 19-21-year-old who was secure in some status as an American in what was at the time mostly a 3rd world country.

    For several years we lived in southern New Mexico, near Las Cruces and El Paso, Texas, both border towns. Since many of the people there also had the black hair and darker skin than mine, I still felt like I fit in better than I probably did, because as I looked around and saw mostly people with darker hair and skin than mine, I was seeing what I was used to seeing. Does that mean that I was/am not racist? I suspect it is more likely that I did not experience any racism directed toward me, than that I don’t have racially tinged thoughts and ideas. I say that because I had a black friend who worked in my office who got pulled over by the police at a rate of nearly once a month solely for the offense of “DWB”–Driving While Black. I have never been pulled over for”DWW”, driving while white.

  202. You know, I’m not worried about myself here. I’ve been around, ya know? If it comes to it, I can muster up enough racial resume bona fides to assure most people I’m one of the good guys. I’m worried about my dad–a kind, loving person who has good will towards everyone he meets. But I can very easily imagine him saying the wrong thing. Because he didn’t know any better–he hasn’t been around. And if you explained it to him he might not get it at first. It might be a completely new concept. And depending on who he is speaking with and how big the crowd that gathers around to watch grows he could find himself in the middle of a shit storm that he didn’t see coming and he doesn’t know how to get out of. I worry about that.

    Sounds like your dad is like Barack O’bama’s grandmother–you know, a “typical white person.”

  203. Adam Greenwood says:

    GST, I reassure you of your moral superiority.

  204. Wowzers, is this what academics do for a good time? 203 posts about a silly card. How bout you don’t buy it (contrary to sensational reports, capitalism really works). With all this thinking going on I’d a thought the world’s problems would have been solved buy now and we’d be ringing in the day of peace — if we’d think about something significant. Perhaps this is why the quality of “books” is tanking — the authors are all chasing blog posts and the boogie man. I guess we now get into authorial intent again. What is this guy really trying to say? How about the name of this blog — “By Common Consent?” I can’t believe someone would have the nerve to publish such a title — in today’s world. Didn’t that go through some vogue committee? Didn’t someone consider the obvious misinterpretations — or was it done on purpose? We must put an end to such offenses. Who has authority to stop this nonsense? I think I’ll contact the Trib. O.K., I’ll Put the paint brush away.

  205. Adam Greenwood says:

    Or, if you do buy it, ask for a discount.

    All cards that structuralize the hegemonic discourse of race, 5% off!

  206. Yes it’s a stupid card. I’ve seen a lot of wise things on this site, and alot of not-so-wise. “Any author gives up the right to define what he/she meant as soon as the text is published” has got to be one of the most utterly asinine statements ever posted. I don’t get to define my own words? You don’t? Seriously? I don’t even live in the same universe as the mentality which “thinks” that way.

    Why is it that leftists are so hell-bent on censoring those things they find offensive? If you don’t like the card, don’t buy it. It’s that simple. By what right do you deny another the chance to buy a card that they may not find offensive?

    J.S. said that he taught the Saints correct principles and they governed themselves. As I understand it, his point was that he did not simply dictate people’s behavior for them. Perhaps you could learn from that.

    sd

  207. the mirror says:

    I’ve seen a lot of wise things on this site, and alot of not-so-wise.

    That might be the best self-description in any comment I’ve seen.

  208. I don’t even live in the same universe as the mentality which “thinks” that way.

    If only that were true.

    The statement you find so ridiculous is actually a very standard POV taken in literary criticism. It’s touchstone is that words actually mean things independent of what the author wants or intends them to mean.

    Quite apart from literary criticism, however, the idea that “You don’t get to define your own words” is as close and as obvious as a dictionary (although it appears you don’t have easy access to one) the purpose of which is to define the words you use.

    So, the answer to your question is: No. You most certainly do not get to define your own words (presuming of course that you are using words from an accepted form of communication like, say, English). Those words have already been defined for you by Mr. Webster, among others, and I trust him to have done a more thourough job than you. Seriously.

  209. Oh, and the reason to take the card out of the bookstore is that it’s not just some guy’s bookstore, it’s at a bookstore owned and operated by the Church, meaning that it’s presence makes members of the Church look like a bunch of racist rubes. It seems to me that Brother Joseph’s idea of “teaching correct principles” might have included a lesson in not offending people we are suppossed to love as brothers and sisters. In other words, he would have tossed the card out forthwith.

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