Carina Hoskisson Wytiaz is a history degree-holder, world-class baker, writer on the internets, hater of Olive Garden, content marketer, and your cool friend.
I have some things to say about Mormons, our heritage as a persecuted people, our “the destruction of the family” language, and people of color. Hold tight.
Mormons and our prophets speak about the destruction of the family as the thing that will bring about calamities foretold and the world falling apart. The family is society’s building block and when that fails, so do we all. Mormons look at the destruction of the family as something beginning in living memory; we’re living in the middle of that destruction. We parse it as the skyrocketing divorces of the 60s/70s/80s, marriages failing (or never starting,) out of wedlock births, gay marriage, or men’s hearts waxing cold, etc, etc. However, most Mormons do not see the bigger picture, which is that people of color, especially African Americans, have been living in a post-family destruction world for hundreds of years.
Slavery, at its very core, destroyed families. Ripping families apart with the inter-continental slave trade, raping women, selling children, denying marriages, separating siblings; a constant, never-ending destruction of family units. After slavery ended, still denying marriages, killing fathers, mothers, and sons, hunting daughters for sport, a deep systemic racism intended to destabilize and suppress African American families, that is absolute destruction of family.
The ramifications of slavery on the fundamental unit of society, everything Americans did to justify slavery and perpetuate it with the construction of racism, are so profound they are with us to this very day. Most white people do not want to think about the lasting, generational impact of slavery: reconstruction, segregation, Jim Crow laws, lynching, redlining, poverty, the war on drugs, and ever-present police brutality, but Mormons should start thinking about all of those things as the destroyer of families and start standing up.
The destruction of the family is not just happening now, it’s been happening for hundreds of years, and you weren’t paying attention until it happened to people you know, in your culture.
We own our Mormon history as a persecuted people; we remember the extermination order, raising the spectre of that time in constant modern conversation, and it was nearly 200 years ago—do you think we really have a leg to stand on thinking that African Americans should let go of more recent events?
Yes, people of color are Mormons, but most American Mormons are not people of color. Mormons have a problematic, racist history with people of color we must atone for, that maybe we are beginning to atone for; I cannot begin to represent. That is not what this post is. That is a longer conversation with bigger experts and longer term activists with authoritative voices in that space, and I’m none of those things; I cede to FemWOC, Mica McGriggs, Sistas in Zion, Janan, and others. My only authority comes from studying Civil Rights at university, holding space, with the willingness to check my privilege and have a seat. This post is about the destruction of the African American family, which is an American story, a story of Christian accomplice; I can bear witness as a Mormon who cares about families, who cares about lifting burdens.
I don’t know that Mormons view the problems of racism and poverty as being rooted in the destruction of family; we’re far more likely to blame people for their circumstances, to call out the symptoms and dole blame, instead of realizing these profound and entrenched issues are the result of what our prophets have said would happen to communities when families are destroyed.
So if you are a Mormon who stands up for the preservation of the family, you better stand up for people of color as their families have been destroyed, are being destroyed, by a legacy we participated in, and by seeing and dismantling systemic problems now. Start listening, start acting, refuse the justifications when black fathers are being shot by police, in front of children, black mothers sentenced to outrageous terms, black children murdered by cops or teenagers by security guards, these are families actively being destroyed. Mormons better stand up. Mormons better witness. Black families matter.