Back in April, Deadspin published an interesting article about the uneven enforcement of the Honor code. They found that 70 athletes had been suspended, dismissed or put on probation since 1993 and 80 percent of those players were minorities. They also found that 60 percent of those athletes were black men. This is especially shocking when you consider that only .6% of the student body is black.
I have yet to see a good explanation from BYU regarding the obvious lopsided enforcement of the Honor code for black athletes. The actual reason for the disparity is much deeper than a simple case of racial bias on behalf of the administrators that enforce the honor code at BYU.
Mormonism's history of racism
Mormonism has a history of racism that is well documented. BYU was named after the Mormon prophet Brigham Young. He taught this from the pulpit:
"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind …. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the ‘servant of servants’; and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree."This was the general belief and attitude about the Negro race in the Mormon church for the greater part of the 20th century. Mark E Petersen gave a talk at BYU in 1954 and had this to say:
“Think of the Negro, cursed as to the priesthood.... This negro, who, in the pre-existence lived the type of life which justified the Lord in sending him to the earth in the lineage of Cain with a BLACK SKIN, and possibly being born in darkest Africa—if that negro is willing when he hears the gospel to accept it, he may have many of the blessings of the gospel. In spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing, if the Negro accepts the gospel with real, sincere faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.”The belief that blacks were cursed goes beyond the Negro race. In the Book of Mormon we find that the Lamanites (American Indians) were cursed with a dark skin for their wickedness. It's easy to see why Mormons equate dark skin to wickedness. It's actually part of their scripture.
Events Leading up to the 1978 Revelation
Pressure on the Mormon church to repeal their racist doctrine was mounting in the 60s. The first sport program protest against BYU began on Easter weekend in 1968. UTEP had scheduled a track meet against BYU. Several black students refused to travel to Provo to participate in a track meet.
Later in the fall of 1969 14 black football players were suspended from the Wyoming football team for boycotting a game with BYU. The students had their scholarships revoked and were dismissed from the team. This set off a hail storm of exposure and protests. Police had to be called to stop violence at a BYU-Arizona basketball game. Students at the University of New Mexico demanded that the college end all relations with BYU. Stanford later announced that it would schedule no athletic events or competitions with BYU.
Protests continued at many Western Universities until the 1978 revelation.
1978 Revelation - The Mormon Cop out
As tensions were building in the NCAA sporting programs, the racist doctrines were stifling the churches progress in countries like Brazil. Jimmy Carter threatened to deny Federal education grants and loans if the "discrimination" did not end.
Miraculously, a revelation was given to Spencer Kimball in 1978. This revelation ended the priesthood ban on all those descendants of Cain. The revelation completely failed to repudiate the racist doctrine held by the Mormon church. It was hailed as a Godly revelation instead of an acquiescence to external pressure.
The revelation lacked a repudiation of the racist doctrines that brought the political hail storm upon BYU. Spencer Kimball was later quoted as repudiating a small aspect of Mormonism's view on the Negro Race:
Mormonism no longer holds to...a theory that Blacks had been denied the priesthood because they somehow failed God during their pre-existence.The revelation fails to repudiate the earlier comments by Brigham Young and other Mormon Prophets and Apostles that portray blacks as sub-human.
An official repudiation of these doctrines has never been uttered by a latter day Mormon Prophet. When questioned about the issue, Gordon B Hinkley said the following:
Q: So in retrospect, was the Church wrong in that [not ordaining blacks]?
A [Pres. Hinckley]: No, I don't think it was wrong. It, things, various things happened in different periods. There's a reason for them.
Q: What was the reason for that?
A: I don't know what the reason was. But I know that we've rectified whatever may have appeared to be wrong at the time.
This appears to be the current opinion of the LDS church. It puts the onus for past racism on God. It was God that determined that Blacks were not "ready" for a variety of reasons for receiving the "fullness" of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Problem with "revelation" vs repudiation
The revelation does very little to cure the racism held by Mormons that were taught the original doctrines from a young age. It is my belief that racism that is ordained of God is deeper than any other form of racism. The failure of modern day Mormon prophets and Apostles to repudiate those hundreds of comments made by former leaders from the pulpit has resulted in a deep seated racism that permeates the Mormon culture today.
Your average Mormon is left with all of these comments from people they view as God's voice on the face of the earth with little official word to ignore those former teachings that were laden with hate.
I can still open my revision of Mormon Doctrine and read the following:
Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions impose on them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God, and his murder of Able being a black skin. . . . Noah's son married Egyptus, a descendant of Cain, thus preserving the negro lineage through the flood. . . . the negro are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concern. . . .
This has been removed from subsequent versions of Mormon Doctrine but removal is a far cry from repudiation.
Why has the Mormon Church failed to repudiate?
Mormon Prophets are held in a different light than most religious leaders today. Mormons believe that God chooses his prophets. They are deemed has his representative on earth.
Racism today is viewed as a very ugly belief that has no part in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It would be very difficult to consider a racist as God's voice on earth. If a modern day prophet were to repudiate the teachings of a past prophet, the calling of that former prophet becomes suspect to the group as a whole. It's my opinion that modern day prophets and apostles fear that repudiation would unravel the authority of these men and would result in the unraveling of their authority.
Mormons are taught to follow the prophets without question:
When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan--it is God's Plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give directions, it should mark the end of controversy, God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.
Repudiating the ugly racist remarks of former prophets tears at the fabric of belief amongst the members. It puts into question all of the former doctrines of the Mormon Church.
Black Athletes at BYU
When you put this into consideration, It's no shock that black athletes are under the gun at BYU. The majority of the faculty and administrators were raised with the belief that black students are in some ways morally deficient. Their numbers are very few and they stick out like a sore thumb on campus.
Many of the students carry the subconscious attitudes that are born of racism that is based on religious belief.
This is what will make recruiting difficult for BYU in the future. The parents of these athletes are well aware of the religiously back racism that existed at BYU in the past. They also know that black athlete will always be suspect because of their race. I believe that they are held to a higher standard due to their visibility on campus.
The recent suspension of Brandon Davies and O'Neill Chambers seem to back up my theory. Is the general public to believe that these athletes were the only college athletes that had sex or drank alcohol in the entire athletic department? We all know about the flamboyant personality of Jim McMahon of the past. Are we to assume that for 4 years he refrained from participating in activities that most people would consider normal for a college athlete?
I think the more reasonable observer would say that the black athlete has a target on his back because of the deep seated racism that only comes from racism that is based on religious doctrine.
An Open Request to Mormon Prophet Thomas S Monson
The old saying that time will heal all wounds does not apply here. The racist beliefs will continue in the Mormon sub-culture until the doctrines of the past are repudiated. This means that nobody short of Thomas S. Monson needs to announce from the pulpit that former Mormon prophets were absolutely wrong. He needs to inform the Mormon sub-culture that those comments made in the past were born of societal racism and have absolutely no founding in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The statement needs to include an apology to the Negro race for the hatred that was preached as doctrine.
Thomas Monson also needs to repudiate the revelation that was given in 1978. To claim that God had any kind of justification for withholding the full benefits of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because of the color of ones skin leaves lingering racism in the remaining membership of the Mormon church. The unwritten undertones say that there was a reason for denying full blessings to the Negro race prior to 1978.
Anything short of a full repudiation of this past doctrine will ensure that minority athletes will always be the pariahs on Campus at BYU.
Reparations for Minority Students
Saying sorry and actually apologizing are two different things. There's no doubt that black athletes have suffered from the racial doctrines of the Mormon Church. If the Mormon church really wants to move past this issue, I suggest they offer scholarships to all minority students. There is a social debt that was incurred by the Mormon church's doctrine and this would be a proper way to repay it.
Anything short of a complete repudiation of all former doctrines and some form of reparations to those minority students will ensure that BYU will continue to be viewed as that ultra-conservative racist school backed by a racist religion. It will be the school that will be avoided by top minority athletes and will fade into college football irrelevance.
I'm hoping that Thomas Monson has the stones to step up to the plate. The Internet will ensure that the world will never forget.
The future of BYU football
BYU football will continue the slide to irrelevance until something is done. No PR campaign will heal the wounds that this doctrine has caused. This will be highlighted by the drumming that Utah will give BYU in the years to come. Utah has moved past the Mormon racism because of the secular nature of the school. There's no doubt that this aspect of Mormonism will have an effect on all programs in the future. The age of the Internet has made Mormonism's past as obvious as the nose on your face. This slide only gets faster from here on out.