Friday, September 19, 2014

Whisper Campaigns

In my senior year two kids (Ted Fields and David Martin) were gunned down in Liberty Park because they were black. David Martin graduated the year before me.

The political machine in Utah launched a whisper campaign about drug and gang involvement in the shootings while gentiles were admonished to keep things quite until after the official investigation. I admit, I took the drug angle seriously as it seemed the most likely explanation. People in Salt Lake cast dispersions at the girls jogging with Fields and Martin. Personally, I believed that the group was jogging in Liberty Park for exercise, but who really cares if they were dating?

There was a collective sigh of relief in Salt Lake when it turned out that the shooter, Joseph Paul Franklin, was just a convert to Mormonism and not born and bred Mormon. The church busily erased and hid information about his membership and the political machine focused on Franklin's membership in the KKK and American Nazi Party. The KKK is anti-Mormon. Although Franklin had joined the LDS Church, one can use the KKK relation to frame the shootings as anti-Mormon.

Franklin Claims to have joined the LDS Church in 1974, but became disenchanted with a church that did not share his overt racist views. He was livid when the LDS Church ended its ban on admitting blacks into the priesthood in 1978. The Aaronic Priesthood is usually given to boys 12-18 and necessary for anyone seeking a leadership role in the LDS Church or LDS owned business. Banning blacks from the priesthood effectively forced blacks into a second class status.

The whisper campaign and fact that Franklin was in the KKK effectively allowed the shooting to be buried. So, two kids associated with my school were gunned down. I never heard anyone talk about it in a voice louder than a whisper and I really don't think anyone outside the family cared.

Racism in Utah

Utah is not an overtly racist state. The problem in Utah is that the racism that does exist is tied to religion. For example the question "Why did the LDS Church bar blacks from the priesthood?" is a religious question. One cannot explain the priesthood ban without examining Mormon theology.

In the state of religion today, people are uncomfortable talking about religion. The president of the United States is uncomfortable in discussing any possible connections between an entity that calls itself the "Islamic State" and the Islamic Religion.

The LDS Church was created in the 1830s. Naturally, the church incorporated much of the thought of the 1830s. During this period the abolitionists in the North were opposed to slavery and the South sought means to justify the institution. Mormonism came from the North and was anti-slavery, but there was also a great deal of racially-based thought floating around in the intellectual community of the day.

Specifically, many scholars of the 1830s sought to derive histories of the human race based on the Bible.

Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve. Cain was jealous and killed Abel.To account for racial differences, Biblical scholars speculated that the Heavenly Father turned the descendants of Cain black in punishment of Cain's sin.

As for the priesthood ban, In a speech to the Utah Territorial Legislature Brigham Young explained: "any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] ... in him cannot hold the priesthood and if no other Prophet ever spake it before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it."

Things go deeper. Biblical scholars sought to explain the Native Americans. In their world view, the American Indians had to come from the Bible. Some began to speculate they were the Lost Tribes of Israel. Books that were available to Joseph Smith gave versions of this theory.

The plot behind the Book of Mormon is that the Lost Tribes of Israel came to the New World in a submarine designed by the Heavenly Father. The tribes split into two groups: The Nephites were white and delightsome. The Lamanites were dark and loathsome and prone to follow Satan. One day the ruler King Benjamin decided to give people and election. The Lamanites rigged the election and took power. They then entered an Extermination War against the Nephites. The killed the Nephites, all their horses and destroyed all of their technology. This is why Native Americans have darker skin than European settlers and why they had only primitive technology.

Quoting Brigham Young from the Journal of Discourses:

"You may inquire of the intelligent of the world whether they can tell why the aborigines of this country are dark, loathsome, ignorant, and sunken into the depths of degradation ...When the Lord has a people, he makes covenants with them and gives unto them promises: then, if they transgress his law, change his ordinances, and break his covenants he has made with them, he will put a mark upon them, as in the case of the Lamanites and other portions of the house of Israel; but by-and-by they will become a white and delightsome people"
The driving theme of the Latter Day Saints is a righteous group that is white and delightsome that is pitted in eternal conflict with Servants of Satan who are dark and loathsome.

While Mormons are not overtly racist and are diligently working to purge their religion of its racist past, the problem persists that the racial attitudes of the 1830s play a fundamental role in theology.

The unfortunate result of this situation is that the knee jerk reaction in this state in situations like the shooting of Darrien Hunt is to begin attacking the black guy.

I became interested in the Darrien Hunt issue because I encountered the whisper campaign against Mr. Hunt two days after the shooting. I heard comments about a crazy black man attacking police with a sword in Utah County, then heard attacks on Hunt's character and finally a very strange conversation about how Cosplay is uncommon in Utah County.

The whisper campaign reminded me of the whisper campaign launched against Ted Fields and David Martin when they were gunned down in Liberty Park.

The reason that I started posting about Darrien Hunt was because I encountered the whisper campaign before I heard the news. The shooting of Darrien, as terrible as it is, is still just a single incident. That people responded to the news of the shooting by launching a whisper campaign against the victim is a troublesome indicator for the community. (More on Utah's reaction to Darrien Hunt.)

But of course the shooting of a kid in a Samurai costume is already old news here in fast-paced Utah. Today's headline is that two sister wives dressed in Ninja costumes robbed a West Valley home. Just what we need: polygamist ninjas.

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