I Am Not White: A perspective on racism

I’ve learned a lot about racism in the last 4 years. In Uganda they have a name for white people. Musungu. As you walk down the streets people will call out “Musungu” especially children. At first I liked it. It was like having a name and everyone knew me. It made me feel at home. Then I started to see it differently; I heard things like

“You can’t do laundry well you are Musungu”

“Give me money Musungu you have much.”

“Your wife is a Musungu she can’t cook”

“Musungu can’t dig”

Musungu don’t want to have children, they don’t dress modestly…the list went on. I felt that no one saw me. They just saw the color of my skin. Their idea of who I was as a “Musungu” had been shaped by hollywood. The stereo type I was placed in by my skin color alone was based on what the media had shown them.

I AM NOT WHITE

My skin is white I am not. I am Mormon, I am a Mother, I am a wife, I am happy. Those are choices I have made they are the things I have made an effort to become. They tell you something about me. White is just the color my skin happens to be.

By the way…my eyes are blue. Just in case that matters.

If minorities are poorer, have fewer opportunities or are stereo typed I believe that these are not problems of race they are problems of community, of choices, of habit and even of dreams.

When I told my family that I was marrying Joseph they had ideas in their mind about what that meant. They pictured a stereo type of a black man in America. It took less than a day before they had recategorized him based on his actions, and choices which were apparent in his appearance and demeanor.

I don’t believe that our police officers in general are out to get black people. I think they are put in a position because of their jobs where they are required to make snap judgements about people. Their judgements can mean life and death for themselves and those around them.

If you want respect be Respect -able.

 

Joseph and I have talked a lot in the last few days about this and he says,

“I am not sure why people are surprised by racism, Racism is a tool that has been used by political kings and masters to divide and rule communities and nations. It has existed as long as the human family. It’s human nature to notice differences in another person and one of those differences is skin color.

All of us have labels and one of them right now being pointed out is skin color. But there is one label that is crucial that we put on everyday, that is appearance. People will argue or say don’t judge me by how I look but the truth is before you say anything to any person, your outward appearance says a lot about you. The way you dress, the language you choose to use etc.

This is how I feel about the situation in Minnesota. We don’t have all the facts of what happened that evening at 9pm. We can only formulate speculations and frame stories of that incident. I am black and very grateful that I am housed into this skin color and so at first I imagined myself in the situation, picturing me with my beautiful family getting shot for some reason. I allowed myself to fear. But then I have tried to analyze the story, both from the view of that policeman and the gentleman who got shot.

Once again with no full facts and details of what really happened we can only speculate and frame the incident from our perspective. I suspect the media wants to frame it as racism so that they can emotionally appeal to most of the people. We can fear, we can let it divide us into camps of black lives or all lives, we can go forth with racial flames. Or we can come together for all the Americans who were killed in this tragic incidence. We can do our best to find justice and we can mourn with all the families that were involved in this tragedy, for any life taken is irreplaceable. May the almighty who is the creator of black skin and white, the giver and author of both life and justice intervene to help us comfort all involved.

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God Bless America

I love America, I always have. I love everything that it stands for. I love the stories of bravery and incredible integrity of those men and women who made America something to be proud of. I love the stories of courage and sacrifice from men and women who understood what it meant to be free both in terms of rights as well as responsibilities. I loved the stories of people who believed that they could stand up against tyranny and succeed. Even when that tyranny came from their own king and country.

I didn’t always appreciate every aspect of it, I didn’t always know just what it meant to have the freedom of the press and just how important that right was. I never really understood the significance of certain laws and rights that I took for granted.

Then I volunteered to spend three months in Uganda, working to help bring jobs, education and better living conditions to single women there and I started to see. I started to gain a deeper understanding of what my country stands for and what those rights means. Mostly I gained an understanding for how important the system is that keeps these rights in check, the systems of law and order that made my world a safe, mostly predictable place to live.

When during that time in Uganda I met and married a Ugandan man, my world changed and my understanding changed with it. Gaining a better understanding of the protections and the rights that I had as  US Citizen, seeing by contrast what his were in his own country scared me. When I returned back to the United States I sobbed when my feet finally touched the ground and I felt a certain peace and security that I had always taken for granted. There is security in knowing that there are laws and rights and resources to go to when laws are broken or questioned. I’ve always felt protected by the system.

We knew when we married that it wouldn’t be easy to get a visa for Joseph. We knew it would probably mean being separated for a time. We did everything we knew to prepare for that and to make it as simple as possible. We crossed every T and dotted every I. I learned more about the immigration laws and system than I ever thought was possible. We were prepared to follow the path, and work through the red tape. We were prepared to utilize every resource at our disposal but we knew that in the end it would be hard. We looked forward with a sigh of sadness and with great excitement to the day that Joseph would leave his own beloved country and become a citizen of the United States. In his words he would be stars and stripes all the way.

When we applied to the United States Embassy in Kampala for a visitors visa so that Joseph could be with me when our baby is born, we were hopeful. The law says that since we had a pending spouse visa it wold be assumed that Joseph intended to stay in the US. That was understandable. Who wouldn’t want to stay with their wife and new-born baby.  We were informed that it would be up to us to prove during an interview that he intended to return. This could be proved by providing documentation showing strong ties to Uganda. Things like family, work, owning property etc. could be used as proof that he would return.

We went to work gathering documents, showing that Joseph owns a business in Uganda, in fact he had just renewed his business license for another year, we gathered documents showing that he was the president of a non-profit organization that provides help for the disabled, we had documents showing that he was contracted to do work for a company for two months following his return to Uganda, he had a speaking engagement scheduled for after his return, he had exams and a letter from a dean at the University stating as much, vouching for his character and recommending that Joseph be given a visa. His entire family is still in Uganda. We were hopeful because we had all the evidence that one could ask for. I sent a letter of invitation and bank statements showing that we could support him while he was here, and just to be sure my parents sent the same as well.

Joseph paid the $160 fee (this amount could easily have paid three months rent for us in Uganda) and excitedly boarded a taxi for the three-hour journey to Kampala to the embassy for his appointment. This visitors visa would give us a chance to spend 90 days together at the time when I would need him most, it would give him a chance to be there when his first-born child, enters this world. It would allow him to hold his new-born son before he is already walking.

His interview lasted all of about 1 min.

The letter denying him the chance to visit had been drafted before he even arrived. You were unable to provide sufficient evidence that you intend to return to Uganda at the end of your visit… was the reason he was given. He protested that he wasn’t given a chance to prove it and was sternly told to leave the embassy NOW! He was told that there could be no appeal, but that he was welcome to reapply if he wanted, he could pay the fee again and see if they would treat him fairly the next time.

As he left the woman’s office he encountered another man in the waiting room ready to fight because he too had been denied a chance to visit his wife who was delivering their child in a months time. He talked to him, calming him down and explaining that fighting would get him nothing. And they left the embassy.

Joseph’s first interaction with the United States government shook his faith in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. He had always seen America as an example to be followed. Democracy, liberty and Freedom as something to aspire to. Now he saw them as predators, stealing from innocent Ugandan civilians their hard-earned money and their hope. He saw them as a land without concern for right or laws.

So, now we wait. we contemplate leaving America to find another country that will allow our little family to be together while we wait for the slow wheels of bureaucracy to turn in our favor. I console myself by knowing that I am not alone in this. How many soldiers wives, give birth alone, in the early days of our church how many missionaries left their wives pregnant and sick to go on missions only to return to a two-year old child and a wife stronger for having had to do so much on her own.

I tell myself these things and yet those women can also tell themselves that their husbands are doing it for a cause. For freedom, for liberty of our country and others, for the eternal welfare of a soul. I get to do it because someone had a bad day, or decided that they didn’t want to do an actual interview, and no one thought it was worth doing anything about. So when I am tired and sick, lying in bed alone aching for someone to rub my feet or help me up to go to the bathroom yet again, when I am lying in that bed holding my first child, my newborn son in my arms and marveling at the beauty of it all and the miracle of life I can console myself in the fact that my husband is 9000 miles away because someone didn’t want to take time to look at some papers and it will make me feel so much better.

I still love America. It will always be my home. I still sing our National Anthem and my eyes still fill with tears at the heartfelt passionate lyrics

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

In fact if anything I love her more. Because I see how fragile America is and how quickly all that was fought for can be lost. And I will pray that God WILL Bless America because she is my home that I love and she needs all the prayers she can get.

The_Prayer_at_Valley_Forge_by_Arnold_Friberg

 

What’s in a name?

I’ve been reading a number of column’s, articles, and blogs lately that have to do with Polygamy. Since Mitt Romney is running for president there seem to be a lot of people interested in his religion and what exactly it is that he believes, and rightly so. It’s brought to mind for me several things that are rather a pet peeve of mine so I figured, what better place than here to put in my two cents worth and see if I can help clarify some really common misunderstandings that people seem to have about Mormons and Polygamists.

Probably the most common theme that I seem to see is people trying to figure out where the Mormon church ends and polygamy begins and just how they all fit together. It’s really common to read an article such as this one written by a non-mormon writer, who actually is pretty accurate in a lot of what he has to say. http://www.delsjourney.com/close-ups/us/travels_sw/mormons_and_polygamy.htm

He say’s this however

“There are several ultra-orthodox offshoots of the Mormon Church though, especially in rural parts of Utah, which quietly practice polygamy today basically under a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.”

Which ia misleading because the literal definition of offshoot is

a branch or lateral shootfrom a main stem, as of a plant.

and if you look up branch it will say
“a division or subdivision of the stem or axis of a tree, shrub, or other plant.”
so when someone refers to polygamists as an “offshoot” or as I have seen in some cases, a “subgroup” it is easy to assume that the Mormon church consists of “Main stream” Mormons and then several “offshoots or branches who practice polygamy.”
Lets look at it this way.
In the 16th century Martin Luther led a reform group within the Roman Catholic church. Those who followed him were referred to as Lutherans. Today if you were to suggest that Lutherans were Catholic both parties would protest that, that is not the case. They are two separate and distinct religions. And yet the Lutheran church could be considered an “offshoot, a branch, or a sub group” of the Catholic church. So it is with the Mormon’s and the polygamists.
In the early days of the Mormon church, its leaders taught and encouraged the practice of polygamy. Later for various reasons (which could be an entire post of by itself) the church changed its position on polygamy and outlawed its practice, excommunicating any members who continued its practice.
So why, you ask, is there so much confusion in the case of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints and the polygamists? I’ll tell you why. It all has to do with the name.
You see the Lutherans and others like them were happy to separate from the catholic church and be called by a new name. The polygamists arent.
In the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants which both the Polygamists and the Mormons view as scripture, Christ tells the only name that his church will be known by; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Since both groups believe in those books and both groups claim to have the truth they both want access to that name.
The nickname that the LDS church has been given; “the Mormon’s” further adds to the confusion as since it is just a nickname it is easier for both groups to claim, especially since they both believe in the Book of Mormon the nick name in all fairness applies. This is why the leaders of the LDS church encourage that their members use the given name.
In fact recently one of the 12 apostles of the LDS church said the following,

“Our members have been called Mormons because we believe in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Others may try to use the word Mormon more broadly to include and refer to those who have left the Church and formed various splinter groups. Such use only leads to confusion. We are grateful for the efforts of the media to refrain from using the word Mormon in a way that may cause the public to confuse the Church with polygamists or other fundamentalist groups. Let me state clearly that no polygamist group, including those calling themselves fundamentalist Mormons or other derivatives of our name, has any affiliation whatsoever with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/the-importance-of-a-name?lang=eng

Having come from one church and converted to the other, I feel that I have an understanding of this issue more than most. I have personally heard polygamists claim that they were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints. I have heard them insist that they are Mormons. I have heard them claim that the differences are cultural. The truth is…and even they would agree with me on this;
1.) They believe that the official leaders of the LDS church do not have authority from God, are not inspired and directed by him and they don’t listen to or respect their teachings.
2.) They believe that the LDS church has given up the fullness of the gospel and their beliefs about several of their teachings (more than just polygamy) are quite different.
3.) They attend totally different church meetings.
4.) Neither organization would accept the baptism of the other and both would require a denial of former beliefs in the case of conversion.
I don’t know about you but to me this sounds like more than cultural differences, more than a “branch or offshoot”. It sounds to me like a different religion.