Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Roseanne Débacle: Time to Talk About Roseanne's Roots in Salt Lake City and Mormon Culture?

"While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication."

President Trump often seems like a living embodiment of Ms. Barr’s Twitter feed, and many of his most vocal supporters revel in that. They revel in the freedom and the permission to be racist. The reboot contributed to a cultural moment that makes white people feel exceedingly comfortable and entitled as they police black bodies in public spaces…. 
ABC is the same network that shelved an episode of "Blackish" because it addressed the N.F.L. anthem protests. 
I am more interested in the statement ABC could have made by never making the reboot in the first place.

Do it once, it’s a mistake, maybe. Do it again, and again, and it's a pretty clear indication of how a person like Barr thinks and more to the point, what she really thinks about the woman who hired her. This was in Barr's nature. She made no secret of it; people have been aware of her bigotry for some time.

She has a history of doing this, you see. This is not the first time she has made an outrageous statement (several, in fact, comparing people of color to apes), then "apologized," walked back the statement, and continued right on raking in huge $$$$$ with no consequences for her behavior. (Oh, you thought she was a populist who stands with and understands "the working man"?)

And there's this: what got Roseanne fired was a filthy racist statement comparing Valerie Jarrett to an ape.

Soon after President Obama's first election, I was in Salt Lake City, and was shocked to see a vendor on a street corner right in the middle of downtown Salt Lake selling depictions of President Obama as a monkey hanging on a string. These were being sold openly, unabashedly, and people walked casually by as if the display was unremarkable. In the middle of the capital city of a state, which also houses the world headquarters of the LDS church, not a single person I saw walking by turned a hair at seeing this ugly display.

Roseanne was born and raised in Salt Lake City, and though she began to claim Jewish identity as an adult, she was not only a practicing Mormon from early in her life, but one who was considered a representative of the Mormon community, giving lectures on LDS topics and being elected president of a Mormon youth club.

The booth I saw in downtown Salt Lake City selling Obama-as-monkey trinkets following his election — and other experiences I have had in that city — have given me the very strong impression that the culture that shaped Roseanne in her formative years needs to come to terms with some deep-seated racism.

The LDS world has said for some time now that it realizes it needs to undergo this struggle, after it barred black men from the priesthood for many years. Emma Green's "When Mormons Aspired to Be a 'White and Delightsome' People" is a must-read article regarding the tortuous history of Mormon thinking about racial matters, and how the racism that has long marked Mormon culture is rooted in some of its foundational texts.

I applaud the LDS community for having a much-needed conversation about race. Mormons are far from the only predominantly white religious community that needs to have such a conversation. I come, after all, from a culture dominated by white evangelicals whose racism has long been on full display to the rest of the world, and is now even more evident in the era of Donald Trump. The city in which I was born and now live, Little Rock, earned well-deserved ill fame by the deep racism many of its citizens exhibited when the public schools were integrated in 1957.

In my view, it's not at all beside the point to ask about Roseanne's roots in the culture of the LDS church, as we look at what she has repeatedly stated about racial issues. This needs to be noticed and talked about — though I also realize that I make myself an irritant to many people by daring to say things like that, especially about a religious group to which I do not belong (albeit one that has not hesitated one bit to attack LGBTQ folks like me).

But what did I study theology for, obtaining a Ph.D. in the field with a specialization in the area of social ethics, if I don't dare to open my mouth and speak out when I see a religious backdrop to a major news story that the media appear unwilling to touch with a ten-foot pole, and of which many people remain ignorant?

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