On 13 April 2011, Deadspin.com published a fast-trending article, “The Truth about Race, Religion, and the Honor Code at BYU,” that highlights possible racial factors at play in the way BYU enforces its Honor Code among its athletes. The story states: “Since 1993, at least 70 athletes have been suspended, dismissed, put on probation, or forced to withdraw from their teams or the school after running afoul of the honor code. Fifty-four of them, or nearly 80 percent, are minorities. Forty-one, or almost 60 percent, are black men.”
In this episode, one of the article’s co-authors, Darron Smith, joins Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and regular contributor Joanna Brooks in a far-ranging and spirited discussion of the article and its findings, as well as wider issues of racism with Mormonism and how they might be highlighted and addressed at both the general Church and local congregational levels.
Unless one assumes there is zero racism in Utah, BYU’s Honor Code is a recipe for uneven enforcement.
Have the grown-ups in charge of crafting and implementing the Honor Code offered any assurances that they’re *not* operating under such a faulty assumption?
I remember getting pulled over in Provo the night before I entered the MTC. I had a headlight out and had let my license expire (knowing that I’d be out of the country for a couple of years). That could’ve easily gone on my record, but it didn’t.
BYU policy (just like any policy) needs to take into consideration how some local folks are gonna behave at their worst (and I’m not talking here about athletes, I’m talking about the snitches who feed the current system).
As far as “strategy” is concerned, it’s kinda tiresome to constantly be reminded to take into consideration what flies (or doesn’t) with the folks who are (presumed to be) pushing a different narrative from SLC. Just lay it all out. And let the chips fall.
TL;DR: Darron rocks, but the numbers speak for themselves, and they don’t tell a pretty story. Good on MM for having him on to drive that home.
P.S. If y’all need 10,000 to drop out on the same day to create a believable counter-narrative, that can probably be arranged. Until then, kudos for all the personal integrity on display in this podcast.
Thank you to Dan, Darron, and Joanna, for this excellent discussion. I listened to the earlier Mormon Stories interview with Darron, and I really appreciated getting his perspective. I admit that after reading the article in deadspin that I was a little troubled by the negative tone, which felt to me like it was condemning BYU. From listening to Darron’s explanation on the podcast, I got a different feeling. I felt like Darron is just trying to highlight what is undoubtedly a problem at BYU, as well as in the broader culture. I never got the feeling that the article or the podcast were intended to condemn the church, so I regret hearing that so many have accused Darron of being anti-Mormon. Having listened to Darron express his views, I can appreciate the motives behind what he is doing, even if it seemed like the article kind of undermined that mission in some ways.
I loved the view that Joanna expressed toward the end that revelation comes as the members are prepared. I have thought about that idea a lot, and I think it is very close to how things often work in the church. And I agree with those who Darron talked about that had a positive response. I am glad you are trying to raise this issue, and that the podcast was done in a respectful way.
Thanks to Dan for bringing up some really worthy counterpoints on the topic, as well. I am one of those hopeful progressives that wants to try and help make change from within. So I feel the conflict between not completely bashing the church, and acknowledging the ugliness of some of the tough issues surrounding the church. I don’t want to give up on that hope, though – that patience and careful advocacy will eventually help make things better. Really excellent discussion overall. Thanks to all.
Here’s to the hopeful progressives of the world! Thanks, Michael!
Thanks, Jason. A serious conversation about race is long overdue in Mormonism, and I truly hope we’ll see folks who object to Darron’s findings come into solid conversation with folks for whom they make intuitive sense.
In the interest of advancing that conversation, I’ve promised to publish in my column at Religion Dispatches a substantial counterperspective to Darron’s article, on the condition that the author has listened to this podcast. I mean it. And I will do the homework if someone can point me to the two best counterperspectives they’ve read. Contact me directly at email@example.com.
As far as I can tell, plenty of objections have already been registered over in comments at your RD column. But looking at what’s on offer in those comments over at your place, I’m skeptical that there’s any “solid conversation” to be had on this issue. That said, good on you for inviting further counterperspectives. Hopefully, they’ll be more worthy than the ones already on offer at your place and elsewhere.
Where is the rest of it? Is it suposed to end at 31 minutes?
Any luck since you posted, Brian? It all downloads for me both here as well as through iTunes. Any more specifics to share so we can diagnose the problem you are having and get it fixed?
Unfortunately, the national publicity of the Davies situation and the Deadspin article will cause even fewer black athletes to consider BYU. As far a the change Darron is looking for, Im afraid the prevalent view among to many is, “The Standard of truth has been erected; No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear…” (Joseph Smith) Why change, the work will go on with or without you. I get the feeling this is the mentality in regards to many of our sticky cultural issues.
One glimmer of hope is the recent convert success in Africa. If that continues and the demographics of the black membership of the church grows and black leadership emerges it may spark change and awareness among the Church and may force more recognition of black mormon history.
I can totally understand why you feel that way, and I think you’re right about that being an overriding mentality. There are, however, lots of angles for chipping away at that mindset, some with LDS leaders themselves challenging it, others by simply having conversations with people that take that rhetoric a couple of steps deeper to where it becomes self-refuting, others by simply pointing out alternate models to the “stone cut from a mountain without hands to fill the earth” sort of stuff (which exegesis doesn’t in any way hold up for that passage), such as the church not needing to be “triumphant” so much as a “saving remnant” or something like that: here to do certain things so they are here on the earth. And even though it feels like no one is listening, I am of the opinion that it’s still important to try to advocate listening to and being aware of the particulars (particular stories, particular pains) whenever we hear rhetoric that prefers to stay in the general and imagine that “all is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth.”
Appreciate your contributions to these blog discussions!
Darron, Joanna, Dan – This was excellent. I would even go so far as to say it was important, a critical discussion to be had and understood. Thank you!
Excellent article. I particularly think you handled the church racial history and current cultural response to race in Mormon culture and specifically at BYU. Yes there is a lot more history that all of we Mormons should understand, but I think the article does a great job explaining what it needs to explain.
I really like when JB talked about the “uncontested racist mythology.” After I stepped away from the church and started asking questions. I was really puzzled by the 1978 change. I guess before I never thought about all the implications. I never understood how damning it was for us as Mormons. And just like the 1890 Manifesto I didn’t know how much turmoil and external pressure there was pushing the change.
I was so surprised my poor bishop defend the ban to me personally with such racist terminology. I really the church would follow its own counsel to forgive a lot and repent a little. They really should clear this up. I guess, however, they are gonna stick with the incremental or aquiescence approach like they seem to prefer lately. It keeps more people in, but they are so all confused and conflicted until the cloud of the past fades. How sad that such inspired and powerful leadership can’t lay down a clear path forward on issues like these.
I’m sorry for my ignorance, but how many of the athletes, who were targets of some kind of disciplinary action were “shopped”; I mean such as wouldn’t have been at BYU in the first place, had they not been offered an attractive scholarship? And, if such athletes were among those, how many were LDS members to begin with?
It may have come out somewhere, and slipped me…
Among such, it might be a surprise that breaking BYU honor code can easily be cause for disciplinary action. Many colleges that have honor codes not that different from BYU’s would be different in enforcing them, as far as I know…
And all of the above notwithstanding, I know for a fact, that racism is an issue in white middle-class America, or the so-called “real America”.
But what I was really saying is that it is sad that sports, not education, seems to have become the most important thing for too many academic institutions.
And when I say “white middle-class” I really mean that white middle class is overrepresented among LDS membership.
I tend to hit “post” too soon…
It ended at thirty minutes for me too. I didn’t have the patience to try and fastforward it on my droid but ill try again today. It was a good topic from what I heard though. Great show as always guys! Always look forward to it.
Brian and William,
Let me know if it works better. William, you say it stopped for you as you downloaded through your Droid. Brian, were you on a smart phone, too? Any luck since you had trouble the first time?
I’m too afraid right not to try reloading it at iTunes, unaware of what the consequences would be there, but I’ve now re-linked here to the file connected to the blog download.
Folks, I promised to host a rebuttal to Darron’s piece at my RD column. Here it is: http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/joannabrooks/4536/espn_commentator_says_byu_not_guilty_of_%22institutional_racism%22/
Wow. Darron, please look up the word ‘prowess’. I don’t think it means what you think it means.
Then you call Brandon Davies white because he was adopted? Wow. Talk about insensitive.
I just finished listening to this this morning. Really interesting discussion–about Darron’s article, racism in the church and at BYU, and especially (for me), the discussion of how to best go about agitating for change.