The other day Robert walked into the bathroom while I was getting ready for work. Hey. I want you to come watch this Daily Show clip before you leave.
I hesitated, wary. Will it make me angry?
Robert answered right away. It’s all about everything that makes you the most angry, he said.
I don’t want to watch it. I’m so tired of being mad.
I watched it, and he was right. It was the story about how the Tucson school board banned high schools from teaching a Mexican-American studies class. You can watch the video if you want. I didn’t get too bent out of shape before work, because it’s John Stewart, so the interview with the school board member was funny, in addition to horrifying, and also because it didn’t surprise me at all.
I followed this story back when the school board first proposed banning the ethnic studies program a few years ago. It scared me, at the time. I don’t know if it’s possible, but I worried that the lunatics in my home state would get their hands on the university curriculum, and ethnic studies courses at the U of A are the ones that changed my life. It also scared me because Arizona already banned bilingual education in public schools in 2000 (an ironic step back in time, given that Arizona was the first state to offer bilingual education), despite its obligation to educate an ever-growing number of students for whom English is a second language. I wondered if every effort to expand the standard curriculum beyond flawed history books would be shut down.
I’m not as scared about that anymore, because the Tucson school board has been clear that it didn’t want to put a stop to ethnic studies in general, but just to Mexican-American studies. So it’s regular old racism we’re dealing with, as opposed to broad xenophobia. I don’t know if that’s better or worse than if the school board also wanted to shut down the African-American history and German classes.
I used to get mad when Mormons would say crazy things. But last month, when a BYU professor spouted racist folk doctrine to the Washington Post, I didn’t even have time to react before a series of other Mormon voices condemned these teachings — even an official church publication denounced the professor’s statements. Of course I want more than a denunciation. An official acknowledgement that the old racist policy that kept black men from holding the same priesthood as white men was just that — racism — would be a start. An apology would be even better. But it’s remarkable how quickly we, Mormons and the church itself, responded. And I don’t think the Mormon church would ever implement a similarly racist policy again. It couldn’t. It knows that its future is in the growing membership outside the United States, in populations in and out of this country that don’t look the way everybody thinks Mormons look (you know, blond, blue-eyed, white).
All of this is one less thing that I have to get angry about, because other people are doing it for me. All of this is progress. Why can’t I see this same rate of progress in my country? Why don’t more people care about what Americans are doing to other Americans? Why don’t we see that our future is in the growing numbers of people who come here from somewhere or else? It’s a sad day when a conservative religious institution with a clear history of discrimination is outpacing government in terms of change. I’m not saying the Mormon church is changing in all the ways I wish it would, but it’s getting there on the issue of race and immigration, while the rest of the country seems to be moving backward. This would make me mad, but really it just makes me tired.