Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Genesis Group & Race Relations


First off I'll explain what the Genesis Group is, for those who don't know:

"The Genesis Group was established in October 1971 by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a dependent branch to serve the needs of African-American Latter-day Saints... The Genesis Group meets on the first Sunday of each month from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the meetinghouse located at 6710 South 1300 East in Salt Lake City, Utah. Everyone is welcome to attend. The monthly meetings feature a fireside format with guest speakers, a Black gospel song as a practice hymn, and testimonies. The organization operates with Relief Society, Singles, Youth, and Primary auxiliaries."

There aren't very many African-American members of the LDS Church, so many African-American Saints over the years have felt out of place or disconnected to the Gospel. The Genesis Group is super welcoming of anybody and everybody from any background, race, or nationality. Differences (rather than conformity) are celebrated. It's a separate congregation, but it doesn't replace the one you're already going to. It's just extra. So, those familiar with the Church's setup... if your kid is in Primary in your ward and you take them to Genesis, they'd be in Primary in Genesis as well - two groups of friends, as I see it!

Personally, I love it. I love being around black people. I'm most comfortable in that environment. Good Church-going black folks who love everybody. Those are my favorite kinda people. I also think kids should be exposed to diversity, so I 100% support the many white adoptive couples who bring their African-American children to the Genesis Group to expose them to people of all kinds of races and people who look more like them. I don't want Kal to feel out of place by never seeing black people (actually, we'll probably never have to worry about this seeing as how Zay and I do hair and we have black people at our house all the time, but I still want to give Genesis props).

According to the 2011 Census estimates, Utah's race demographics look like this:

White: 91.9% (78.1% in the U.S.)
Black: 1.3% (13.1% in the U.S.)
American Indian and Alaska Native: 1.5% (1.2% in the U.S.)
Asian: 2.2% (5.0% in the U.S.)
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 1.0% (0.2% in the U.S.)
Persons reporting two or more races: 2.2% (2.3% in the U.S.)
Persons of Hispanic or Latino Origin: 13.2% (16.7% in the U.S.)
White persons not Hispanic: 80.1% (63.4% in the U.S.)

Of course we've got more Polynesians than the average! But the percentage of white vs. black is pretty skewed compared to the U.S. as a whole. Black people tend to seek each other out and then ask each other, "What brought you to Utah??" Ha ha.

That's why I like the Genesis Group.

Zay, on the other hand, has a completely different view on it and I have to respect that. He worked in a salon once with a bunch of black women (oh, boy)... not just any black women, but outspoken black-power support-your-own-kind type of black women. Zay completely clashes with those kind of women. With those kind of black people. And they attend Genesis to support their black community, so he has a negative view of the whole thing. You know... Why do black people have to have their own special Church? They always want to be treated special. They can't do anything on their own merit. They've got to act high and mighty like they're owed something because of something (slavery) that ain't got nothing to do with the present day or their present condition... Those are some of his thoughts.

He came home once talking about this debate they were having at the salon about two guys (a black guy and a white guy) going into an interview for the same job. All else being equal, who's more likely to get the job? The women were saying the white guy would, because people are racist and the black guy wouldn't get a fair shot. Zay says, why doesn't the black guy just work hard enough to get the job? Life isn't fair. If he's at a disadvantage, he just needs to work harder. The end. Quit asking for a handout. Work harder to get the job in the first place. Society doesn't owe you anything. Quit complaining. It's embarrassing. They were shocked at him and said he was being disrespectful of his own people and he should do more to fight for equal rights.

The women were saying that slavery didn’t happen to them personally, but the repercussions from slavery trickled down their family line and affects them today. Zay says, everyone of any race is dealt a hand when they are born and they can't choose what hand is dealt them. Some white folks are dealt bad hands too, but you don't see them trying to pinpoint an event in history that is making their particular hand difficult and trying to get someone to give them something or treat them special because of it. Life is unfair. Get over it. White people today don't need to pay for what their ancestors did.

They called him white sympathetic, as a derogatory term. He said black power is just as racist as white power, absolutely no difference. One is just rationalized because of past misdeeds against blacks.

They said that he wasn't grateful for what the pioneers in black history did to help make the necessary changes in achieving equal rights: abolishing slavery and the whole civil rights movement. He said it’s cool that he has the rights that he has today because of what was done before - but they did that so that black people today wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore and could live in harmony with other races. They're probably rolling around in their graves right now because black folks today can’t forgive. The true meaning of the LDS religion, of Christianity in general, is to love your neighbor… whether they are white, black, Polynesian, Latino, or whatever! Not to love your own kind and put them on a pedestal. That’s anti-Christian. It's wrong to support a black politician or black movie star or black musician or black artist just because they're black. It's not "supporting black people," it's racism. Support the politicians who hold your same values, go see movies that are good, listen to good music, etc. The race of the person shouldn't have anything to do with the choice. Love and support and encourage all people equally.

They said black people who are trying to succeed need the whole black community behind them in support, because they're not going to get much support from anywhere else. They said black people need to stick together. Zay said he won't support one person over another because of their race. That's just furthering the segregation and inequality and holding a grudge.

Soooo, I'm somewhere in the middle of this. More leaning towards Zay's way of thinking. But at the same time, I totally support something like the Genesis Group. There's a feeling of welcoming and comfort that I just don't get from other wards in the Church. Maybe if all the wards felt like that... I don't know. They should all feel like that.

Anyways, we have conversations about race relations a lot around here... given that we're an interracial couple and we have a bi-racial child we're trying to raise in this crazy world that is going to define/label him by the way he looks and the color of his skin. And people are going to expect him to "choose a side" and segregate himself at some point. Ugh.

What say ye?


  1. I totally agree with Zay. We are all children of God and we, as Christians, ought to treat each other with respect and kindness, regardless of race or color. When we try to put ourselves above or below other people, whether it's because of our race or our innate intelligence or our situation or environment or history or whatever, it's still pride and it's not how Jesus taught us to live.

    That being said, I understand the need for organizations like the Genesis group in the church. To me, it's the same as having Polynesian or Spanish or Asian wards. There are certain cultural things that are unique to different groups of people and it's nice to get together with people that have had similar experiences or backgrounds, especially if you live in an area where those cultural things aren't common.

    I think that as long as the cultural things don't conflict with the gospel culture, as Elder Dallin H. Oaks has called it, I think it's worth being a part of. (Here's the link to his talk on the gospel culture.

    I've loved the opportunities I've had in different wards where we've had members from all over the world share parts of their cultures with us. There are good and worthwhile things in all cultures that go along with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    You wrote, "There's a feeling of welcoming and comfort that I just don't get from other wards in the Church. Maybe if all the wards felt like that... I don't know. They should all feel like that."

    I agree that all wards should make you feel welcome and comfortable, but in my experience, the wards where I've felt the least welcome were the ones where I was doing the least for others in that ward and I was focused more on myself. I'm not saying that is true for you, but that's been my experience and I've lived in several different wards throughout my life.

    One more thought. You mentioned that because you have a bi-racial child, people will expect him to "choose a side." If I were you, I'd encourage him to embrace the good things of both and only be worried about whether he's on the Lord's side. :)

    Thanks for giving me some food for thought today.

  2. I love Genesis group and have no prob. with Tamu :) Anyways I think Dominic feels the same way as Zay because he never goes up to the Genesis group either. I don't have a prob. with white people bringing their black kids that they adopted to Genesis group as long as people don't ask me if my kids are adopted like I was asked once their by a white lady. That was pretty annoying since their not. Oh also the debate of who would get the job I think the black guy would because of affirmative action

    1. I'm not directly talking about one person. I just don't agree with "black power" type people in general. It can be obnoxious and just as racist to me.

      People assume all the time and it can be annoying. But don't be offended if someone assumes your child was adopted! It's not a bad thing to have adopted a child. Just politely say, "He wasn't adopted."


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