My first thought? “This is some Republican-level pandering.” Who could forget the Fox News coverage of the various Republican conventions where the few black faces and voices were prominently and conspicuously featured?
My second? Shame. After all, many of my chosen self-descriptors (queer, atheist, and feminist, to name a few) are widely-reputed and sometimes mocked for being “white” (and unfairly so in the case of the first one, since proportionally, more people of color identify as some form of LGBT than do white people).
As it turns out, for once, statistics match perception.
Nearly nine-in-ten Mormons in the U.S. (86%) are white, compared with 71% of the general population. Just 3% of Mormons are African-American
A Portrait of Mormons in the U.S., Pew Research, 2009
That’s quite comparable to the 2% of Republicans who are black.
Make no mistake: this Facebook-promoted “documentary” is a promotional piece for Mormonism, just as the coverage of the Republican National Convention is a promotional opportunity for Republicans. Prominently featuring members of marginalized racial groups in advertising and promotion could be seen as something of a step in the right direction for a religion that was de jure racist for most its history and a political party whose loudest branch is overtly racist. However, it’s a far cry from actually working for racial diversity by engaging with the concerns of people of color.
Tokenism isn’t when you include a member of a marginalized group or prominently feature them, it’s when you think that including one marginalized person somehow absolves you of responsibility for engaging with the reasons why your group isn’t inclusive of said marginalized people.
There is a lesson in all of this for secular groups, especially self-described atheist/agnostic types, whose numbers are more like those of the Republicans than LGBT Americans. Gratefully, at least two have issued statements on an important current issue of racial justice. Let us hope that we see more of that.