Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Why would [a mixed-race woman, Jane Manning James]—who is clearly full of incredible intelligence, skills, and perseverance—throw her lot in with a community that would not have her as a member?
When Mormons Aspired to Be a ‘White and Delightsome’ People
Because sometimes, that’s the only community to throw your lot in with.

Implicit in the question of why Jame Manning James would chose to stay with an early Mormon community that refused to see her as equal to them is the idea that she could simply have left, and found another (presumably Black) community that would have taken her in as an equal. Part of it is easy, as Max Perry Mueller notes in the interview. Answering his own question, he notes that Ms. James was a devout believer in Mormonism. And given this, the idea that she was willing to tolerate second-class status to be a part of the community that practiced it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

But that wasn’t the first thing that crossed my mind when I read the question. At one point in the book, according to Emma Green, Mr. Mueller quotes Ms. James as saying: “I’m white with the exception of the color of my skin.” And it’s worth noting that in the Black American community today, there are no positive words used to describe that state. “Oreo” is the one I suspect most often used today, but “confused” or even “brainwashed” were popular alternatives when I was young. And just as the modern Black community takes exception to people who are “Black on the outside, but White on the inside,” even if they are mixed-race, it wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Black communities back then shared at least some of that prejudice. And so it’s entirely possible that after a certain point, there wasn’t another accessible and accepting community for Ms. James to throw her lot in with, a state of affairs that we don’t often think about in the modern world.

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