The BYU Anti-racism club recently held a speaking event titled, “We Can’t Belong Ourselves: Creation of Community Precedes a Sense of Belonging,” which was advertised on their Instagram. The event featured Jacob Rugh, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at BYU, and Anthony Bates, the managing director of the BYU Sorensen Center for Moral and Ethical Leadership. Both Bates and Rugh were heavily involved in the BYU FHSS African American Civil Rights Seminar.
The Dr. Rugh View of White Gun Ownership
Bates shared personal experiences and Rugh discussed the anti-racist view of Whiteness. Rugh has mentioned he teaches these themes during classes.
During the discussion, the topic of guns was brought up in the context of societal racism. Rugh, in his remarks, said, “White people are so afraid of black people they’re buying guns and killing themselves.” Rugh then defended his claims by citing the fact that gun ownership increased among white Americans after the election of President Obama in 2008. Rugh also argued that white individuals were buying guns after the election of President Obama due to their internalized racism and did not mention any other factors.
After being asked for comment, Rugh stated, “See Jonathan Metzl’s award-winning book, Dying of Whiteness, and the work by respected economists on deaths of despair among white people. Happy to send more resources but I think googling both of those will go a long way.” A synopsis of this book can be found here.
White Supremacy Within the Church
During the same monologue, Rugh suggested, “We need a revolution of consciousness among white people,” citing evidence of internalized racism and quoting individuals such as Ibram X Kendi. Rugh further expounded on what this meant in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Referencing general officers of the Church, he said, “We live in a culture predicated on what white general authorities say.” Rugh is politically active on his public twitter page. He has also been mentioned by Campus Reform for this tweet.
In response to inquiry about these comments, Rugh replied:
“I sustain the General Authorities and even prepare extra handouts with what they have counseled us recently on rooting out racism. See ATTACHED PDF FOR MANY GREAT EXAMPLES. I believe their counsel is essential. I also believe many of them also draw on truth from other sources, and we should, too. That is all.”
In response to the Chronicle asking about the quote, “We need a revolution of consciousness among white people,” he replied, “See the work of Heather McGhee, who recently spoke at the University of Utah.”
The “Spirit in the Room”
Bates also made several points. One of these referenced the Duke volleyball incident. During a BYU v Duke volleyball game, a player allegedly heard a racial slur being directed at her from the BYU student section. However, upon investigation by the Chronicle, Deseret News, and BYU, there was no corroborating evidence.
Bates explained, “That black player may have heard something different, but the spirit in the room was the same as what she heard.” Bates then argued that minority communities are excellent at noticing racism, and used the player’s story as evidence that the attitude in the BYU gym was one of racism and bigotry.
He also insinuated that the backtracking of the volleyball story was influenced by BYU donors.
[READ: Exclusive: Racist Comments at BYU Volleyball Game Never Happened, Sources Suggest]
Upon request for further explanation, Bates did not offer more context to his statements, but replied to the Chronicle’s request:
“I am not sure how I can be of help. Where your stated purpose ‘is to articulate and spread the conservative perspective through the lens of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on BYU campus’, I would love to hear more about how your line of questioning meets that stated objective. The phrasing of the questions pose[d] feel more ‘catch them in their words’ (Alma 10:13) than ‘willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort’ (Mos. 18: 8-9), which I believe was the intention of the meeting. If I am misunderstanding the phraseology or intention of your questions, I am happy to learn more.”
The Chronicle’s questions on these topics, instead of assuming the conclusions of these statements were to gather more explanation, as follows:
“In reference to the BYU volleyball story, you said ‘That Black player may have heard something different than what was actually said, but the spirit in the room was the same as what she heard.’ Could you perhaps explain what you meant by the spirit in the room? As you yourself admitted, no corroborating evidence could be found linking the racial slur being used in the gym. Secondly, you mentioned that you suspected that one of BYU’s donors heavily encouraged the later backtracking undertaken by the university. Could you please further extrapolate your suspicions?”
Written by: Ian Farris
Contributor at The Cougar Chronicle
The Cougar Chronicle is an independent student-run newspaper and is not affiliated with Brigham Young University or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints