Commentary: Americans Still Fear Blacks and Mormons

As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney vie for the White House, Americans still fear Blacks and Mormons.

Commentary: Americans Still Fear Blacks and Mormons

It is unclear whether Mitt Romney’s Mormonism will help or hurt him come November. Last year a study found that more than 20 percent of Americans said they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon, but Romney is also nearing Obama in the polls. And some in the voting pool still prejudge Obama.

Published July 18, 2012

Which group makes you more fearful: Blacks or Mormons? If you’re reading BET, chances are you’ve got a pretty comfortable relationship with African-Americans, and a lot of Americans are now familiar with a Mormon or two. But, according to a new Washington Post poll, even in 2012, there are a sizable number of people who don’t like Blacks or Mormons, despite the fact that the two leading presidential candidates are of those groups.

This is from Scott Clement at the Post:

Sizable pockets of voters say they would be uncomfortable with a close family member marrying someone who is black or Mormon, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with Mormons facing slightly more distrust from people outside their community. Twenty percent of voters report discomfort with the idea of a Mormon marrying into their immediate family; 14 percent say the same for African Americans.

Adding to the sad news that many people are still prejudging Blacks and Mormons  is the fact that lots of white Americans are operating under the false assumption that President Obama’s time in office has eradicated bigotry in the United States. Only 37 percent of people polled believe African-Americans face discrimination anymore, whereas about half of the public believed as much in 2009.

While Blacks have long known that many whites are afraid of them, and that many are unwilling to accept that African-Americans face bigotry, both interpersonal and structural, the fear of Mormons is a less widely discussed prejudice.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the duo behind South Park, have earned a small fortune and a boatload of Tony Awards due to their willingness to poke fun at Mormonism’s flaws, inconsistencies and seeming impotence in the face of the world’s real problems. But lots of religions suffer from the same issues. What seems to be of particular concern for people when it comes to Mormonism is the secrecy of the organization.

Non-Mormons aren’t allowed in Mormon temples, and the special Mormon underwear comes across as strange to much of the uninitiated. Beyond that, the church’s former racist leanings and erstwhile acceptance of polygamy — a practice by which some Mormons still abide — is all enough to put Mormons well outside of the mainstream.

That all being said, it’s currently unclear whether Romney’s Mormonism will help or hurt him come November. Last year a study found that more than 20 percent of Americans said they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon. But Romney is also nearing Obama in the polls, though that may not last long with the whole world looking at Romney’s unwillingness to go deeply into his past tax filings. In the end, it may not be Romney’s shadowy religion that ruins him, but his shadowy finances.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photos from left: Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images, Edward Linsmier/Getty Images)

Written by Cord Jefferson


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