I suppose it was inevitable. Julianne Hough, a professional dancer on Dancing with the Stars turned singer and actor drew a considerable amount of attention to herself leading up to Halloween 2013 for wearing black-face for her Halloween costume.
Hough has been decried in allquarters as hopelessly out of touch. Black-face is a relic of 1800’s and early 1900’s ministerial shows which savagely displayed African Americans as illiterate jokers happy with their plight in life. But Hough grew up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Church of Jesus Christ), sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church, and even though she no longer practices the faith, finding the celebrity lifestyle too appealing, it was only a matter of time before someone accused Hough’s religious upbringing for her racist mistake.
Wendy Williams took the bait first. Williams, a daytime talk show host, said, “She grew up Mormon. Does she get a pass if she grew up out there?” Somehow Williams thinks that growing up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ makes Hough more likely to act out in racist ways. Nothing could be further than the truth. Williams does conclude that despite Hough’s Mormonism “she should know better.” I suppose we can agree she should know better, but Hough should know better because she grew up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, not in spite of it.
The Church of Jesus Christ has an unambivalent position on . They “believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. [The Church does] not tolerate racism in any form.” While the Church did exclude those of African heritage from priesthood leadership like many contemporary churches, during the early 20th century, the Church reversed that decision years before Hough was born.
The Church of Jesus Christ has a long history and culture of acceptance of those of all races. Individuals have always been accepted into church membership, regardless of race. The early Church faced much persecution while living in Missouri largely because of its ordination of African American priests, and its condemnation of slavery. Today The Church of Jesus Christ has congregations through much of the world, including strong congregations throughout Africa. Mormon congregations have never been segregated.
Julianne Hough should have known better than to engage in an embarrassingly racist costume. Growing up Mormon is no excuse, just the opposite, she did this in violation of everything she learned in The Church of Jesus Christ.
Read more about Black members of The Church of Jesus Christ here.