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If you watch CNN today, you'll hear flattering reports of Brigham Young University's recent decision to indefinitely suspend Brandon Davies from its basketball team. BYU is contrasted with other less scrupulous schools like Seton Hall, which are known for responding to the DWI's of their star basketball players with only slap-on-the-wrist suspensions. Isn't it wonderful to see a school forgo the profits and publicity of a successful basketball team in the name of principle?

The principle in question is supposedly that BYU's students pledge not to engage in pre-marital sex (or alcohol or coffee). Brandon Davies allegedly violated this principle when he confessed to having sex with another student.

What CNN won't tell you is Brandon Davies is black, and this other student is white. Maybe this had nothing to do with the decision, but I have my doubts considering that 58% of BYU students mormon women admit to engaging in pre-marital sex. Why haven't the BYU inquisitors taken action against these students' transgressions?

Perhaps they're just trying to set an example, but to target a black student in a predominantly white state/school for such a commonplace violation should definitely raise questions. And not the obsequious ones the media has chosen to ask.

What they should be asking is whether this incident is an example of the kind of pre-civil rights era racism, according to the principles of which Obama's very birth was illegal in most states. (He was born in 1961 of interracial parents).

But that question is way too easy to answer, and the answer way too uncomfortable. The Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints to this day discourages interracial marriage in its current priesthood manual:


 “We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question” (“Marriage and Divorce,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977], p. 144).

BYU is definitely standing on principle here, but the principle they're standing on might be the same one that led black men to belynched for so much as looking at white women 50 years ago.

Why is it that abstinence education and racism always dove-tail so nicely?

Updated by justinsarma at Mon Mar 7, 2011, 03:19:17 AM

Thanks to Adam B for pointing out the error in my initial post. The study says 58% of mormon women admit to having had pre-marital sex, not 58% of BYU students. Adam B also references survey conducted by BYU which shows only 4% of BYU students admit to sexual activity. There's a good chance this is underreported, but still, I admit this weakens my case a bit.

Another commenter points out that Brandon Davies isn't the only one who has been suspended from BYU for this offense. The same thing happened to the football player, Reno Mahe. Is it just another coincidence that Reno Mahe's parents are from the island nation of Tonga, and looks vaguely hispanic? This example reinforces my point. Maybe it's only the athletes, many of whom are non-white, who we hear about. You'd have to look at overall suspension statistics to get a better picture.

Also, let me emphasize that this post is a bit speculative. Obviously, I don't know for a fact that race was involved. I'm just saying it's a possibility people should consider before the form an opinion on how it reflects on the school.

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