Guest post by BROWN MORMON GIRL.
1. “I see you brought the whole tribe to church today!”
No. We may have brown skin and long flowing Pocohantas-type locks, but we are not Native Americans. (Actually, I’m not sure a Native American Mormon would appreciate their family of eight being jovially addressed as a ‘tribe’ either.) We have strong connections to our extended families, and to a village or island (or several), but we don’t have tribes in Pasifika. Oh…you were cracking a joke? I’m sorry I didn’t get it. I should choose not to be offended?…Let me crack a polygamous Mormon joke about YOUR large family – I see you brought all your wives to church today! Ooops, all these lovely young women are your daughters, not sister wives? My bad…
Was that funny? No, I didn’t think so.
2. “I just love your people. Tongans are such friendly, happy people!”
Really? I’m not feeling very friendly right now listening to this happy-simple-native drivel. And I’m Samoan, not Tongan. Newsflash: the Pacific Ocean, otherwise known as the Blue Continent, has many different island countries and cultures. Some of us call it, ‘Pasifika.’ We speak different languages and have unique customs. We’re not one amalgamated brown mass. And sometimes, mistaking a Samoan for a Tongan (and vice versa) can get you in trouble. Just ask the Rock…
3. “As Lamanites, you are chosen people of the Lord. I’m here to tell you that God loves you and will never forget his children on the isles of the sea…”
You came all the way from Utah to tell us that? Because you were worried we didn’t know that we’re children of God? Or maybe we were having doubts, being brown and stuck on a rock in the ocean and all? Your condescending concern is touching but from where I’m standing – on a beautiful tropical island with a vibrant culture that values strong extended families, where the whole country shuts down on a Sunday so people can go to church, where fa’aaloalo, respect for family, our elders and tradition is a core value, an island where I can see and feel God’s hand everywhere I look – yeah, I’m pretty sure I don’t need a visitor from the Mormon Promised Land to reassure me that my Heavenly Father loves me. I already know that. And its not because I’m brown and (supposedly) a Lamanite. Just like God doesn’t love you BECAUSE you’re white and (supposedly) a Nephite. It’s because I’m a child of my Heavenly Parents. Just like you.
4. “Oh you’re from Samoa? In the South Pacific right? Like Johnny Lingo!”
No. Nothing like Johnny Lingo. We don’t have cows and if anyone ever tried offering my father any kind of animals in exchange for my hand in marriage- my mother would run that potential suitor over with her truck.
5. “Some of your traditional costumes are shockingly immodest. You must be so grateful for the church’s dress standard that helps us all better live the Law of Chastity.”
Yes because wearing a suit and tie…or a long dress…AND an additional layer of temple garments underneath – in sweltering tropical humidity where you sweat WHILE having a shower – is something we give thanks for everyday. Thanks Utah Mormon men for inventing a dress code thats great for temperate climates and the wintry months – and then making it a celestial necessity for the rest of the world’s Mormons too. So what if they live in the desert. Or on an island in the Pacific Ocean.
And just so you know, before Christianity saved us savages – the men and women in Samoa were often topless. So breasts were no big deal. Now, thanks to “modesty” they’re a sexualized thing and we have to cover up from shoulder to knee if we want to be “good girls” while bootilicious boobs of “bad but sexual girls” bust out at us from billboards and TV shows everywhere.
So…no. While I don’t have a secret desire to go topless, I’m not grateful for the Mormon dress code. I’d be much happier if we could wear clothing that’s better suited for our climate – and still NOT be condemned as ‘immodest’ and ‘slutty.’
Photographs courtesy of the National Archives Online. From a series of ‘Colonial Samoa’ postcards.