Tasi Young: Time to change the name of BYU

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Statue of Brigham Young at BYU.

It is time to change the name of Brigham Young University.

I earned two degrees from BYU, the flagship university of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Brigham Young was the founding leader of Utah and iconic pioneer of the west.

However, arguably, there is not a more successful white supremacist in American history when considering his impact on keeping his church, his community, and his state “white and delightsome” for nearly 200 years.

Young single handedly created and ingrained teachings of racial violence, segregation and white moral authority that enabled a social norm that not only oppressed black lives, but taught his followers that white supremacy was a mandate from God.

In a speech to the Utah Legislature on Jan. 23, 1852, Young said:

“In as much as we believe in the Bible ... we must believe in slavery. This colored race have been subjected to severe curses ... which they have brought upon themselves. And until the curse is removed by Him who placed it upon them, they must suffer under its consequences.”

The LDS Church doubled down on his teachings through the Civil War and the modern civil rights movement and only generally repudiated them in a little-known historical essay in 2013.

I learned Young’s teachings in high school seminary when I was taught that my parents’ interracial marriage was a disappointment to God and that my black friends’ skin was a curse due to their actions in a premortal realm.

I witnessed Young’s teachings as a missionary when my Utah-raised trainers yelled from our church-owned vehicle “[racial slur] doggy dog” every time we passed a black man on the street, and when my white BYU classmates disrespected and heckled an LDS Latino professor who was visiting to share minority perspective.

I acknowledged Young’s teachings when I left BYU having never had a black professor after eight years of classes, and the only two black faculty I knew of were being pushed out of their positions.

I felt Young’s teachings when I stood shirtless, hands in the air, under a police spotlight, on the side of a Utah highway, being unlawfully searched as my children looked on from our minivan.

Today the LDS church calls on others to look inside and find racist practices and “root them out.” However, this hypocritical call comes from a religious empire and financial behemoth that, in part, stands as a monument to the actions and teachings of Brigham Young and white supremacy.

With calculated campaigns and flashy photo-ops, the LDS Church uses the words of racial justice but has completely and utterly failed to look at its own roots and repent and atone for the violence and oppression in its own history, especially the effects of the teachings of Brigham Young.

It is time for the LDS Church to take demonstrative steps to look to its own roots and eradicate the teachings, philosophy and structures of white supremacy that were started by Brigham Young, and which are blatantly practiced and espoused by many at my alma mater.

Brigham Young has had his day. It is time for a new day, where black lives are not subjected to ingrained white morality, whispered doctrines of whiteness and white-washed perspectives on all things from biology to jurisprudence.

The LDS Church can start this process and clearly show students, faculty, alumni and the larger faith community that it is serious about rooting out the racial injustices in its own body.

It is time to change the name of BYU.

Tasi Young

Tasi Young, J.D., Lehi, is a life-long BYU football fan, a Utah outdoor enthusiast and father of three incredible humans.