On the EDge: The ‘alt-right’ attack on Sistas in Zion represents deeper rooted racism

Photo by RomoloTavani/iStock/Getty Images Plus; St. George News

OPINION – I’m not quite sure when the term “alt-right” worked its way into the political vernacular, but the ideology of this white nationalist bunch who goes by that name is certainly not new.

We had the John Birch Society, of course, spring up in the 1950s. In the 1860s, the Ku Klux Klan unfurled its ugly banner.

Most recently, however, a group of alt-right advocates went after the Sistas in Zion, a group created by Zandra Vranes and Tamu Smith. Vranes and Smith decided to celebrate their diversity as African-American Mormon women by putting together a humorous, engaging blogsite that has developed as a focal point for illustrating that Mitt Romney, Donny and Marie Osmond and Steve Young are not the only faces of Mormonism.

It began as a Twitter war when members of the alt-right started attacking the Sistas in Zion.

The devil’s in the details, of course, and the details of the abuse from these hard-right antagonists are ugly, especially when many of the attacks were made by fellow Mormons who advocate separation of the races.

A dear friend found himself wrapped up in all of this and was dismayed by how it was playing out on social media, lamenting:

This small minority of alt-right racists that have come out of the woodwork in recent months are especially troubling. I know a lot of Mormons who may not be particularly sensitive to certain racial issues, but I don’t personally know any that are this outwardly racist.

The fact is, whether racism is well-hidden or overt does not matter. In fact, I would rather have somebody be upfront about their racism than to have them hide it. At least I know who and what I am dealing with and can act accordingly.

The underlying truth is that racism exists – it has never really abated no matter how much we may think we accomplished to defeat it – and to act surprised is simply being naïve.

It is not always a matter of religion, although some churches have clear racist history.

It is not always a matter of culture, although some cultures have and continue the practice of racial separation.

But it is always a matter of personal judgment.

In many families, there is a wing of racism that is often shrugged off. How many of us really try to explain to Grandpa that his use of the N-word is wrong? How many of us explain to Aunt Jane that she shouldn’t be fearful if she encounters a person of color while out for her evening stroll? How many of us look the other way if a friend tells a joke that denigrates a specific racial group?

As long as we allow others to do so without calling them on it, we are a part of the problem by participating in passive racism, which includes giving a pass to those who may not be particularly sensitive to certain racial issues or think that just because they have liberal credentials they can toss around offensive words whether for effect or in jest. Most of us are guilty of this in one way or another; passive racism is still racism, and we cannot plead ignorance.

The circumstances of our current politics and sensitivities call for less political correctness, which means some people believe they can be as rude and disparaging as they wish without fear of consequences or retribution. They think they can pretty much say or do what they wish – no matter who they harm or how they harm them – with impunity because they are of the mistaken notion that political correctness is for wimps and liberals.

It’s been well-established that I am a liberal.

I don’t think anybody would call me a wimp, however.

So I will stand by being politically correct. I can and will be blunt. I know my facts and will not hesitate to use them. But I will not denigrate somebody simply for the pleasure of making them uncomfortable, because, well, I still subscribe to the most basic of tenets: Do unto others.

I grew up in the 1950s.

I was raised in St. Louis, Missouri, a city that fancied itself as a rather sophisticated place.

Still, it wasn’t until I reached the sixth grade that I realized that the N-word and all those other derogatory terms used to describe the various ethnic and religious groups that surrounded me were wrong and hurtful.

I couldn’t go to my friend Danny’s house to hang out, because his father was white and his mother was black.

I loved music, but even though Chuck Berry came from St. Louis, the local radio stations wouldn’t play his music. Or Little Richard’s. Or Fat Domino’s.

I remember calling the radio station and asking the deejay to play “Tuitti Fruitti.” The deejay said, “Pat Boone coming up!” I told him no, that I wanted to hear the Little Richard version. I was told that the radio station did not play “race music.” So I waited until the sun set and tuned my little transistor radio to the megastations blasting from Chicago and Memphis to hear the real stuff.

Some of us saw through the hatred of bigotry and racism.

Some of us learned.

Some of us didn’t.

Actually, a lot of us didn’t.

If we had, this conversation would not be necessary and my friend wouldn’t be so dismayed that people who subscribe to the same faith as his have exposed their racism.

All I can tell him is that yes, there are reasons why there aren’t a lot of African-Americans in Utah, just as there are reasons why there are not a lot in Wyoming, Montana and some other states.

And yes, some of those reasons are rooted in racism.

I can also tell him that I am proud that he stood up for the Sistas in Zion, that it takes courage to do so and that if there is one thing I truly respect, it is courage.

A lot has been written and said about this recently with the words “tolerance” and “acceptance” peppering the conversation.

But that is also a part of the passive racism that has been allowed to creep into the discussion, because to ask for tolerance or acceptance implies that there is something wrong with somebody whose skin color is not the same as ours.

What matters is what lies in our hearts and not in the color of our skin.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!


  • Sedona June 13, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    First of all, I’m an American Caucasian with ancestry in Italy and Portugal.
    My ancestors came to this country legally through Ellis Island. They recognized the “American Dream”, as millions of others have done, and worked tirelessly to make sure they and their children at least got a piece of it.

    Now, the author speaks very eloquently of racism.
    I would like to speak of what I believe is “Hypocritical Racism”…………

    There are African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, etc. And then there are “just” Americans. Those that are “just Americans” are, (I guess ?) typically considered White ?

    In the music industry, the Black rap artists call us whites (insert) “racial slurs”, and that’s accepted as OK.
    But when I use the term, (insert) “racial slur”, I’m considered a racist.

    Organizations like Black Lives Matter say that whites commit a lot of violence against them. So, why are certain locations in major cities the most dangerous places to live, that prisons have a high population of minorities and why is it popular now that police officers are often murdered by blacks?

    I have some other points for those to ponder….
    You have the United Negro College Fund….
    You have Martin Luther King Day….
    You have Black History Month….
    You have Cesar Chavez Day….
    You have the NAACP….
    You have Black Entertainment Television (BET)….

    * If we had WET (White Entertainment Television) we’d be considered racists.
    * If we had a White Pride Day, we’d be considered racists.
    * If we had White History Month, we’d be considered racists.
    * If we had any organization for only whites to “advance” OUR lives we’d be considered racists.

    We have Hispanic Chamber of Commerces, Black Chamber of Commerces, and then we just have the plain Chamber of Commerce. Again, the “plain” Chamber of Commerce must be for whites?

    More examples…..
    A white woman is not allowed in the Miss Black America pageant, but any color can be in the Miss America pageant. What’s the answer there?

    If whites had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships you know we’d be labeled racists.
    * Yet, there are over 60 openly proclaimed Black Colleges in the US. Many of those colleges do not admit white students.

    In the Million Man March, minorities believed that they were marching for their race and rights.
    * But, if whites marched for our race and rights, we would be called racists.

    Minorities are proud (and rightly so) to be black, brown, or whatever…
    * But when I announce that I am proud to be white, I’m called a racist.

    There’s a television show being aired by a major network called “Blackish”.
    * Imagine the outcry if there was a TV show called “White-ish”

    When Blacks and illegals commit heinous crimes, and kill our police officers, it’s just passed over as an accepted crime and maybe, just maybe, might make the news on NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN.
    However, when a white police officer shoots a black gang member or has to rough up a black drug-dealer running from the law and posing a threat to society, it’s front page fodder of the evening television news and in too many cases, innocent neighborhoods are burned and looted.

    Now, as I said before, I’m white and I am proud to be White.
    But, it’s generally deemed popular by certain citizenry that I should be called a racist.
    So based on what I’ve presented and the common liberal philosophies of the media and journalists, why is it that only whites can be racists?

    • theone June 13, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      To sum it up for you on the issue of passive racism, the better question is, “why is that only in your narrow minded head that whites are the only racists?).
      You need a lesson in social history my friend.
      Signed a white guy.

      • Sedona June 13, 2017 at 4:58 pm

        In High school, we used to get pizzas at Theone’s. Any relations?
        Anyway, If you think your comment holds “the better question is…” then you’re the one with the meager mind.

        Also, hold the anchovies.

    • comments June 13, 2017 at 6:17 pm

      Yep, got to agree with sedona. And then there’s that subject that’s completely taboo and off-limits in modern “liberal” academia, and that’s the relationship between IQ and race. The races actually are a lot different. It isn’t just skin deep. These are things that are difficult to have an honest discussion about. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t all be respectful to one another, but denying certain realities doesn’t help matters. High crime rates among young black men is a very real thing that should be discussed honestly. Lumping all blacks and minorities in as “victim groups” doesn’t help them in the end.

      As for the alt-right they are just a bunch of jobless 20-somethings that live with their parents and spend too much time online. They are trolls. Maybe Ed should take some of Bryan Hyde’s advice and give the social media a rest.

  • dogmatic June 13, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Very good comment Sedona. I agree, the face of racism has changed in America.
    Ed is out of touch.

  • r2d2 June 13, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Sedona said it all. As far as what Ed said, this is the first I have heard of it. Now I can forget it again.

  • Robert June 13, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    I would like to ask the person who penned this poisonous opinion why he conveniently left out so many facts about his party being the party of hatred?? Last I read and understood, the KKK was brought to us by the Democrats, then the John Birch Society was founded by the establishment which then included both parties and the great depression was the brain child of the Democrats. That was the beginning and today it is even worse with the party of hate fostering so many anti America hate groups. Oh, by the way, I am NOT a Republican and in fact have voted for Democrat candidates in the last 3 elections. However, today, I would have trouble voting for any candidate who claims to be a member of the new Democrat party of hate.

  • youcandoit June 13, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    I agree with Sedona. When I hear a black joke I politely say I have a mixed family. I’m a white woman. My last boyfriend is black from Wichita Kansas I found out he has Disassociate Identity Disorder he has so many alters one is racist bigot I couldn’t stand it. I don’t understand why are they so mad at white people, when it was Africa who sold their people and not all blacks came from there. Are they saying they’re all related? I’ve survived abuse by men. There’s a point in life you have to stop complaining and get over it. When is the madness going to STOP?

    • comments June 14, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      They are trained from nearly birth to hate white people. From about 2nd grade on they get to hear that they were enslaved by “the evil white man”, they conveniently leave out of the narrative all the arab, jewish, and other black african slave traders. It’s some sort of agenda. I can only speculate on the reasoning.

  • Craig June 13, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    The “alt right” is a severe misnomer. These people are neither right or left. Further, it was the left spawning the KKK.

  • John June 13, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    Special Ed IS a liberal and is only doing what he does best..prove that he is a misinformed liberal..always on the wrong side of every argument..if he was a paid employee i would petition he be fired..But. he is entitled to publicly make am ass of himself any time he wants..like he did with this editorial…WATCHING A LIBERAL CHASE FAKE NEW IS JUST LIKE WATCHING A CAT AND THE LITTLE RED DOT…THEY CHASE IT ENTHUSIASTICALLY AND NEVER GET THE FACT THAT NOTHING IS THERE…AND THEY FALL FOR IT EVERY TIME..THEY NEVER GET THE FACT THEY ARE BEING PLAYED..

  • Real Life June 13, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    It seems that the far left has become the most intolerant group out there. Disagree with them, and they riot, try to drown out your voice, or simply cancel speakers of their opposition.

  • commonsense June 13, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    I find that the Black community has it’s racists. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Maxine Waters come to mind. Many whites voted for Obama. No Black voted for Romney.

    I have a black daughter-in-law who is Indian. She has never felt discriminated against despite very dark skin. It’s just African blacks who like to play the race card AND FEEL VICTIMIZED.

    I love Ed’s ‘passive’ and ‘hidden’ racism. If it’s hidden and not overt, why is it an issue? I also love the left labeling the right as racist. Wasn’t it Abe Lincoln who freed Blacks from slavery? And Republicans who fought hard to give Blacks the vote? It wasn’t until free stuff was offered by FDR that Blacks shifted to the left.

    The politicization of race by Dems is just more campaign rhetoric. Trump is not racist, mysoginist or homophobic. Cite a source that would suggest otherwise. You can’t. It’s blah, blah, blah.

    Blacks who act responsibly are treated and perceived no differently than anyone else. Feeling victimized is an excuse for underperformance.

    • comments June 14, 2017 at 4:41 pm

      E Indians are not considered blacks as dark as they may be. Blacks all originated out of Africa. What are u even…..

  • Mike P. June 14, 2017 at 8:49 am

    I’ll have a beer.

  • revamadeus June 14, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Dear editor,

    This writer Ed Kociela made a very serious error that may constitute libel and, if done knowingly or with reckless disregard for the truth, may subject you to very hefty monetary damages. To wit, the falsely implies that the John Birch Society is “white nationalist” group, when nothing could be further from the truth. In fact the JBS has been opposed to racism from day one and has always had members from all races and creeds.

    At best, this is what’s known as a “sandwich smear.” It is a dishonest tactic used in an attempt to avoid legal accountability while still falsely defaming people. At worse, it’s a flagrant case of vicious libel that was made maliciously or with reckless disregard for the truth.

    JBS has always opposed racism, as proven in official government investigations, its 60 year record of publications, its many Jewish and black leaders, its well-known expulsion of racists, even when they are members of Congress, etc. Official investigations have proven this also. For example, a California Senate Fact-Finding Committee dominated by Democrats came to the obvious conclusion that the Society was not and is not racist. “The organization is open to people of all religions, all races, all political persuasions except those deemed subversive.” The society had and continues to have countless members and leaders from all races.

    JBS was actually an early pioneer against racism, and even expelled racists from day 1, while the Democrat Party was still sending open KKK leaders to Congress. This can be verified by looking at the society’s early documents, or even visiting its website today. Here is testimony from a black female JBS leader: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jxaire4OMo8

    Kindly correct the record immediately to avoid misleading more readers and further damaging the reputation of innocent Americans as well as your own credibility.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic June 14, 2017 at 11:23 am

      Thank you for your counterpoint, revamadeus. Understand this is an opinion column. It is true the John Birch Society does not characterize itself as white nationalist – a term that, along with nationalist, racist and the like, has varying definitions – all with distinctions. The John Birch Society about us page is linked here for yours and our readers consideration. Just as characterizations by opponents vary as to political parties, so they will vary as to associations.

      Your viewpoint is welcome as are any counter-opinion letters to the editor, which may be submitted directly to me at: [email protected] for publication consideration.

      Again, thank you for a thoughtful response to the opinion column,

      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

      • Bliss September 9, 2017 at 10:51 am

        The John Birch Society (JBS) was established in December 1958 by Mr. Robert Welch as an education and action organization. One of its members, Mr. Delmar Dennis, ultimately, acting for the F.B.I., infiltrated the KKK to uncover the names of those who had murdered several civil rights activists in 1964 and to discover where their bodies were buried. Delmar Dennis made that discovery finally and reported the location of the bodies that were buried in an earthen dam. John Birch Society member Rev. Delmar Dennis acting secretly as an F.B.I. undercover operative solved the case at great personal risk. This may be one reason why KKK members don’t like The John Birch Society. A book was written about the dangerous work that Rev. Dennis engaged in to solve the case. The book was titled: “Klandestine: the untold story of Delmar Dennis and his role in the FBI’s war on the Klu Klux Klan.” The old book by William MclLhaney can be found on Amazon if anyone want to read it.

  • Real Life June 14, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Seems like Ed better check his sources a little better.

  • revamadeus June 14, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Kociela lies about the John Birch Society

    It is one thing to have an opinion, and an entirely different thing to make blatantly false accusations. Yet, under the guise of his “opinion,” columnist Ed Kociela used your website to make demonstrably false charges against hundreds of thousands or even millions of wonderful American men and women of all races and creeds across America who belong to or support the John Birch Society.

    I refer to Mr. Kociela’s June 14 piece headlined “On the EDge: The ‘alt-right’ attack on Sistas in Zion represents deeper rooted racism.” In this post, Mr. Kociela falsely claims that the John Birch Society represents “white nationalism.” Further, he dishonestly attempts to make a comparison between JBS and the Ku Klux Klan — something only an ignorant fool or a liar with an agenda and no moral scuples would try to do.

    This is the epitome of dishonesty. For one, the John Birch Society has always welcomed people of all races and creeds, even back when the Democratic Party was literally sending KKK leaders to Congress. In fact, so determined were JBS leaders to keep racism out of the Society that, unlike in the Democratic Party, expressing any racist or anti-Semitic sentiments has always been grounds for immediate and permanent expulsion from JBS.

    What the Birch Society actually represents is summed up well in its motto, “Less government, more responsibility, and – with God’s help – a better world.” Our goal is simply to preserve the Constitution and the liberties it protects by educating Americans with the truth and exposing the forces that would subvert our Republic. That is it. Race plays no role in it whatsoever, which is why people of all races have joined the Society.

    Those are just some of the many reasons that Ezra Taft Benson, the only cabinet secretary to serve two terms in the Eisenhower administration, praised the Society as “the most effective non-church organization in our fight against creeping socialism and Godless Communism.” Benson later went on to become the president of the LDS Church against which Kociela appears to have an ax to grind.

    That the JBS has always been opposed to racism is proven in its 60-year record of publications, its many Jewish and black leaders going back to its founding in 1958, its well-known expulsion of racists even when they were members of Congress or wealthy donors, and much else. You can find videos of many of the Society’s black and Jewish leaders speaking about JBS and what it stands for on Youtube.

    Even official investigations have proven this. For example, a California Senate Fact-Finding Committee dominated by Democrats came to the obvious conclusion that the Society was not and is not racist. “The organization is open to people of all religions, all races, all political persuasions except those deemed subversive,” the official investigation found, adding that investigators found “much evidence to the effect that it [JBS] opposes racism in all forms.”

    Mr. Kociela is being incredibly dishonest. If he is ignorant of the facts, then he has no business writing on these topics and should issue an apology immediately. If he wrote this article knowing the truth, that would make him a liar, which is even worse, and he should still issue an apology. Either way, he should be embarrassed, and your website should be as well. Shame on Mr. Kociela for this blatant dishonesty.

    When this dishonesty was exposed, excuses were made by the editor suggesting that this was merely Mr. Kociela’s “opinion,” and therefore that this was legitimate. How would Mr. Kociela feel if he were called a pedophile and then, as a defense, his accuser claimed that, while Kociela does not characterize himself as a pedophile – a term that, along with child molester and the like, has varying definitions – characterizations by opponents will vary. No doubt he would not be happy.

    Mr. Kociela and your website should have the intellectual honesty and integrity to correct this vicious lie immediately.

    • comments June 15, 2017 at 1:37 pm

      That’s quite a tirade there. Sounds like a lot of blabbering and nonsense. I’ve never heard of this “john birch society” or w/e, but after your little tirade im convinced they were probly racists and that you’re a loon. 😉

      • Bliss September 9, 2017 at 10:54 am

        If the John Birch Society and its membership were racists, why did the California legislature’s extensive investigation prove otherwise? Why did a John Birch Society member, Rev. Delmar Dennis, acting as an FBI undercover operative infiltrate the KKK to solve the case of the missing civil rights workers in 1964? That story is found in the book “KLANDESTINE.” If you’re interested in facts ask the black members of The John Birch Society what their experience has been with their friends within The JBS. https://www.amazon.com/Klandestine-untold-Delmar-Dennis-against/dp/0870002953

    • The Rest Of The Story June 16, 2017 at 1:30 pm

      Revamadeus –

      To be considered libel,

      “Publication need only be to one person, but it must be a statement which claims to be fact and is not clearly identified as an opinion.” (Per: http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=1153)

      This piece is clearly categorized front and back as OPINION.

      Additionally, in order to win a libel suit, you must also prove not only that you have suffered damages, but also that there was malicious intent or negligence on the part of the author and/or publisher.

      Now, to suppose that an organization (and/or its members) can suffer damages by having the history of that organization categorized merely by someone’s stated opinion as being includable under the descriptions “white nationalist” or “alt-right” is only to grasp at straws while falling prey to some sort of paranoid conspiracy theory. And speaking of paranoid conspiracy theories…

      Alas, I digress.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.