Black Ladies of America: Will You Let These Mormons Sit at Your Lunch Counter?

Jeanette Bennett, the Utah Valley Magazine editor who attracted some attention recently for appending the headline "Women of Color" to a photo of her all-white staff, has penned a thoughtful and heartfelt response to her critics on her personal blog, Jeanette Gazette. The upshot: As a Mormon, she knows what it's like to be black, and all she was doing is asking black and latino ladies if she can be a woman of color, too. Oh, Jeanette.

Here's what Bennett would like you to know: She has never deliberately or maliciously lit any structures or wildlife areas on fire.

I'm not a criminal, an embezzler, a politician, a Ponzi schemer or an arsonist. I'm a mother of five, a business owner, a community volunteer and a bit of an introvert. "Trouble" is not my middle name.

She has a very particular headline-writing style, and was only trying to use a little wordplay.

My headline-writing style includes taking idioms and cliches and turning them sideways or using rhyming words to twist the phrase.... The genesis of the infamous headline - "Women of Color" - came when I was searching for idioms using the words "women," "bright" and "color" to go with the staff photo showing our office females in bright outfits (we've worn black and khaki in past pics, so this was a welcome change).

Her magazine isn't really all-white.

(By the way, one of the women in our staff photo IS half-Hispanic - her dad grew up in Mexico City. This is not necessarily significant to me nor does it remotely make us traditional "women of color," but I thought I'd mention it since many of the criticisms call us "as white as can be.")

She knows what it's like to be black.

Although I'm not a minority in my valley, I'm a religious minority in the United States. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are headline news in 2012. The media have published a mix of accurate and inflammatory articles about what we believe. Having Mitt as a member has elevated the interest level and the attacks toward our church. So in a small way, I can understand minority groups feeling misunderstood and misrepresented by the media.

She only wants to be able to sit at the black lunch counter like everybody else.

I'm hoping readers can see that my recent article and photo weren't intended to demean black women. If anything, we are saying we WANT to be women of color. Can we be part of your group? Can we sit at your lunch table?

For the record, Bennett is a nice lady. And for the record, the "women of color" headline isn't offensive so much as galactically and comically dumb. Sort of like comparing membership in a religious minority that until fairly recently barred black people from the priesthood because they had been cursed by god to the experience of being black. Or using the metaphor of seeking permission to sit at a lunch table with members of a different race to suggest that, as a white Mormon woman, you are being segregated from "women of color."

Anyway, Bennett's attitude toward this little imbroglio is heartening. "[T]his experience will brighten and enlighten my thinking for the rest of my career. I'm willing to learn. I am willing to listen. I am willing to move on." Let's!