In an odd twist of events, a pastor is now facing a fierce backlash after she made a controversial request that “only white people” be allowed to serve as greeters at the Freedom House Church in North Carolina, according to WBTV in Charlotte, which reported the story on Monday.
Having a request for whites only in 2013 is strange enough on its own, but what might make this situation somewhat uncommon to some people is the fact that this pastor, Makeda Pennycooke, is an African-American, not the proverbial, conservative, Southern white bigot that so many would automatically expect.
In an email that was sent to volunteers who act as greeters for the chruch’s 9 a.m. Sunday service, Pennycooke said that “first impressions matter,” and the church wants “the best of the best on the front doors.”
Pennycooke also said:
“We anticipate having an increase in the number of people visiting and attending Freedom House over the next few weeks.”
“We are continuing to work to bring our racial demographic pendulum back to mid-line, so we would like to ask that only white people be on the front doors.”
Carmen Thomas, a former member of the Freedom House, responded to the news of Pennycooke’s email by telling WBTV:
“I was floored, like it was a jaw dropper! You can put a white face all over the front door, but when you come through those doors, you're going to see African Americans, you're gonna see Asians, you're going to see people of color.”
“Perhaps you believe that with a certain congregation that eventually your finances are going to run out because maybe we aren't the moneymakers.”
According to WBTV, Pennycooke has apologized for her remarks amidst the fallout, and the Freedom House issued this statement:
“One of our longtime pastors, in keeping with our church’s desire to be inclusive and intentionally reach out to all races, noticed our front door greeting team was no longer reflecting the racial diversity of our entire congregation, and she wanted potential visitors to see people like themselves upon entering our church. However, she made an error in judgment in requesting all white greeters at the front door, going overboard in placing emphasis on any one race over another in trying to highlight diversity within the greeting team. She admits this was a grave lapse in judgment and is sincerely sorry for her actions.”
“She immediately apologized and has asked our forgiveness. She and senior pastors have made themselves available to meet with any church members who want to discuss this situation with them, and have communicated their true heart in this matter — to be a church welcoming and inclusive to all. Freedom House believes in a diverse relationship within its membership, reflecting the larger community in which the church resides, doing life together as a church representative of everyone — culturally, ethnically, economically, and generationally.”
What this Pastor Pennycooke was suggesting through her emails is some sort of microcosmic, religious, economic gentrification of the current church audience, and that is visibly evident by her statement about working to bring the “racial, demographic pendulum back to mid-line.”
And what really gives it away is Pennycooke’s statement of utilizing the “best of the best at the front doors,” before she drops the atomic, ethnic bomb and just unashamedly asks for whites only.
After all, they (whites) are the “best of the best,” but the other side of that judgmental coin just begs to ask what that kind of declaration more than implies in regard to non-whites, African-Americans in particular, and one shouldn’t have to ponder too hard about the solution to that equation.
For example, if the opposite of up is down and the opposite of down is up, then the opposite of the best being white is black, brown, or anything non-white falling anywhere from less than the best, a lot worse than the best, to the worst of the worst, which is exactly what a diverse congregation needs to hear from their pastor (sarcasm)!
Now an African-American like Pennycooke discriminating against other African-Americans and labeling whites as the best might sound farfetched to some, but this kind of conception goes all the way back to slavery and beyond.
The widely accepted, yet totally inaccurate terminology for an African-American displaying this kind of ideology is the phrase Uncle Tom, which is from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” even though Pennycooke’s statement about whites only and whites being the very best is more in line with two other characters from the novel—Quimbo and Sambo, who have skated scot-free throughout the racially cherry-picked pages of history for some unknown, unjust reason.
So statements like whites only or the “best of the best” (whites) just goes to show that old habits die hard, because the cultural conditioning of white privilege has tremendous staying power and tremendous influence.