We don’t take kindly to your singing together around here.
That was the message a couple in Kentucky got when they performed a song together at the woman’s home church. It should’ve just been a nice little interlude for the congregation, but Melvin Thompson, the long-time pastor of the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, afterward made a point of telling the couple they wouldn’t be welcome back.
The problem was that Stella Harville is white, and her fiance, Ticha Chikuni, a Zimbabwe native, is black.
In August, Thompson informed the Harville family that Stella and her partner would not be allowed to sing in church again. He stepped down as pastor shortly after that, but wouldn’t let the issue go, because while the new pastor decided that Harville and Chikuni could sing in church if they wanted to, Thompson got busy introducing a proposal to officially discourage interracial marriage among church members.
A Kentucky.com article quotes from the recommendation: “parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services” or other church functions (though they could come to funerals). This “is not intended to judge the salvation of anyone, but is intended to promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve.”
It was decided that this policy should go to a vote before the congregation. Six people voted against it. Nine people voted for it. The rest didn’t want to reveal their opinion.
“It sure ain’t Christian. It ain’t nothing but the old devil working,” Harville’s father is quoted as saying.
“Why are you laughing?” my husband asked mildly when I told him about this joyous little nugget earlier this week. I said I had to laugh, because otherwise I’d get really pissed off that things like this still happen.
I try to tell myself that if we just stay out of the Kentucky neighborhood, we’ll be fine. Things are different in Philadelphia.
Yes, there are members of the older generation and what I’ve always thought of as “ignorance racism.” My 88-year-old grandmother isn’t going to stop asking me whether I mind that my friends in South Africa are black.
But I got stopped cold early this year, when I was on the job-hunt networking circuit and lunched with an esteemed colleague who had resume advice. We discussed ways to present my skill set and professional arenas I could adapt myself to. We were almost done lunch, but I could see that there was something else she wanted to say. She had gotten a piece of advice for me from someone else, and was afraid of offending me, but she also wanted to be honest, even though she didn’t necessarily agree with the tip.
She had circulated my resume to a department head in her organization, a prominent local non-profit. He had said that I should change the “Mabaso” on my resume to some other name, because hiring managers would assume I was black, and therefore toss my resume in the trash.
I gaped like a fish for a second or two. Then I managed to say that if a company would really throw a person’s resume out because of their race, I wouldn’t want to work there anyway.
America has come a long way when it comes to race relations. Hasn’t it? I guess the question I would put to you, dear readers, is whether or not you think we’re slowly moving toward a racism-free world, or if the above examples of prejudice are proof that a society without racism is impossible. Will there always be some dark corner where Melvin Thompsons sow their mean and pointless division?
Notice there is no answer option for those who think interracial marriage bans are a good idea. If you were looking for this option, you are welcomed to my blog just as warmly as Mr. Thompson welcomed Ticha Chikuni to church.
P.S. I want to put in an apology to regular readers, because I know I’ve been slacking the last few weeks on the Sunday Poll. My beloved great-aunt is not long for this world, and I’m one of her caretakers. After many hours of hospice care on the weekends, I’ve been going to bed instead of blogging. I’ll try to get back on track.