by Whitney Fauntleroy
I spend a significant amount of time on Youtube every few months watching writer/producer/actor/model/unrequited BFF Issa Rae do press and various interviews. I was deep in one of these YouTube rabbit trails not too long ago and ran across her interview with a correspondent from Variety. The same correspondent to whom she told her now famous line on the Emmys red carpet in 2017, “I’m rooting for everybody black!” What a line, what a statement, what a vibe (as the young folx say)? The film and television industry has historically been a very white industry where privilege and nepotism reign supreme. I know another mammoth institution that can claim this history, do you?
I have always thought I was a prophetic pastor. But I also recently read Jeremiah and was thinking up “hard pass.” I also really liked to be liked. Maybe more than I like speaking truth to power but maybe I am just insecure. Insecure about what? Insecure about the pressure of tokenism. Yes, there is some pressure in being one (or one of few) to represent your race, ethnicity, gender expression, or sexual identity. I grew up being called an “Oreo” and told “I was acting White” from late elementary school until maybe yesterday? And you know what the crazy thing is? I started to believe it. So if I believed I was an Oreo how could I speak for a people for whom I wondered, all too often, if I was one of them? What a quandary of insecurity and internalized oppression? So as I sit here in my favorite Quarantine spot (my couch) trying to introduce myself to my soon to be tons of readers (so many I hope that I get the aforementioned Issa Rae’s attention), I wonder what frame of reference I will speak from. I am black and southern and I have grown to love being both. I have been Presbyterian since 1996 when I was confirmed but am informed by a cloud of witnesses of Unitarian Universalists, Methodists, Baptist, and Catholic as well as Yo MTV Raps!, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and the lyrics of the profound yet problematic John Mayer.
Like the career of Issa Rae in the television and film industry, lately it has been a kinda decent time to be a person of color or historically muted voice in the mainline church. So thus this means it’s a great time for me, someone who on the low enjoys writing but never does it and has been for over 20 years in this place of tokenism and otherness in the PCUSA, to figure out what it means to tell this story of recovering Oreo and aspiring Kingdom Bringer with a penchant for 90’s R&B and hip hop, Moana, and a repeated Dave Matthews Band concert goer and to figure out what I can say. So now that, after so many years in a time where the house is divided (if it is standing it is surely on shaky ground). In my mid-30s, I am ready to figure out what this means for me, perhaps not to speak on anyone else’s behalf but myself.
So I am indeed rooting for everybody black unless they produce something that is utter trash. But then again those that have been systematically and strategically left out of this elusive Grand Narrative be it Hollywood or The Church should be allowed to make mistakes, right? Real privilege and real equality might just be the ability to mess up and try again.
Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy is a North Carolina native. Now in her sixth year of ordained ministry, Whitney is grateful to have experienced ministry in many contexts. Whitney has served as Director of Youth Ministry at University United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill, a Designated Solo Pastor at Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, NC. In the Spring of 2017, she began serving as Associate Pastor of Youth and Young Adults at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Virginia.
Whitney is also a member of the NEXT Church blogging cohort, and her writing focuses on the intersection of pop culture, identity, and theology.