In a Birmingham, Ala., controversy involving the mayor, a black church, gentrification and a white megachurch, an Alabama pastor is being accused of reverse racism after displaying a sign in front of his church that says, “White folks refused to be our neighbors.”
New Era Baptist Church is located in the West End section of Birmingham, one of the blackest areas in one of the blackest cities in America. The church is pastored by the Rev. Michael R. Jordan, who is known for his activism, which some people say borders on trolling.
After the 2016 presidential election, Jordan fixed the all-black church’s sign to say, “Trump deceived poor white folks.” Following a jury’s decision to acquit George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, New Era’s sign boasted, “George Zimmerman jury supported white racism.” Some of the church’s other gems include:
- “Undercover racist [sic] elected Donald Trump.”
- “AIDS is God’s curse on a homosexual life.”
- “Rape a white woman and you will die in prison.”
- “God’s Word forbids two men getting married.”
So of course, when Jordan heard that the Church of the Highlands, whose 16 locations boast more than 40,000 parishioners, announced that it would open a location in a “high crime neighborhood” in Birmingham, Pastor Killmonger grabbed his sign letters to fight back.
One side of the sign now reads, “Black folks need to stay out of white churches,” while the other side reads, “White folks refused to be our neighbors.”
“It’s a slave-master church,” Jordan told AL.com. “I call it plantation religion, slave-master religion. The white rich folks start a church and put a black pastor in charge of it.”
Because of white flight and societal change where whites left the city, they did not want to be our neighbors, did not want their kids to go to school with our children. They left the churches too. They sold the churches to us. White folks don’t want to be our neighbors. If you don’t want to be our neighbor, why do you feel comfortable putting a white church in the inner city? Their response is we will have a black pastor. He’ll be a token. They’ll still control the sermons, they’ll still control the choir, the white administrative leadership will still run the church.
Regardless of how one may feel about his tactics, Jordan is correct on this point. According to the U.S. census, before segregation was outlawed, Birmingham’s black population never surpassed 40.7 percent. It now stands at 72 percent. To be clear, Birmingham’s black population didn’t explode.
White people just left.
But Birmingham’s new Mayor Randall Woodfin condemned the New Era sign as divisive.
“I’ve been called a bigot. This is divisive, but you have to just tell the truth,” Jordan said. “The main campus has gotten fed up with blacks joining their church, so they decided, ‘Let’s put you a church over there.’”
Another black pastor, Adam Mixon, condemned the mayor’s remarks, noting who was responsible for the city’s “spirit of racism” in an open letter, writing that the mayor’s comments “demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the black community and a mischaracterization of the black church.” Mixon added:
[W]e would suggest that our Mayor realize that our communities did not get this way accidentally. Economic segregation, over-criminalization of black people, white-flight, real-estate red-lining, failing schools—we could certainly go on—these are the methodologies employed whereby black communities and black families have been systematically crippled and destroyed ...
Mayor Woodfin (Pastor Hodges)—we suggest that you review our history. Your present mindset seems to overlook how white communities, and yes the white church, have been complicit in creating the circumstances that the black community and the black church have been forced to deal with.
Mixon also told AL.com that in his experience with the Church of the Highlands’ founding Pastor Chris Hodges, he found the white megachurch leader to be condescending to the people in the communities in which they place their churches.
“It’s a very competitive franchise mentality,” Mixon said. “They’ve been hurtful and dismissive to the people who are already there.”
Meanwhile, Gentrifying Jesus is still trying to see if he can start a church in Wakanda.