Days after suggesting to rapper Lecrae Moore, popularly known as Lecrae, that the term “white privilege” be renamed “white blessing” because it triggers some white people, Pastor Louie Giglio of Passion City Church in Atlanta apologized. The pastor had been accused of trying to make racism more palatable.
“I just want to come directly to you today and sincerely apologize for the use of the phrase on Sunday ‘white blessing.’ And I extend that apology today to every single person who is listening to me right now but most importantly I extend that apology to my black brothers and sisters. I, like many, am so burdened by what is happening in our nation right now,” Giglio said in a video message on Twitter Tuesday.
“I’m heartbroken about where we are as a nation and one of the things I am most heartbroken about is trying to help myself by continuing to learn and to help my white brothers and sisters understand that white privilege is real. And in trying to get that sentiment across on Sunday I used the phrase ‘white blessing’ for which I am deeply sorry. Horrible choice of words. Does not reflect my heart.
“I don’t, to be clear, believe there is any blessing in slavery. To the contrary, [what] I’m trying to understand and help people see is that I, my white brothers and sisters, we sit in large part where we are today because of centuries of gross injustice done to our black brothers and sisters. So this is my heart. This is what I want to more fully understand because I believe this will help us stay engaged in this conversation so that we can all move forward together.”
Giglio, Lecrae and Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy engaged in a conversation at Passion City Church on Sunday as protests raged in their city over the police killing of Rayshard Brooks at a Wendy’s parking lot. The shooting on Friday came just three weeks after the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day that had also set off national protests and discussions on racial inequality and police brutality.
Giglio’s 70-minute discussion with Cathy and Lecrae was presented as an open and honest conversation around how racism has plagued Atlanta for generations, and steps the church can take to confront it.
At one pointed during the conversation, Giglio, after stressing the need for white people to really understand that white privilege exists, suggested that perhaps theologizing the concept for white Christians could help them better engage with the issue.
“You know Lecrae, it’s interesting because I feel like inside of the church we are fighting that historical context you talk about. In other words, we love the blessing of the cross but we don’t love to sit in it and realize this is what God is asking me to do. To die to myself and to live for Him, whatever context that’s going to look like for me,” Giglio said.
“But I want to flip that upside down because I think the other side is true with our nation’s history. We understand the curse that was slavery, white people do. And we say that was bad but we miss the blessing of slavery that it actually built up the framework for the world that white people live in and so a lot of people call this white privilege and when you say those two words it just is like a fuse goes off for a lot of white people because they don’t want somebody telling them to check their privilege,” he said.
“I know that you and I both have struggled in these days when hey, if the phrase is the trip up, let’s get over the phrase and let’s get down to the heart. Let’s get down to what then do you want to call it? And I think maybe a great thing for me is to call it white blessing. I’m living in the blessing of the curse that happened generationally that allowed me to grow up in Atlanta.”
Nicola Menzie, founder and editor of Faithfully Magazine which focuses on Christian communities of color, first raised concern about Giglio’s use of the term “white blessing” in a tweet on Monday and it has since gone viral.
“Here's an example of why words and their meanings matter. ‘White Privilege’ vs. ‘White Blessings,’” she noted in part with a just under two-minute clip from the discussion.
Others, like prominent journalist Jemele Hill, quickly picked up on the megachurch pastor’s faux pas and remarked on Twitter: “I promise that this is the dumbest thing you’ve heard all day.”
Liberal Pastor John Pavlovitz replied to Hill’s tweet, “Giglio runs massive Christian youth and college ministries. It’s a disgrace how many young people he has influence over.”
Other critics raised concern that Lecrae did not call Giglio out for the suggestion. In his response at the time, the rapper appears to attempt to diplomatically address the idea.
“Yeah. I mean, even the idea and we hate to use that term privilege or blessing, but even the idea that you have the ability to dismiss is a privilege. And like you have the ability to not think about it,” Lecrae said before noting that he is forced to live with racism every day because of the color of his skin.
“I cannot change my skin tone,” he said looking at his skin.
“I cannot live another day without recognizing my blackness. As soon as I drive into a Wyoming grocery store looking for some products for my hair, they are not going to be there and once again, I’m reminded, oh, I’m black. These products do not exist for me. As soon as I get on a plane on a foreign flight and I try to flip through the movies that are available I don’t see myself and I realize, ‘oh, I’m black.’ I can’t turn that off. And what I think the notion of this kind of blessing or the ability to put these blinders on is because what my white brothers and sisters tend to think is that they don’t have a culture,” he explained.
Lecrae also explained in a video statement on Twitter Tuesday that he was not “OK” with Giglio’s suggestion and he discussed the situation with him privately after the event.
“I wasn’t OK with it. Even as I sat there I was very uncomfortable with it and I was processing what do I say in light of this. It’s been a lot of times as I’ve navigated white supremacy or racial injustice where I’ve been just trying to figure out, where I wanted to lash out in anger and there’s other moments when I’ve been, alright God, give me the grace and wisdom on how to deal with this,” he said.
“And in that moment I was processing ‘what do I do?’ I ended up having a conversation with him subsequently right after we talked. And then I talked to him again last night and let him know my views and my perspective and obviously I wasn’t OK with it. And we can’t just be virtue-signaling and doing this because it’s the in-thing to do to talk about race on platforms. And I didn’t have any ulterior motives other than to help and articulate some of what’s going on in our world and our culture.”