Atlanta megachurch pastor Louie Giglio gave the obligatory apology Tuesday after attempting to repackage the phrase "white privilege" as a "white blessing" during a talk about race and religion. “We understand the curse that was slavery, white people do,” Giglio said Sunday during the conversation. “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.”
Giglio, who presides over Passion City Church, provided a bit of context for his rebranding attempt, saying that "white privilege" is striking the wrong nerve and that because he was born in a segregated Southern city in 1958, he is “living in the blessing of the curse that happened generationally that allowed me to grow up in Atlanta.”
The social media criticism was swift. "Giglio's slavery comments remind us that white evangelicals haven't changed as much in their supremacy, homophobia, or misogyny, as in their delivery," author John Pavlovitz tweeted. "They've gotten catchier music and better megaphones—but the song remains sadly the same.”
Goldie Taylor, editor-at-large of The Daily Beast, tweeted that slavery was far from a blessing: "It was the manifestation of evil. It did not spawn white privilege. It was born of it. This isn’t poor phrasing. It’s an damningly inadequate grasp of history,” she said.
Giglio, who tweeted video of himself apologizing Tuesday, said his “horrible choice of words” does not reflect his heart. “And I’m heartbroken about where we are as a nation, and one of the things I’m most heartbroken about is trying to help myself continue to learn and to help my white brothers and sisters understand that white privilege is real,” Giglio said.
He added that he doesn’t believe there is “any blessing in slavery.” He said he wants to help people understand that he and his “white brothers and sisters” sit “in large part where we are today because of centuries of gross injustice done to our Black brothers and sisters.” Giglio ended his apology with a request that viewers pray for him.
Although much of the social media condemnation spared Chick-fil-A chief executive Dan Cathy, who joined Giglio for the talk, a fellow guest—Grammy Award-winning rapper Lecrae Moore—did not come out unscathed. He could be seen nodding his head to Giglio’s words before later addressing him, and viewers, including Pro Football Hall of Fame awardee Shannon Sharpe, definitely took notice.
What many of the viral clips of Giglio’s explanation left out, however, was Moore’s response and later explanation that Giglio’s comments made him “very uncomfortable.” He said during the filmed conversation that “we hate to use that term privilege or blessing, but even the idea that you have the ability to dismiss is a privilege."
"You have the ability to not think about it,” he added. “I cannot change my skin tone. I cannot live another day without recognizing my blackness." Moore said he is reminded of his blackness as soon as he drives to a Wyoming grocery store in order to look for products for his hair. “They’re not going to be there, and once again I’m reminded: ‘Oh I’m Black, and these products do not exist for me.’”