A video showing a church service at Atlanta’s Passion City Church on Sunday started trending this week over comments made by Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy. Cathy was invited, along with Christian rapper Lecrae, to sit with Pastor Louie Giglio and have “an open and honest conversation around how racism has plagued our city for generations, and the steps we can all take to confront it head-on in our church, our neighborhoods, and our hearts.”
The entire video is available here. During the discussion, Cathy said that white people could atone for racism in the U.S. and express their “shame” by shining the shoes of black people. A shorter clip showing this key moment is available here:
Cathy Brought up His Suggestion After Sharing a Story of a Revival in Texas
Cathy first spoke about a story he was told of a revival in Texas. He said this occurred at a church in a small town in Texas:
At that revival in the front seat was an older African American man that was sitting there. And this young man got up, and he was so gripped with conviction about the racism that was in that local community that he took a shoe brush and he walked over to this elderly gentleman and he knelt on his knees and he began to shine his shoes.
Cathy said the “tears began to flow at that service.”
He then said, “I invite folks to just put some words to action here,” and stood up, walking over to Lecrae with a shoe brush. He then knelt in front of the rapper and said:
If we need to find somebody that needs to have their shoes shined, we just need to go right on over and shine their shoes and whether they got tennis shoes on or not, maybe they got sandals on, it really doesn’t matter. But there’s a time at which we need to have, you know, some personal action here. Maybe we need to give them a hug, too.
At that point, Lecrae joked: “And some stock in Chick-fil-A,” as Cathy walked back to his seat. The CEO then explained that he’d bought 1,500 shoe brushes and given them to Chick-fil-A operators and staff. He said:
Any expressions of a contrite heart, of a sense of humility, a sense of shame, a sense of embarrassment, but yet with an apologetic heart, I think that’s what our world needs to hear today.
This Isn’t Cathy’s First Time Speaking About Racism & He Recently Posted About It on LinkedIn
Cathy, who is the son of the founder of Chick-fil-A, S. Truett Cathy, said in the discussion that he found there were “conscious and unconscious biases” at the workplace and in the corporate office. He said, “Our silence is so huge at this time. We cannot be silent. Somebody has to fight and God has so blessed our city, but it’s shameful how we let things get so out of whack.”
On June 2, Cathy published a piece on LinkedIn called “Use Your Power and Influence.” In the piece, he wrote about how “democratic capitalism benefits only a few hundred incredibly wealthy families, individuals and corporations” and indicated that he is within that demographic. He called on them and on himself to use that power and influence to solve the injustices in society. He shared how his company took strides to improve the “most distressed zip code” in Atlanta. He also suggested different ways for people to take action.
The Conversation Received Backlash for Comments Made by Pastor Giglio
The conversation came under fire on social media for comments made by Giglio during the segment. At one point, about 26 minutes into the video, Giglio said: “We understand the curse that was slavery … but we miss the blessing of slavery that it actually built up the framework for the world that white people live in.” He said he preferred to use the term “white blessing” instead of white privilege.
The comment was heavily criticized and Lecrae spoke up about it afterward, apologizing for not saying anything at the moment. He wrote on Twitter, “Processing a lot. I think in my attempt to be diplomatic and gracious I missed an opportunity to care for the very people I came to represent. I knew I was uncomfortable but I was so excited to educate. I still have some gaps in my education.”
He continued, “I have a lot of racial trauma. After spending the last few years battling racism within the evangelical church I was in a dark place. In that interview I feared going back there. I’m healing but not healed. I’m definitely protecting myself from a breakdown.”
Giglio also posted an apology a couple of days after the video aired. He said it was “a horrible choice of words” that does not “reflect my heart.” He added, “I don’t, to be clear, believe there’s any blessing in slavery.”