The pastor of an Atlanta megachurch on Tuesday apologized after facing widespread criticism over comments he made about "white privilege" and the history of slavery in the United States.
During a recorded conversation about race in America on Sunday, Passion City Church Pastor Louie Giglio said that the phrase "white privilege" sometimes ignited backlash and suggested that the words be altered to "white blessing." He also noted that white people understand that slavery was a curse, but added that "we miss the blessing of slavery, that it actually built up the framework for the world that white people live in.”
The comments were made during a discussion with Christian rapper Lecrae and Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy amid a national reckoning over the police killing of George Floyd and racial injustice. By Tuesday, clips from the interview had spread across social media, with many denouncing the remarks as offensive.
Giglio released a video statement on Twitter in which he apologized for a "horrible choice of words" that "do not reflect my heart at all."
"I just wanted to come to you directly today and sincerely apologize for the use of the phrase 'white blessing,'" he said. "Most importantly, I extend that apology to my black brothers and sisters. I like so many am so burned about what’s happening in our nation right now, and I’m heartbroken about where we are."
I’m sorry—a message from my heart. pic.twitter.com/FD6AYU1mcM— Louie Giglio (@louiegiglio) June 16, 2020
Giglio stressed that he raised the issue of white privilege as part of an attempt to convey that it is "real."
"To be clear, I don't believe that there's any blessing in slavery. To the contrary, I'm trying to understand and help people see that my white brothers and sisters ... sit in large part where we are today because of the centuries of gross injustice done to our black brothers and sisters," he added.
Giglio also tweeted Monday night that he said "white blessing" to illustrate that "society is built on the dehumanization of others." He noted that he had "failed" in trying to bring the message across.
Giglio, who founded Passion Conferences in 1997, said Sunday that the phrase "white privilege" prompts "a fuse" to go off for a lot of white people because they don't want someone to tell them they have a privilege.
Lecrae, who is black, did not speak out over the comments during their discussion. But he said in clip shared on social media that he was "very uncomfortable" when he heard the remarks. He noted that he had private conversations with Giglio following the event.
"Obviously, I wasn't OK with it," he said. "And we can't just be virtue signaling and just 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."
The May 25 death of Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police spurred protests nationwide as well as urgent calls from activists for lawmakers to address racial inequities in the country. Many have called for diverting funding away from the police and to social service programs that can help disadvantaged communities.
The protests have coincided with renewed pushes to remove statues commemorating leaders of the Confederacy. Demonstrators in several states have toppled monuments in recent weeks.