“We understand the curse that was slavery, white people do,” Giglio said. “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.”
As Giglio spoke, Lecrae nodded up and down.
Later in the program, Cathy, who is an evangelical Christian, walked over to Lecrae and shined the rapper’s white sneakers as a sign of humility, then offered him a hug. In response, Lecrae asked him for Chick-fil-A stock options while laughing.
After his “white blessing” comments went viral Tuesday, Giglio posted a video to his social media platforms, tearfully offering an apology for his words. Lecrae also posted on social media that he was not comfortable with the term. An employee with Chick-fil-A said Cathy would not be commenting further on Sunday’s exchange.
In an interview on Tuesday, which has been edited for clarity and brevity, Lecrae described how he processed the experience and how it will change his engagement with white evangelicals.
After the conversation, you said, you spoke with Giglio about what had taken place. What did you talk about?
We talked through several things that happened that were questionable. I said I did not speak for all black people, but I was the only black person onstage. [Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., was supposed to join but backed out due to health reasons, Giglio said.]
The moment where he talked about “the blessings” was brought up as well, as well as the moment when my shoes got shined. I wanted to turn the tide and tried to steer the ship as best I could. And I probably was a little too diplomatic in the process. But it was uncomfortable.
It helps me to think through how to deal with things moving forward in the future. It's difficult to be honest in front of the people.
What did you think when Giglio described the “white blessing”?
I'll be honest, at first, I was like, ‘Whoa!’ In context, I understand what he said.
Even with good intentions, it sounds way more benevolent and beneficial than privilege. What’s more helpful is helping people understand what privilege is alluding to and how you are in the privileged because you do not have to think about race in the same way.
[Giglio] has definitely admitted his shortcomings and his need to learn. There's so much more growing that needs to happen. But this was a sincere attempt in that direction.
You have a lot of white evangelical fans. How do they respond to you on questions of race?
Four or five years ago, I began to speak very publicly about racial injustice. And I was met with silence or discord by white evangelicals. A lot of my shows were canceled, and people just refused to support me. I was kind of flabbergasted. My family and I took a financial hit. I had to kind of deconstruct my faith and reconstruct it. There’s some historical trauma in that space that I’m still navigating.
I had to stop listening to the leaders I was listening to, including evangelical leaders, and find new leaders of color that I could hear from a new perspective. I needed to understand how my faith and my ethnicity merge together. It was harder to understand that in these predominantly white spaces.
Will this change how you engage?
I think so. I hear the pain of so many people. It is a long process. It is the fragility of not being able to say ‘privilege’ because people can’t hear that — it’s a problem in and of itself. It encourages me to kind of draw my line in the sand on certain things and just let the chips fall where they may.
Do you still want to keep engaging in white evangelical contexts?
We get frustrated when white evangelicals don’t speak up. There’s not a lot of listening going on. One of things I try to do is highlight black leaders that people should listen to and study. This needs to be a time where [white evangelicals] listen and learn, and not a time when they’re leading.
Why do you think the discussion at the church focused on awareness of racial inequity but didn’t dive into specifics on issues like police brutality?
We all are tired of conversations. I think that that is where a lot of white evangelical leaders feel like that’s where the plane can land. I think there’s fear of approval and fear of finances. They’re afraid of losing money. They’re afraid of losing members. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had a low approval rating before he passed away, but he was on the right side of history, and I think that’s what’s going to have to happen for white evangelical spaces.
Giglio asked you if you felt encouraged that white evangelicals are speaking out and speaking up during this time. Are you?
Sure, they’re speaking up. But speaking up it is not what we’re after. This is kind of like getting my shoe shined. That’s not what I’m asking for. I’m asking for Chick-fil-A stock security, which I mentioned. We’re asking for them to become allies and allow people of color to lead, especially in the fight for racial injustice. You need word and deed. You said that black lives matter. We need to call you out on what you said and ask you to show or account for what you said.
What was it like for you when Cathy shined your shoes?
The dynamic that I was battling with, and I’m not saying this was right, was, I’m in your backyard talking to your people. I’m trying to be respectful, but I’m taking a backlash. It’s a gesture of sincerity, but that’s not where people are. Brothers and sisters are quick to come up with a solution instead of listening and allowing people to learn what they actually need in those moments. It was on the fly having to be the representative of black America. It was a lot.
Does white evangelical support for President Trump make it difficult to engage in these environments?
It makes me uncomfortable when white evangelicals think as though I am somehow brainwashed or colluded by political misgivings and that somehow I don’t care about the unborn. And liberal Democrats have somehow taken over my brain. I’m not a Trump supporter. I’m not a fan of the character that’s been displayed by him. But at the same time, I’m not a Republican or Democrat. So I’m not a party supporter either, but I am above the issues at hand. I was blind to the fact that white evangelicals and Republicans and Trump were so intertwined with faith.
Do you see an awakening among white Christians right now?
It partially is a watershed moment. But I’m interested in the long haul. My experience over the past five years is a disdain for me speaking out about race, inequality and injustice. I’ve experienced being labeled a liberal. Then there’s the ‘what about isms.' What about this? What about that? You want to talk about black on black crime, being in the communities, doing the work? You’re not there. I’m there.