Alan Cross on Rethinking White Privilege and How We Are Really Blessed

Kimya Hogarth, of Silver Spring, Maryland, holds a sign during a protest in Washington, D.C., at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on June 19, 2020, to mark Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the day in 1865 that enslaved black people in Galveston, Texas, learned they had been freed from bondage, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Alan Cross is a Southern Baptist pastor, writer and the author of “When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus.”

Perhaps it’s time for white American evangelicals to rethink what privilege and blessing mean to us.

On Sunday (June 14), Louie Giglio, a white evangelical pastor, held a panel discussion on race at his Passion City Church in Atlanta, sharing the stage with Lecrae, a black Christian rapper, and Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A. When the term “white privilege” came up, Giglio recognized that the concept was hard for some white people who don’t feel privileged to grasp.

“I feel like on the inside of the church we’re fighting this historical context you (Lecrae) talk about,” Giglio said. “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’s asking me to do, to die to myself, and live for him, whatever context that’s going to look like for me.”

With that setup, Giglio talked about turning the blessing of the cross “upside down” to reframe white privilege for white Christians. What he said next inadvertently started a social media firestorm.

“We understand the curse that was slavery, white people do, and we say ‘that was bad,’” Giglio said, “but we miss the blessing of slavery that it actually built up the framework for the world that white people live in and lived in.”

On Tuesday, Giglio apologized, saying he was wrong to describe the advantage that white people gained from years of slavery and oppression as any kind of blessing. He admitted he had a lot to learn and that he had only wanted to help white people understand that white privilege was real.

The basic concept Giglio was trying to explain is that America’s history of racial oppression against people of color didn’t stop favoring white people with the end of slavery. Our racial history has had an effect that lasts to the present day. Ruts and barriers were dug and erected repeatedly to maintain white people’s dominance socially and economically over black and brown people.

Louie Giglio
Louie Giglio. Photo courtesy of Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers

As Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith said in their landmark 2000 book “Divided by Faith,” “The United States is indeed a racialized society, always was in the past, and in many respects is becoming more so.”

By changing out the words “privilege” and “blessing,” Giglio, in a forum directed at white evangelicals, tried to flip the phrase around so they might understand the concept. Instead, he missed the mark entirely. How can anything from slavery be seen as a “blessing”?

But there is something more fundamentally wrong with how Giglio used the word “blessing” that impacts our views of race on a deeper level.

It should be obvious, first of all, that slavery can never be a blessing. Abraham Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, raised the possibility that the devastation of the Civil War was God’s judgment on the evil of slavery itself. If the nation’s strife continued, the president said, “until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword as was said 3,000 years ago so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”

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Source: Religion News Service