ATLANTA — During a recorded discussion this week, Dan Cathy, president of the Atlanta-based chicken chain Chick-fil-A, joined Louie Giglio of Passion City Church and award-winning CCM rapper Lecrae to discuss what they perceive to be racism, but more specifically what is often now being referred to as “systemic racism” in society, brought to the forefront by recent incidents, including Friday’s fatal shooting of a drunk man who fought Atlanta police officers in resisting arrest and pointing a taser at an officer before being shot. The matter has resulted in riots in the city where Chick-fil-A is headquartered.
The men did not specify what actions they believed to be racially-motivated, but Cathy generally opined that Caucasians should have a “period of contrition” in understanding how African Americans sense racism in the city of Atlanta and should empathize with the pain that the rioters are feeling over ongoing racial injustice.
“We are in a very special moment right now. The answer is not just for this to go off the radar screen, to go back to COVID-19, to talk about world peace, [the] environment — whatever else,” Cathy said. “If believe if we miss this moment, we have failed our generation.”
“Every generation has to take responsibility, and the generation of Martin Luther King, of Ivan Allen, Jr., who was the mayor at that time, of Robert Woodruff from the business community with Tom Cousins — every generation, someone had to pick up the baton of responsibility for the situation that we’re in right now,” he continued. “We don’t need to let this moment miss us. It has to hurt us.”
Last Friday night, 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks was discovered sleeping in his vehicle in the drive-through lane of a Wendy’s restaurant. Police were called to the scene, and Brooks was asked to move to a regular parking space. He was given a sobriety test as it was perceived that he was inebriated, and as he failed, officers sought to take him into custody for drunk driving.
“I think you’ve had too much to drink for you to be driving,” one officer states. “Put your hands behind your back for me.”
But when the officer went to handcuff Brooks, he resisted and a tussle ensued on the ground.
“Stop fighting,” the officers ordered Brooks. “You’re going to get tased!”
Brooks soon pulled the taser out of the hand of one officer and broke free, running across the parking lot. One of the officers seeks to stop him. Seconds after pointing the taser in the direction of the officers who were chasing after him — and apparently discharging it, he was shot twice in the back.
Brooks died of his injuries at a nearby hospital following surgery.
On Monday, Giglio called the Atlanta shooting a “new iteration of the injustice that is right before our eyes.”
“Everywhere you look in the world right now [people are talking about the issue of racial injustice],” he said. “It’s not a little side issue today. It’s what the entire world is talking about right now.”
Rapper Lecrae noted that some may wonder what the incidents in Minneapolis and Atlanta have to do with race and that some are seemingly “just arbitrarily bringing race into the picture.”
“History always informs the perspectives that we’re looking at,” he said, stating that African Americans have a “cultural collective sense” when a situation involves a person of color.
Lecrae said that when a crime happens involving a white person, it is not usually highlighted by Caucasians, but African Americans pay more attention to what is going on within their race.
“When one of our people from our people group is killed, we don’t just see this individual’s life being taken down. We see a historical narrative of this happening again and again and again and again,” he outlined.
“What we are seeing is, one, an issue of injustice of people’s lives being cut down, but then, two, part of a narrative that keeps being exposed to us on a consistent basis,” Lecrae reiterated.
He stated during the discussion that he believes the Church has turned a blind eye to racism, treating it like a “ghost in the room” and “old factory fatigue” from being accustomed to breathing bad gas.
“The injustices, or the way that a lot of things are being flushed out for my white brothers and sisters [is that] these are isolated events or political agendas,” Lecrae said. “[But] for my black brothers and sisters, these are evidences of a crock pot that has been boiling for years, a gas in the air that people are tired of breathing.”
Cathy advised that he has asked others in recent weeks if they have personally experienced injustice and how it feels. He stated that one staff member in the Chick-fil-A corporate office “pointed to subtleties” that she noticed at work.
“As a safe place as that is, we still have, whether it’s conscious or unconscious biases, that she felt she was not treated with honor, dignity and respect,” he lamented.
Cathy then asked Lecrae to share personal experiences where he felt he was treated unfairly because of his skin color.
Lecrae said that a police officer shot at him when he was 13, and he was put on a gang list at 14 because he was caught skipping school.
He stated that he was pulled over once and his seats were torn out because police thought there were drugs in the vehicle and that he was recently pulled over three times in Texas and chastised for “something small.”
He explained that such experiences “inform our relationship with law enforcement and help shape the way we’re perceiving everything that’s going on right now.”
“I can only imagine the emotional indignity,” Cathy remarked in response. “These are the questions that have not been asked [and] I believe that it’s led to a sense of apathy, indifference, [and the attitude that] it’s somebody’s else’s deal, this is about police shooting people. It’s much more than that. It’s about the grind of that kind of indignity and other expressions of it.”
Giglio opined that whites have difficulty understanding the feelings of African Americans because “none of us have lived a day of being black in America,” and many dismiss the issue of racism because they are not racist themselves.
Lecrae said that the Church should address the issues and consider “where we need to repent and where we need to listen.”
Cathy similarly stated that Caucasians should get involved as inaction is the reason why Atlanta is still struggling with racism.
“Until we, as Caucasians, until we’re willing to just pick up the baton and fight for our black, African American brothers and sisters, which they are as one human race, we’re shameful. We’re just adding to it,” 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.”
He advised that many African Americans in Atlanta struggle with poverty, are high school dropouts, are involved in homicides or suffer with HIV/AIDS.
Cathy said that Christians need to empathize with African Americans, comparing the matter to the story of Nehemiah, who was stirred by the plundering of Jerusalem but pondered and prayed about the matter before rising to build. He said that there should even be empathy for rioters who loot and commit acts of arson.
“I would say that we need a period of contrition and a broken heart in the city of Atlanta, and a sense of real identity, not just criticizing people who [were] burning down that restaurant last night,” he opined. “We’ve got a heart for the Rayshard Brooks and the others that you’ve mentioned.”
“We’ve got to have a sense of empathy to what led to this,” Cathy continued. “This is a tip of the iceberg of incredible amounts of frustration and pain that the whole spectrum of [the] African American community in some way or another can quickly illustrate … that most of us white people are just out of sight, out of mind. We’re oblivious to it.”
He repeated later, “My plea would be, for the white people, rather than point fingers at that kind of criminal effort, would be to see the level of frustration and exasperation and almost a sense of hopelessness that exists among some of these activists among the African American community. … There’s got to be some emotional response of understanding how exasperated and how hopeless people are feeling at this point.”
The three agreed that there needs to be a brokenness over what they see as an ongoing problem with racism in the country.
“Any expression of a contrite heart, a sense of humility, a sense of shame, a sense of embarrassment, begin with an apologetic heart,” Cathy said. “I think that’s what our world needs to hear today.”
Near the end of the discussion, he shined Lecrae’s shoes with a brush after telling a story about repentance.
“Our city needs to change,” Giglio stated. “Racism needs to die. And then the streets need to come alive with the songs of Jesus.”
Atlanta Police Officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan were taken into custody this week. Rolfe was charged with murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Public opinion over the matter has been mixed as some believe the incident cannot be compared to the George Floyd situation since Brooks fought with the officers and stole a taser.
“[N]ot every white officer who shoots an African American man is motivated by racism, and not every police shooting is a crime,” opined former Los Angeles and Detroit prosecutor Michael Stern in a column published by USA Today on Thursday.
“[P]eople should watch the video,” he said. “Then they should make their own assessments as to whether the officer was motivated by racism, or whether he was just a cop who was terrified and who tried to protect himself after being shot at with a taser that was stolen in an attack seconds earlier.”