Dan Cathy, conservative billionaire CEO of fast food chain Chick-fil-A, urged white Christians to take advantage of the “special moment” in American history now, to repent of racism and fight for their black “brothers and sisters” in the wake of ongoing protests over the police killings of Rayshard Brooks and other black Americans like George Floyd.
Brooks was shot dead by an Atlanta police officer at a Wendy’s parking lot on Friday night just three weeks after the death of Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. Floyd’s death set off global protests against racial injustice and police brutality. Brooks’ death also sparked fresh protests in Atlanta throughout the weekend including one on Saturday night in which protesters burned down the Wendy’s restaurant where he was killed.
“I think we have to recognize we are in a very special moment right now that the answer is not just for this to go off the radar screen, go back to talking about COVID-19, to talk about world peace, the environment, … politics is going to be coming up here this fall. I believe if we miss this moment we would have failed in our generation,” Cathy said during a robust conversation about race in America just two days later on Sunday at Passion City Church in Atlanta.
In that conversation were Pastor Louie Giglio and rapper Lecrae Moore, popularly known as Lecrae, whom Cathy asked to share his personal experience with racial injustice.
“I don’t need the media to tell me that this is a problem because it’s a reality that I live,” Lecrae began.
“The first time a gun was pulled on me by a police officer I was 13 years old. And I was unarmed. I was pushed on the ground. I had a knee in my back but this was just my reality. At 14 years old, because I was caught skipping school I was put on a gang list. I didn’t know what was going on. My mother had to go to the police station to explain to them, ‘just because he’s skipping school does not mean he’s out participating in gang activity,’” Lecrae said.
The rapper also recounted how “not too long ago” while driving to perform as a Christian artist at a concert, he was stopped by police who ripped his rental car apart.
“I was pulled over because I was in a rental car, I could assume there were all kinds of different reasons why but my car was strip searched and they tore all the seats out of my car and I told them I’m not doing anything wrong and they still didn’t believe me,” Lecrae said.
“The car was strip searched and they said ‘no dog’s alerted, there’s drugs here’ and they found nothing and then they left me to put all the seats back in the car and move on about my business,” he recalled.
He also talked about being pulled over three times by police officers in a section of Texas while driving across the country but never given a compelling reason for why he was stopped by officers.
“It left me wondering what in the world is going on. Why is this? What’s going on here? So I said all that to say, most personal experiences, and I can name countless others of all my friends, all my black friends of course, inform our relationship with law enforcement and help shape the way we are perceiving everything that’s going on right now.”
Cathy responded, “I can only imagine the indignity, the emotional indignity, I can only imagine it.”
The Chick-fil-A CEO said he believes that because white people have not asked enough about the experience of black people, their response has been one of apathy and indifference.
“It’s somebody else’s deal. This is about police shooting people, it’s much more than that,” Cathy said. “It’s about the grind of that kind of indignity and other expressions of it.”
He explained that in recent weeks he had been having deep conversations with black staff members at Chick-fil-A and has learned about the “subtleties of these indignities or injustice expressed even in a corporate setting.
"Even in an environment like Chick-fil-A. That’s where, that’s what’s put so much edge about the situation.
“We’ve got a real bad situation. We don't need to let this moment miss us. It has to hurt us. It has to hurt us. And 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,” Cathy, whose company is headquartered just outside of Atlanta, said. “We’re just adding to it. 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.”
Cathy further noted that before white people start taking action to help in the fight for racial justice, they must also go through a “period of contrition.”
“I think before we start to jump into action we need a period of contrition and a broken heart in the city of Atlanta and a sense of real identity. Not just criticize the people that are burning down that restaurant last night,” Cathy said.
“We got a heart for the Rayshard Brooks and the others … We’ve got to have a sense of empathy of what led to this. This is the tip of the iceberg of incredible amounts of frustration and pain that the whole spectrum of the African American community, that somewhere or another that can quickly illustrate Lecrae, just as you did, that most of us white people are just simply out of sight out of mind. We’re oblivious to it. We cannot let this moment pass.”