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Pinellas Park church’s “white privilege” message draws ire from closet racists

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A church in Pinellas Park is catching flack for a message on its sign calling on white people to use their “privilege” to fight injustice. The reference to white privilege has a bunch of white people in a tizzy claiming, get this, that it’s discriminatory.

Yep, you read that right. Some people think a church wanting to fight institutional racism is discriminating against white people. This is probably one of the reasons Pinellas Park, despite having some quite lovely neighborhoods, gets a lousy reputation for being home to a bunch of gun-toting, Confederate flag-wielding, racist rednecks.

The sign read, “If you are white, use your privilege to fight for justice.”

“Doesn’t the Bible state he created us ALL in his likeness? It does not specify that some people will be less than,” wrote white Facebook user Daneen Klenert. “I’m concerned that the image this church is presenting through their racially charged signage is only adding to an already strained issue in the world.”

There are loads of white folks who would read that and think, gosh, there’s a sister who stands in solidarity with the black community and wants us all to be equal. They’re the sort of people who take to Twitter to push the #AllLivesMatter hashtag.

Yes, we all should be equal and yes, all lives do matter. But that’s not the point. The point is, even in 2016 there are still entirely too many people, policies and even household items and children’s toys that, intentionally or not, promote inequality.

Black Barbie dolls are not the norm. There has to be a special section for black hair care products. Parents of black children have to warn their kids not to walk with their hands in their pocket lest they get gunned down for maybe having a weapon and to hold on to receipts in case they get accused of shoplifting.

Black children are more likely to grow up without a father, more liable to wind up in jail and less likely to get a good education. Black males are arrested far more for marijuana-related offenses than white men despite the fact that white dudes have been shown to be more frequent pot users.

These things still exist, and they create problems most white people don’t face. But a bunch of entitled white privilege deniers just don’t seem to get what should be taken as a positive message.

“God made white people,” wrote Anna Larson leaving out that (assuming God is in the people-making business) He made black people too. “Privilege is breathing. God gave us all the same tools to build our life.”

Another Facebook user wrote that he was here for his privilege.

“I figured you could tell me where to find it. Because I am wondering where it was when I was broke and homeless, scratching, clawing and punching my way out of a bad situation,” wrote Hector Ruiz.

What Ruiz is missing is the broader argument. Plenty of people find themselves having rough times. Some get out of it. Some don’t. And they can be from any race, culture or sex. But black people are more likely to be in those situations.

This message landed the Good Samaritan Church a host of bad reviews claiming the message was pushing away “half or more of the people.”

An earlier sign posted at the church in honor of Martin Luther King Day perfectly explains what so many people seem to be missing.

“White Privilege: If you can’t see it, you got it.”

After seeing a negative comment on that sign, Pastor Jen Daysa attempted to explain.

“We feel called to ask all our white fellow Americans to work with us in actively rejecting and working to end the system of racial injustice that bestows privilege unjustly and undeservedly on us,” Daysa wrote.

Another Facebook user, Jill Albee, then posted comment after comment lamenting the message was basically bashing white people to lift the black community and invoked the tired argument that white people suffer too.

Daysa repeatedly tried to explain the issue to Albee (also white, by the way) to no avail. In one post, Daysa gave a simple example: When you go to the store looking to purchase flesh-colored Band-Aids, they don’t come in black flesh.

Albee took offense to the example even writing that President Barack Obama doesn’t want black Band-Aids.

Really? If you had the option of camouflaging a bandage on your skin, wouldn’t you take it? Sure, it’s no immigration or health care debate, and he’s probably not losing sleep over having to wear white people Band-Aids, but wouldn’t it be great if he had the choice?

This kind of narrow-minded thinking is exactly why movements like Black Lives Matter exist. It’s precisely why people who truly want to end injustice against minorities talk about the concept of white privilege.

It is not an affront to white people.

To Pastor Daysa and all who support good Samaritan Church, kudos for being bold and drawing needed attention to an issue far too many people think has been solved. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just because we have a black president does not mean that a 17-year old black man walking down the sidewalk will no longer draw hairy eyeballs from people assuming he’s up to no good.

To anyone else who found the church’s messages offensive, I’ll just leave you with this comment from Kelly Danyl.

“Why are you taking it so personal? Fear of losing power? Afraid of someone of a different race being equal? Your posts reveal the prejudices and race issues in your hearts.”

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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