PINELLAS PARK (FOX 13) - This week, a Pinellas Park church, which has a history of civil rights activism, put a message on its marquee. Those 11 words - in black and white - brought a red hot backlash.
"If you are white, use your privilege to fight for justice."
Good Samaritan Church's pastor, Reverend Jennifer Daysa said the church had been reading and discussing books about racial injustice in America.
"We really came to understand white privilege in a way we have not before," Daysa explained.
She said white privilege is special treatment many do not even realize they're getting. She gave examples including how people are treated in stores or by potential employers.
"It comes from the climate in our country, and the feeling like we are not finished talking about race," Daysa explained. "Most have disagreed with us. Most have called us reverse racists."
The sign, which is on a busy street in Pinellas Park, caught lots of attention. Some positive, and some was negative.
Some comments on the church's Facebook page approved, saying it was bold to strive for justice, but other commenters did not: "You can't call for inclusion and push half of the people away," said one.
FOX 13 spoke with some people who saw the sign.
Stacy Salizar said, "I just think it is absolutely ridiculous to put a race on anything, especially having to do with church."
Another person said, "To call white people privileged is racist. Privileged is collecting welfare checks and burning down cities."
Rev. Daysa said this particular response was ironic.
"In one breath, they are calling us racist, and in the next they have the wide, sweeping stereotypes about other races, and I think that has brought up the real need for having this conversation," she explained. "We have been willing to step out there and put ourselves on the line and start some new conversations."
The sign was up for several days, but Daysa said the message is routinely changed, which it had done by Friday. She added, this was not the first message about white privilege her church has posted.