Do I Matter to You?

“I’m sad.” Last week I texted those two simple words to my friend, with no other explanation. Immediately she called back to ask what was wrong and to talk about whatever was bothering me. It was a meaningful moment, not just because I got the chance to talk it out, but because it showed that my friend actually cared. Imagine though, had she replied back, “everyone gets sad.” Or “children get sad.” It would be bizarre and dismissive. I’d question how much she cared about me. I’d wonder why she felt the need to respond that way. If you express something important, you would presume that those who care for you would refrain from countering with a reply that pulls focus from the issue at hand. If you stated that your sister died, could you imagine a friend saying “everyone dies”? It would be unfathomable for someone to respond to a friend that way.

Yet this is the struggle felt by Black people who are grieving the fact that our lives appear expendable. We have been systematically excluded from various sectors of society through formal legislation for centuries. And though many of those exclusions have been addressed on paper, the systematic injustices that are woven into institutional structures don’t magically evaporate with the stroke of a pen or passage of a vote. They were deliberately embedded in the country’s creation, so they need to be deliberately dismantled. And the attitudes of those with authority – particularly in law enforcement – continue to perpetuate many of those injustices. Black people are disproportionately stopped by police.[1] Black people are disproportionately killed in police interactions.[2] Black people are disproportionately given harsher and longer sentences for the same or even lesser offences as compared to White people.[3] Black people are often excluded from jobs and other opportunities even if they are similarly or even more qualified as compared to their White counterparts.[4] So when Black people declare that our lives matter, we are expressing the pain of these realities and so many more that we bear on a continual basis. Black people are tired. We are distraught.

But our message of sadness is often met with “everyone gets sad.” Our cries that our people are dying are met with “everyone dies.” That’s the dismissive message conveyed by “all lives matter.” When we cry out how egregious it is that those pledged to protect and serve are the ones who are inflicting harm on our communities, we are often countered with examples of “Black on Black crime.” This is despite the fact that intra-racial murder rates are statistically similar between races. Which means that White people are killed by White people in percentages comparable to the rate at which Black people kill Black people.[5] Yet we never hear White people talk about “White on White crime.” And it would be absurd for someone to suggest that police shouldn’t treat White people humanely unless there are no White criminals, White school shooters and White killers. Black people are saying that we are in pain, yet some non-Black people are dismissing, deflecting and participating in all manner of mental and verbal gymnastics to avoid acknowledging that pain.

Also, some still think this pain is not a worthy topic of discussion for our church. This is despite the fact that Black people are a part of the church. Do non-Black people think that Black Adventists are somehow unaffected by discrimination because our baptism insulates us? Do they think we are not endangered because our church membership acts like a protective shield? And even if the people whose murders have been publicized aren’t individuals who are members of an Adventist congregation, why should that deter us from being concerned? If a person’s non-Adventist relative dies, do you withhold condolences because they aren’t a church member? What some non-Black Adventists don’t seem to understand is that intersectionality exists. Being a member of the Church community does not preclude the fact that we are also members of the Black community.

I used to be a huge proponent of integrated conferences. And you will often hear people say that the Adventist Church has no moral authority to speak about racial issues in the wider society as long as segregated conferences still exist. But before we can be integrated organizationally there first needs to be changes within hearts and minds. The unwillingness of so many of our non-Black Adventist brothers and sisters to acknowledge the realities faced by Black Adventists is exceptionally draining. A comedy show called “A Black Lady Sketch Show” has a character, Chris, who has a hard time saying “yes”. In any given situation, he’ll say any and everything BUT the word “yes”. Then he often gets upset when people point out his failure to say the word. I feel this same frustration with people who refuse to acknowledge that Black lives matter. It’s almost as if there is an inexplicable but deliberate attempt to AVOID saying the words that Black lives do matter.

Us: Black lives matter.

Them: All lives matter.

Us: Yes. And within that “all”, Black lives matter.

Them: Children’s live matter.

Us: Black children exist too. Their Black lives matter.

Them: Black...

Us: yes...ok you can say it...

Them: lives...

Us: ok... you’re almost there.

Them: matter is Marxist.

Us: (sigh)

Clearly this isn’t behavior demonstrated by all non-Black people. And this certainly isn’t reflective of all non-Black Adventists. There are plenty of brothers and sisters of all racial backgrounds who have committed themselves to being active allies for equality and anti-racism. However, the prominence of several who have this mindset makes it an unwelcoming environment for Black people. I’ve listened to Adventist media personalities espouse racist tropes. I’ve seen posts by prominent Adventist ministers make light of protests by joking that they should have a church service in defiance of health mandates by simply lying and claiming that their worship service is “a protest.” On articles about acknowledging Black lives, I’ve read comments by teachers in Adventist academies deflect from issues of racial inequality by purposefully attempting to re-center the discussion on unrelated topics. And there have been countless times that ministerial colleagues have echoed white supremacist talking points in public sermons as well as private conversations. Knowing that these perspectives are harbored at every level of the church organization is more than disheartening – it’s frightening. Do I want my friends to sit under the preaching of someone who thinks the Black struggle is humorous? Am I willing to enroll my child in the class of a teacher who refuses to recognize that, for Black children, growing up in a world that takes them for granted makes it vitally important for them to know and hear specifically that they matter?

It appears that some non-Black Adventists seek excuses for avoiding the declaration that Black lives matter. Some say that that they can’t bear to also acknowledge Black lives matter because there’s an organization of the same name whose founders have values they dislike. Imagine being homeless and starving. There are two buildings on the block. In one, some supposed atheists are spending time giving out food. Meanwhile, a church is spending time preaching to the hungry about how bad it is that the guys down the street are atheists. Who would you think actually cares about the hungry?

This is how folks sound when they preach about all the people who are in the BLM organization. Black people are dying yet many in the Church think the best use of their time is preaching about how the founders aren’t Christians. People who do this are only detractors. If you don’t have any solutions then you’re only impeding those who do.

Some people who aren’t Black feel that verbally recognizing the value of Black lives somehow devalues their own. In truth, it doesn’t diminish anyone else to actually say that Black lives matter too. And no, it’s not sufficient to merely declare that “all lives matter” because the “all” in “liberty and justice for all” excluded Black lives. And the “all” in “all men are created equal” excluded Black lives. And even within the Adventist church, the “love for all mankind” excluded Black lives from segregated churches and hospitals and schools. The truth is, there would be no need to unambiguously hear that “Black lives matter” if there hadn’t been hundreds of years of our society – and the church – expressing and demonstrating that Black lives don’t matter. And if non-Black Adventists are recalcitrant in their refusal to say that, we aren’t going to make any progress towards repairing the racial breach within our own denomination.


[1] See: and

[2] See: and

[3] See: and

[4] See:, and

[5] See: and


Courtney Ray, MDiv, PhD is an ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and President of the Society for Black Neuropsychology. 

Previous Spectrum columns by Courtney Ray can be found at: 

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thou art a brave soul, but I fear the wind is strong against you.


This article brought up succinct points that matter greatly when anyone actually witnesses one of them personally happening to someone close emotionally to them. However, when one is not close enough emotionally to someone, and any of the many examples given in this article occur, they fail to have a personal ‘stake’ in the outcome. Children raised in a multiracial/multicultural daycares only develop consciousness of the differences if their family/caregiver brings any differences between their friends up pointedly and repeatedly. Maybe we need to ‘become as little children again’ emotionally or have an in person experience that causes each individual to truly comprehend and feel the differences one on the varied continuum of cultures and races that we share this earth and God’s love with as one people to change?


Looks like “Woke Marxsism” is filtering ino this forum as well!! :frowning:

Agree with the basic premise about acknowledging the pain of black people when such atrocities are shown and offering support. Much more needs to be done.

It’s unfortunate though that a discussion involving all the facts and issues involved is effectively prohibited in the current environment as is demonstrated daily by sackings and de-platforming of people who say the “wrong” thing unless they have the “correct” identity.

Is it not possible that most of the problem with policing is driven by poor selection, training etc etc rather than racism? Of course some cops are racist but cops of color are no less likely to shoot a black suspect.

Blacks are disproportionately likely to be killed by cops (25% vs 13% of population I believe) but 50% are white. The names of the approximately 500 white people killed each year are not known to the public and the media has no interest in putting out that footage. One horrific George Floyd type video will have greater impact and influence on our understanding of the situation that hearing about the deaths of 100 people without the power of the video replay.

A public conversation and understanding is oft called for but if one attempts to tease apart the facts as we know them in an attempt to improve policing for instance, people get shut down if they don’t recite the acceptable mantra.

Black urban communities are disproportionately affected by crime and violence. Given the current circumstances I’m not confident of the ability to overhaul policing in the US. Who would see it as an attractive career at this point? Without improvements in police pay, recruitment, training and oversight African American communities will once more pay the highest price with increased criminal activity and violence.


That sounds bad, what is “woke Marxism”?

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Dear Dr. Ray,
It is unfortunate that many dodge this issue.

Nobody should be invisible, and no one would want to be. Such a condition is undesirable, unbearable and benefits no one. We are enhanced with the richness of diversity. The Creator so made our world.

I am glad for the patience so many people of color have had, including time and again speaking up to explain to white people who are in denial, how our culture disadvantages blacks and minorities. How hard, indeed how dangerous it is to be a person of color in America. How the privileged are often oblivious to their own advantages. The burden, not only of racism, but of also counteracting it, seems to fall disproportionately on those least able to bear it or with fewer resources or options to address the situation. Kudos to all who are trying valiantly to open our eyes.

You matter to me, Dr. Ray. Black lives most definitely matter!

And this is a matter that the Church should be foremost in speaking out
about. The everlasting gospel advocates for it. And the image of Christ in the Church will never be inclusive nor in focus nor complete as long as the rights of some are ignored.


Our SDA organization has a history of racism. The ugly Washington Adventist Hospital incident and some of the posts on this Spectrum are enough to come to that conclusion. My People we are in deep trouble. It’s full time to bring more diversity at the GC level. I believe that we should elect a qualified woman… and if possible a black woman as the next GC President. E.G. White would have approved. Any second?


There is no precedent in the Bible to sanction such a move to appoint a woman as the head of a church. Ellen White would always go by the majority vote, that means, she would not approve, but you can still try!

I just have to say that my opinions of the overall moral character of the Spectrum community has been massively altered in the last year or so as hidden attitudes have been more clearly revealed. I know nobody cares, but I’m done with this forum. There is no light or life left in it, only dead men’s bones.

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Where in the Bible can I find the precedent that says only a male should be the leader of the church? Jesus appeal was whomsoever will m a y come… man woman …white, black, yellow every man or woman may come and lead others to him. That is the precedent that I read in the Bible. Every member should be engaged in soul winning and E.G. White recognized her calling and precedence whatever that is never stopped her.

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Hi Matt. Don’t be too quick to indulge hopelessness. These are not the times to caress our happy impatience. In every dialoguing community outlier voices often seem to predominate, but they take over only when sensible voices like yours quit in frustration or protest. Stick around to make the forum better.


I feel the frustration of the author and I completely understand the need to “feel” like you matter. Everyone wants that. But I’m torn because how do you acknowledge someone’s pain if you disagree with the basis for that pain? You matter! Jesus’ death in the cross tells us all that definitively!! Does my “Feeling” like i matter depend on how someone treats me? It shouldn’t, but I get why it affects us.

2 quick points…

  1. I want to help you feel “mattered“
  2. I disagree with the reasons why you feel Like you don’t matter

If I feel disrespected based on a faulty premise, are you obligated to sympathize with me even though my reason for feeling disrespected isn’t accurate?

I truly don’t know


If you’re an Adventist, you believe that, when people die, they neither go to heaven, purgatory, or hell, but that they “go” nowhere; they enter an unconscious, non-living state. Christian commentators call this “soul sleep.”

So, let’s say that, at work, you come across a person who’s sad that her mother just died, but is happy that, “She’s in heaven, right now, with my dad, praising God in glory.”

  1. You want her to feel comforted.
  2. You disagree with the reasons she feels comforted.

What do you do?

The answer should be simple: If you are a kind person, you aid her comfort.

This doesn’t mean that you say, “I’ll bet she’s doing loop-de-loops around the throne!”

But, it might mean that, if, six weeks later, when you ask how she’s doing, she says, “I’m sad, @Yoyito. I miss my mama,” that you sit down with her and say, “Tell me about her. What was she like?”

Or, you might say, “Let’s talk over lunch,” take her somewhere to eat, and pay for it.

If you read Courtney Ray’s essay, it’s fairly clear that she’s in distress. So, how would you comfort someone in distress? Do you you check to see if you agree with the politics of every person that you comfort?

Black people wouldn’t care if you, or white people, don’t think police brutality is real, or even if you don’t think racism exists, IF they derived the same social benefits as if you did.

Several weeks ago, when @Sirje objected to the call to say BLACK LIVES MATTER, I told her: There is no magic in the words, "Black Lives Matter."

If you don’t want to be part of Black Lives Matter, or say the words, don’t. Start your own group.

Start the Black Lives Should Not Be Maliciously Eradicated By Police, Especially When Those Black People Are Unarmed, And We, As White, American Taxpayers Will Do Our Best To Make Sure That Any Person, Especially Any White Person, Who Allows Or Enables This To Happen Will Feel Our Undiluted Fury And Wrath…Movement.

Start the BLSNBMEBPEWTBPAUAWAWATWDOBTMSTAPEAWPWAOETTHWFOUFAW Movement, and put those initials on a sign.

Or, come up with your own acronym, do the work that has the same effect as my proposed title, above, and proclaim that work and its necessity loudly, and with strength.

I don’t know Dr. Courtney Ray. But I strongly suspect that, if you do that, you will never get an argument from her…or even one from Black Lives Matter!


Do not make a case for Priest & Levite-ing your way out of this (Luke 10:25-37), because to do so—not in this order—is not respectable, is un-American, and is against God.


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Joe Aldred: "Well, I have a pet theory that terms like microagression, for example, brings into play class. I think it’s largely privileged, middle-class Black people who talk about ‘microagression.’ You know: People who feel that they’ve made it this far, and there are some people asking, you know, ‘Where are you from? Where are you really from?’ You know: That sort of stuff.

"I have to say it’s something that, for example, doesn’t phase me at all!

"If somebody says, ‘Where are you from?’, I say, ‘Well, Birmingham,’ and if they say, ‘Where are you really from?’, I say, ‘Jamaica!’ [laughs] It just doesn’t bother me.

"I think that…. You know, for the last maybe 30 years, I have steadfastly refused to be drawn into, what I regard as, the shallowness of ‘frothy’ Christianity; that seems to want every local church to have a mixture of different ethnicities, just because we can desire it!

"And yet, the power plays, rooted in some real evil, of the way Black people have been treated by the West, still are there!

"So when we play our narrative out, getting everybody into the same space, we know what’s going to happen in that space: Whiteness is still going to predominate.

"And that’s why, for me, if the church is, as Gavin [Calver] says, going to ‘lead the way,’ then I’d suggest, very humbly, that one of the better things that church can do, is to empower the weak.

"The prophets of the Old Testament were very clear about justice. ‘You must look after the widow. Look after the orphan. Look after the stranger. You must empower those who are weak.’

"Because, if we continue to suggest that the way forward is ‘white change’; a change of heart — and this, of course, this is a real danger, post- George Floyd: That we are so white-centered that, where we’re looking for change to come from is in the attitudes of white people — well, somebody says if you don’t learn from history, you’re likely to make the same mistakes.

"Well, we’ve been here before! We’ve been here when Martin Luther King died, and we’ve been here several other times, when we erupted, and we think, 'Ah, massive: This is a kairos moment!

"In my view, the kairos moment comes when we empower those who are weak to stand up, not when we continue to make a call for whiteness to be reasonable.

Whiteness is a power structure. It will never be reasonable. Not unless what is faces is a power, across the table, that can punch just as hard as it can.”

Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, excerpt (46:45 - 49:50) from, “Unbelievable? Is the UK Church racist? Chine McDonald, Gavin Calver and Joe Aldred,” Premier Christian Radio, Saturday, August 22, 2020


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The truth is that stating “all lives matter” is not a dismissive message. It is a clear and truthful message, and so truthful it is, that even Jesus himself died for all lives to have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The reason that message is considered dismissive by some is that it lessens any kind of impact intended by the “black lives matter” statement. It is likely that not much thought was put into the blm statement prior to it being made a loud cry for it really doesn’t state anything we didn’t already know. The blm statement is a set up for clarification and the alm statement is a natural and logical response. Unfortunately the set up includes setting up individuals for an emotional disparity when others respond with the alm clarification and that is an unexpected and hurtful resulting experience.
Could a better statement have been developed to more accurately address the social issues felt by blacks? Probably, but I do not know what that would be. Maybe something that would have addressed why law enforcement is even involved with blacks in the first place? Maybe a statement that would include how to respond appropriately when involved with a possible arrest? Maybe a statement that would include how to properly protest? Riotous Violence, looting, vandalism, and blocking roads is not lending a positive light to the social justice cause and in fact is contributing to the feelings of disparity written by the author of this article as these behaviors stir up and cause anger, not care and concern by the intended audience. I wonder what the impact on the public would be if thousands of protesters would, side by side, lay down and line the sidewalks everywhere with signs erect showing their words of protest. Imagine this taking place in front of the White House, in front of every police precinct. So much could be heard without a shout of any kind.

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There are two BLMs - 1) the concept that black lives matter; 2) the marxist organization that is totally political. The concept is not a problem, obviously. The BLM organization that will beat your brains in if you don’t mouth the words is an oportunist gang of hoodlums. All words matter - all actions matter - all life matters.


It is dismissive.

It is dismissive, to the degree that the Black people who hear it, as a response to the statement BLACK LIVES MATTER, receive it as dismissive.

Put another way, you may pop into your boss’s office one fine morning and refer to him as “Jim,” in order to convey conviviality.

But if he takes a staffer addressing him by his middle name as a sign of arrogance and disrespect, you saying, “It was meant to convey conviviality,” will probably not save you from emptying your desk.

The framework within which white people state ALL LIVES MATTER is not the same one within which Christ says, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)

To even pretend that such a flip and arrogant declaration has Christian pretensions is to denigrate, what is literally a life-or-death matter, with, apparently, hostile intent.

The reason that message is considered dismissive by Black people is because it negates the intended effect of the statement BLACK LIVES MATTER by dragging it down into the mud of white fantasy and wish fulfillment.

It’s an act of corruption, in other words.

Are you white?

I ask because you speak as though the statement BLACK LIVES MATTER was made for white consumption; “it really doesn’t state anything we didn’t already know.”

Based in my experience, that reads like the type of thing many white people would say.

Yes, I think you are white.

No, I don’t think that’s quite it.

I think the issue is that the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement was formed in response to the killing of unarmed Black people by police. The hope was that by making a short, pithy statement about the humanity of Black people, that Black people would become recommitted to the project of building their own humanity.

However, to a great extent, the white response, to the unarmed killing of Black people by police, has been what you, and many here on Spectrum and elsewhere, have offered: A debate about semantics.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. This is typically white, but also typically lethal.

It’d be like if, in response to this March 28, 1960 protest in Memphis, by striking city sanitation workers, above, white counter-protesters had shown up with signs saying WHITE GUYS ARE MEN, TOO.

The obvious goal would be to make fun of the protesters. Making fun of Black people is something that racists do, a lot, and to thunderous applause.

This is a great question.

I’ve never heard a Black person say, “We need a better slogan.” However, clearly, white people, many of them, have a different viewpoint.

So, what could a better one be?

I guess it depends on one’s objectives.

The objectives of Black people, in this instance, are to move the world to see their humanity, so as to create urgency for their just treatment.

As for white people, one of my mentors hypothesized that racism is, in essence, a set of white defense mechanisms; ones in which white people engage to assure white genetic survival. (I wrote a Twitter thread on this hypothesis, recently, explaining it in more detail.)

If true, then, perhaps, protesters should march with signs that say WHITE GENETIC SURVIVAL.

That way, it would remind people of what is at stake, and maybe everyone, then, would calm down.

You just lumped a lot of things together that don’t actually do so.

It’s kind of like saying, “Jogging, deer rutting, trick or treat, and laying down tar,” because they all take place near intersections.

It’s been done for decades, including at BLACK LIVES MATTER protests. Not an original thought.



In fact, @Sirje, there are over 7.5 billion BLMs: There’s the one that actually exists, plus there are the ones that every person on Earth thinks exists.

As I said in my earlier response to you, and above, I’m sure most white people would like to fine-tune the incipient organization to their liking.

But, if so, this is no different than anything white people have said about any entity, here, that sought to grant Black people dignity, including the abolitionist movement, including the anti-lynching movement, including the Civil Rights movement. (The same is true for similar efforts, everywhere; anywhere non-white people are subject to white dominance.)

As I also said, however, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Both versions of BLM, including the one you detest, believe that Black people should be able to hold their hands up and not get shot in the face by cops.

If you agree, then do something about this, please, and call it whatever you’d like.


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It all began in the garden, in the shadow of an apple tree.
The very first man blamed the very first woman.
History has shown-as has religion-that then it was open season on “the other”-
on those things that divide us.
Identity politics, spawned in the garden-the original, and chief sin-
Whether that is political choice, religion, melanin, gender, sexual orientation,
we’ve no shortage of useful foils.
Some have even perfected their sartorial skills and weave and spin artful fig leaves to cover their own donkey-which suggest they have surmounted the chief and original sin.

"nothing new under the sun"suggests we need to be stripped of this Melanesque Möbius calisthenics in order to be given new white robes-robes that can even cover my own far- too-white über-sinful “pew contacting anatomy”.

Or we can keep circling the mountain, in some ground-hog perpetuity, each blaming the other. The thinking that created the problem (discriminating/subjugating another) will never yield a different result.

Dare we take off our deer skins, our white skins, our fig leaves, our melanin shields? If we dare not, and continue to refuse the new robes, we will be stuck here. Recorded human history clearly has precedence here-while we garrulously forfeit our promised future (and implicitly blame god for making these conservatives, women, centurions, “others”).

To do so, we sow our witness;
Jesus’ life doesn’t matter.

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