How to Heal the Pain When You Can't Feel the Pain

How can you heal someone’s pain, when you can’t feel someone’s pain? There is pain deep within our faith community and our university campus. And the truth is most of us can’t feel it. How could we possibly feel it? We’re white.

Years ago a friend gave me a book that I never got around to reading. Until a few days ago. It’s Paul Kivel’s exploration, Upending Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice. One glance at the title and I knew that this wouldn’t be for me—since I’m not a racist, since I see little if any racism around me, so why should I worry? That was over twenty year ago. Now the book speaks volumes:

It is not necessarily a privilege to be white, but it certainly has its benefits. . . . Privileges are economic “extras” that those of us who are middle class and wealthy gain at the expense of poor and working class people of all races. Benefits, on the other hand, are the advantages that all white people gain at the expense of people of color regardless of economic position. . . . [J]ust because we don’t have the economic privileges of those with more money doesn’t mean we haven’t enjoyed some of the benefits of being white. (28)

Kivel runs through a checklist of such privileges: we’re able to count on police protection rather than harassment; we’re able to choose where we want to live with safe neighborhoods and decent schools; we’re “given more attention, respect and status in conversations than people of color”; in news, music, history books and the media “we see people who look like us” in a positive light; we have more access, credibility and recourse with lawyers and courts; “nothing that we do is qualified, limited, discredited or acclaimed simply because of our racial background,” et al (28-29).

And white privilege begins in childhood: people around us will have higher expectations for us as children; more money will be spent on our schools; we’ll get called on more times in class; we will see people who look like us in our textbooks; “and if we get into trouble adults will expect us to be able to change and improve, and therefore will discipline or penalize us less or differently than children of color” (29).

Kivel concludes: “All else being equal, it pays to be white. We will be accepted, acknowledged and given the benefit of the doubt. Since all else is not equal we each receive different benefits or different levels of the same benefits from being white” (29).

How can you possibly heal someone’s pain, when you can’t feel someone’s pain? 

Ask the Good Samaritan. The crime victim was a Jew, and Jews hated Samaritans—so why should the Samaritan bother at all? He couldn’t feel the victim’s pain. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. observed about Jesus’ parable: Whereas the priest and the Levite fretted, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”, the Samaritan asked, “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” (Let the Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. 140).

What will happen to her, what will happen to him if I don’t stop and pour myself in their pain? It’s the Golden Rule hammered out in the crucible of another person’s pain. The Samaritan knelt beside the victim and administered (ministered) to him the emotional and physical intervention the brutalized man desperately needed. And in his self-sacrificial love for his “neighbor,” we see not only the truth about Christ who knelt beside us, but the truth Christ calls His radical followers to embrace: As you would have others treat you, you treat them.

There is a pain deep within our faith community and our university campus. It may not be your pain—but until it becomes your business, the pain—plain and simple—cannot and will not be healed. In the school. In the church. In our own hearts.

Update: Since this blog was posted, the University has released the following videos as part of the ongoing dialogue on this campus - Official University Response | President's Remarks During Thursday Chapel

Comments

I admit I'm guilty of being white. It isn't my choice. I have benefitted by it as listed above. I don't like being depicted as being a bad person because of it. I don't think I need to apologize or confess anything about it. I'm not guilty of segregation, slavery, lynchings, discrimination, or beatings. I'm not sure any of my friends of color would appreciate me sympathizing with their color and "disadvantage". Am I wrong to treat them as I see them - that is, as other people that are like me? Because they are like me, just a different color. If they told me about an incident in which they were treated unkindly or unfairly, I would be angry at the offender, as I am when a white person tells me about being mistreated. I don't see it complimentary to someone to look at them as someone to be pitied. I admit that I go out of my way to be friendly to people of color because I know they may need to have acceptance shown to make up for times it is denied. I long for the time when the color doesn't matter, when Joe is just Joe, not Joe, the black man. With my friends, their color doesn't matter to me. They don't need my pity. They are as capable as I am.

PS. I will get the book, Upending Racism, because I expect it will tell me what to change about my behavior regarding feeling their pain.

It's hard to face this reality of racism anywhere in the world , but in the church of God ?

Generalizations are rarely as effective at changing attitudes as specific evidence is. Tell the stories, the personal, individual stories that reveal the pain that racism causes. And tell them from both sides. There is pain on both sides. Unfair treatment of an individual because of race is wrong; unfair accusation of an individual because of race is also wrong. Help both sides understand the pain their attitudes, words, and actions have caused the other. And then point us all to the One who asks us to forgive as He has forgiven us.

Something to consider... As a person of color, I do my best to be objective. But I struggle with Caucasian people who respond to people of color's expressions of pain regarding racism they've experienced with "We've been hurt, too." To say that there is pain on both sides may be true, but there's a difference between, for example, the pain a rape VICTIM feels and the pain or trauma that may have caused someone to become a rapist. And even if we're going with the narrative that none of us are our ancestors (i.e. there are no living slaves or slave owners, etc.), we're all still the products of those very different experiences. It's incredibly difficult to be sympathetic to a Caucasian American's claim of pain from "unfair accusation" when being black in America carries the weight of unfair accusation and all other sorts of racial discrimination 10 times over. And to be told by Caucasian Americans that the only way we can be heard is if we are kind and docile and willing to listen to their side of the story is kind of outrageous to me lol To be frank, there APPEARS to be this view that the pain black people experience from racism at this point in time is equitable to the pain white people experience from racial prejudice. And the expectation is for black people to take the high road. It's almost like I'm being slapped by someone who tells me "The Bible says to turn the other cheek" when I get mad about it. Like...yes, the Bible says turn the other cheek and no, being slapped doesn't relieve me of my responsibility to respond in a Christlike manner. But the person who slapped me doesn't get to get on a soapbox and tell me what I need to do better without taking responsibility for the fact that my being slapped started the whole mess in the first place. Bottom line, these issues exist because white American created a system of race-based discrimination that put themselves at the top of the racial strata and everyone else at the bottom. That system and its effects still exist today. Racism is so much more than "segregation, slavery, lynchings, discrimination, or beatings". It's a system that allows White America to hold everyone who constitutes "other" to a standard that they don't have to live up to. Personally, I don't need anyone's pity. I don't need anyone's apology. I don't need to be understood, either, because my experiences are my own regardless of the color of the person who's on the outside looking in. But you know what would be nice? It'd be nice for white people to stop using the faults and imperfections of the black community as justification for why they don't need to see themselves...why they don't have to do better. We're not your problem. It shouldn't take anything on our part for you to take a minute to look outside of yourselves. It takes literally nothing to ask a black person to give you some insight and to just be quiet and listen as opposed to being defensive and finding ways to justify what you think you already know. You can't say that you "care about everyone" and then exhibit behavior that makes people feel less than valued/loved. Actions speak louder. And yes, it's my responsibility as a Christian to be kind to people no matter what, but sanctification is the work of a lifetime. It's by God's grace and by His grace ALONE that His love constrains me to love and forgive people who don't extend the same courtesy to others while demanding it for themselves.

I would like to hear your story, Marie. That's what I asked for: stories. It's hearing each other's stories that brings understanding between people.

I just heard pastor's sermon and believe me am so happy that this subject is actually been talked about, I have had bad experiences because of my colour and sometimes i wished am not black. society always reminds me am black, at school and at work. I walk into an interview and the expression i get is 'oh she is black'. I walk into a recruitment agency to look for a job and i am been offered a job of a cleaner, whiles i am a degree holder who can and deserve a corporate job. sometimes because of our colour we cannot move on the corporate ladder because the boss position is not for us. I can go on and on, I look forward to the day when Jesus will come and there will be no black and white. God bless you Pastor

You talk about the Good Samaritan, Pastor Dwight, but you fail to mention, that he DID NOT take him to his home...he set him up in a hotel to be taken care of. I'm finding a lot of these conversations to be very ironic and so very filled with hypocrisy...you as a very white pastor, preaching on the benefits of being "too white"... as if for some reason, we should get on our knees now and beg for forgiveness for being born with our skin color. There's some irony.... Let's take some statistics....Approx 12-13% of the US population is African American. And OF that percentage, approx 52% of that population creates or commits crime. Should we talk about Chicago? Detroit? {These numbers are just a quick Google search, they were the same basic numbers in 3 very different articles.} You quote Kivel, about being mistreated by law enforcement....and after being married to a police officer...of course, there are bad officers, just like in every profession...but in the whole, they are a group of wonderful people, that have chosen to serve. Why? I have no idea...I wouldn't do it. I would challenge you to do a ride a long with them, it opens a whole new perspective on what they face day in and day out. I will say, if I am stopped by an officer, I do as they say. I follow their direction. It's called respect for authority. I believe there is something even mentioned in the Bible about authority...(Romans 13:1-7), just because you don't like it, doesn't mean you don't do it. I never owned a slave. Neither did my family, or my families family. In fact, IF we want to get down to it, my family was so poor, we would have been out in the fields as well. I think history is conveniently glossed over, that it was African Americans that trapped and sold other African Americans into slavery. Doesn't make it right. But there were African American slave owners back in the day, as well. If you are going to address it, let's have an open and honest conversation. #2. I don't care what color your skin color is. If you want something, get out and earn it. Go to school. Get a job. There IS NO FREE LUNCH. STOP ASKING FOR HANDOUTS. I tell my kids this. It's truly sad that it's come down to this. And it's truly sad a respected, beloved Pastor has decided to throw his hat into the ring of political divide. This is not unifying.

Bella, my thoughts exactly and as far as I'm concerned it's all a Storm in a Teacup.

I appreciate your comments Bella. Several points in your comments interested me. #1-when we talk about crime in the cities and areas where crime is high, it cannot be overlooked that there is a high concentration of Blacks. It's in this inner cities that the establishment has withheld the necessary funds to provide equitable education. It's back to seperate but equal. If they won't allow us to be educated and when we are in schools, teachers talk down to us, it has an adverse effect on the very psyche of a person. #2-you speak of us getting out and work for what you want. That speaks right to the point of the white privilege the pastor was speaking of. We DO want to work, but just because we're Black, no matter how qualified we may be, we get turned down from job after job after job. You all never have to face being turned down because you're white. In fact, because you're white you get the job...whether you're the best qualified or not. We don't want people to pick us for the job because we're Black. We want the world to really look at us for WHO WE ARE... not what color we are. That's the whole point of the discussion. At every level of our lives, we get shafted just because we're Black. I/we don't want pity, we want parity!!!! My wife and I have been discriminated against several times because we were even moving into a mixed neighborhood, because we're Black. You would NEVER have to deal with that. You can live wherever you want to, JUST BECAUSE you're White. There is just no comparison that I can see, to compare the lifelong experience we face in the world at large, then to come to a school or church populated by people who say they have the truth and treat their CHURCH BROTHERS AND SISTERS like dirt and then tell us to just get over it. I appreciate the fact that the conversation is being had. Pastor Nelson was right in that it really is simple though. Chose to treat each other the same. Chose to sit with someone of another color. Chose to invite a person of another ethnicity home for dinner, call out someone of either color on their disrespectful comments about someone of another color. We must all reach out and be intentional about getting to know each other

Interesting. What I know is that in the SDA college where our daughters go to school we as whites pay full fare and daughters work hard for their grades and have jobs to pay for their classes, while many of color get their way paid scholarships and grants, and they sluff by. Many don't work and fool around and play. I guess I am making reparations. Thank God our daughters are learning about hard work. Wouldn't want their handouts.

Excellent sermon on Feb 25,and I totally agree, however, only half of the story. The other side (black or any other minority race) needs to meet half way and do their part. Many of the other side have huge chips on their shoulders. I understand those chips are there often because of experiences they have had with white people, however, they as well, need to learn to forgive and give the whites a chance to redeem themselves. I have been a Manager with a group of very multi-cultural employees, one of whom asked to have temporary work restrictions on her job. I said I would support her request but it needed to go through proper channels and be heard by Occupational health, human resources and the union. At the meeting she sat with her back to me and answered my questions with one word answers, till the union rep took her out and spoke to her. I would hate to see how she would have treated me if I were against her. Most of us have had to work hard and save our pennies to get an education. My husband did not get an education because church school and college (SDA) would not accept him because his parents did not have the money in hand to pay the year, and they were white. Many blacks have made it out of sheer determination and hard work, Dr. Ben Carson as an example. I know many more personally. It can happen if you are determined. I have no problem assisting, but I expect to see initiative, and respect in return. (I know there are many that do, and I know I am generalizing, but sometimes we have to , to get a point across). I take my hat off to those that put forth a concerted effort in the face of historical peril. I know it can be difficult, not discounting that.

Thank you, Pastor Nelson, for sharing. I am heartened to see and hear of the changes planned for the Andrews community. As reflected in the comments here, there are some who don't see it as a priority to view and treat others as they would wish to be treated, but this message must be carried forward. May we live and BE the message of hope, reconciliation and unity that we preach about. Until that day!!

Bella and SS, I am so thankful for your posts. They are very revealing. As a SDA Christian, I praise God for His precious promises found in His word! Please refer to Ecclesiastes 12:13 & 14. I'm homesick for heaven; that glorious place where there will only be love, joy and peace. May God help us to strive for excellent relationships on earth so we can have perfect relationships in heaven.

I'm not entirely sure what your comment means... Or what you are insinuating. But please do take that beam out of your eye, before commenting on mine. I have known Pastor Dwight since he was a Pastor in Salem, OR. For you to preach a sermon about white privledge, is really quite comical. You've never dealt with active prejudism, where they are judging you for the color of just your skin. I listen to you demanding people to get out of their straight back pews and go 12 miles up the road, where people are withering on the vine...yet there you sit, 20 years later....telling people, oh so humbly, that Karen and I just got back from Italy...or we walked on those rocky beaches of Jerusalem (you know to the house of James and John). ..you, who we all looked up to in that, oh, so righteous, ivory tower, now speaking on the highly toxic and divisive Black Lives Matter. Oh but wait...we Adventist's, we don't get involved in political matters. No. We won't get involved with young people who would rather kill themselves than be accepted in a loving church environment, because they are gay. But a militant movement, now that's acceptable. Now there's something to look up too. Nice. I hope this sermon session was worth it. Because this was not unifying or reconciling. I hope surveying your land from your ivory tower in the land of hypocrisy was worth it. I hope your petting the sheep reward filled your adulation meter... It's truly sad to say, but it sure seems like the race in question is the one with the biggest axe to grind. And, this is a new discovery for me...a big ole eye opener. Most of the Health Care Professionals I work with are African Americans...and oh my goodness, they have chips the size of bolders. It is what it is. So Mary, I am fine with your Eccl 12:13-14 text....I love Jesus with all my heart. And this is part of what shocks me so much...the disappointment in my church, the disillusion in my pastor. He doesn't know what he doesn't know, yet is speaking about it.

Here's a secret though....ALL lives matter to Jesus!!!

Dwight, to buttress what you think is racism and white privilege from the pulpit only enhances your standing with a certain group and their sympathizers. How sad. Your dujour for the militant Black Lives Matters crowd indicates an attempt by you to gain an advantage within a highly politicized environment. Why? At any rate, I have a challenge for you. If you feel “we” have so benefited from “white privilege”, move from your ivory tower, sell all you have, and go to the south side of Chicago, Detroit, or Benton Harbor, for that matter, and start a church. Anyway, most ministers’ change churches every four years. Your “white privilege apology tour” along with others is counter to what I experienced at AU many decades ago. Blacks back then had the same advantages as they do today. Better tracts to graduate schools, better scholarships, and better job opportunities, etc., in the form of racial preferences and set asides. Shouldn’t they apologize for their “black privilege” or at least be thankful? Their complaints and modes operandi hasn’t changed in 40 years. It has just gotten louder and more militant (E.g., BLM, #ItIsTimeAU). Didn’t we just have a black president for 8 years? These black students at AU have just morphed into their Palestinian youth equivalents. Dwight, you said that you’ve seen the Holy Spirit’s footprints all over this “apology” and “reconciliation.” I guess I see the exact opposite. When your church, at the end of your sermon so applauded the sermon you gave, I hope the adulation you received was truly worth it.

Its sad to see our Adventist Universities falling under the same foolish deceptions as the world. The myth of white privilege is a cancer that separates people, creates unnecessary barriers between races, and advances a culture of victimhood. How sad to see the mouth of a man ordained to preach the gospel tainted with such dross. You have mixed the worldly with the heavenly and cast the former down into the mud of human reasoning. Read your Bible, leave the world, its prince, and its books alone, and do not advance this mixed and tainted gospel to impressionable minds.

This is the extension of Pr. Dwight's downfall. I think he will be benefited by leaving alone the books of evangelicals and read his Bible and SOP. I hope someday he will wake up see where he is heading. May God help him.

In response to http://www.pmchurch.tv/service/2017/02/25/finding-jesus-gathering-dark-6, I praise God for having courageous people in this world in this present time of world history. I want to say thank you to Pastor Nelson for being one of those people, who demonstrate Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” in action. What Pastor Nelson is doing is walking the talk, which is the duty of true Christians, after all Christ was crucified for demonstrating the true character of God. May God bless you more abundantly until Jesus returns. Prayerfully, Lemlem

Bella, I hear a lot of bitterness, jealousy, and contempt in you post, I also find it very revealing.

Regina, Hey Regina...No jealousy or anger...only a lot of sadness and pity. For too long, I thought Pastor Dwight walked on water and when he preached his sermon, "Any Bush Will Do", I believed him. After going through the Adventist school system, paying for my children to go through the same, I'm beginning to wonder if Revelation isn't talking about the Adventists instead of the Catholics.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name. may you find Joy

Is there a reason why the video of the sermon has suddenly disappeared online? More people would still like to see it. The criticism that Kivel is anti-Christian and therefore should never be listened to regarding white privilege is a distraction. His articulation of race issues is substantive.

Pastor I truly loved and appreciated your sermons. However, I felt very uneasy about the "white privelage" sermon. I'm sorry, I have nothing to relinquish as a hard working working white woman. I feel no privelage, having to struggle in reaching goals. Hard working men and women of all races whom fear God do not see race as God does not see race. Those that want more without working for it see race and use it as an excuse. Born and raised in the Texas Panhandle and border of New Mexico, as a minority-there was/is no white privelage; no sir, your "white privelage" thought is an opinion, not a fact.

I don´t quite get why there should be an apology for something that no one is guilty of having done. Pain? Sounds like they feel sorry for themselves, for being black. That´s a totally different issue. If someone has been mistreated, speak up! Who did it, when they did it, what they did, why they did it, where they did it. Not something back in the 60´s though, something current. Otherwise things are going to start getting more complicated. For example, who is going to apologize to Andrea Luxton for being a woman and becoming the first woman president AU has and for having had to live in a "male rule" working environment? Who? Ted Wilson? "I´m sorry Andrea. Did we make you feel bad with our all-male coments and banter in the hallways? So sorry Andrea. We didn´t know you were over hearing us. What can we do to make it up to you? More women in leadership perhaps? Is that what this is about?! AU has a black Provost. It has black/African American professors. Are they saying someone purposefully made it such that there aren´t enough of them? So what if they are not a significant percentage, transfer to Oakwood if you want to see more! Life will certainly be better there. Oh, but wait, black people discriminate each other based on what tone of black their skin is? Who is going to apologize for that one? It sure seems like the creators of that video feel sorry for being black. That´s not this comunity´s fault. Blacks can study at AU, they can get a degree if they stick to their studies. Do the video group not have enough classwork? Are they even actually students?! No one asked to be born with the color they are, or to be born on the day and age they were born, or to be born in the country they are born in. Things are a lot tougher elswhere where the grass seems to be greener. Stop feeling sorry for what you have. We are asked to live with what we get and make the best of it. Certainly complaining to my neighbor and asking HIM to apologize for what I got is overstepping.

Pastor Nelson, I thank you so much for being courageous enough to speak on this sensitive topic. After reading the responses from your sermon on white privilege in our country/world, it shows how important it is to have more courageous Christians/Seventh-Day Adventists like you. Some of the responses from some so called Christians/Adventists are just alarming. This clearly explains to me why we still have a long way to go in bringing social justice and equality in this country. They're denying the struggles that people of color like me are facing every day. I'm shaking my head reading some of these comments. We have to pray for this church and these folks. They don't seem to get it. My recommendation to them would be to take a quick look at the history of slavery that ran for over 400 years in this country. It just not too too long ago in the 60s when segregation or "Separate, but Equal" was still very prevalent in this country. For sure we have made some progress as having a first black president has proven that, but one cannot deny that we still have racial issues in this country, and white privilege is still a fact. As a black woman, I feel that there is hope, because of people like you, pastor Nelson. I am sure that you don't want any recognition or credit for that, but I must say that God is using you to reach our dying world. Of course there will always be people who will continue to hardened their hearts against receiving and accepting the truth. There will still be these people until our Lord returns. We just have to continue to preach the truth and fight for social justice and equality for all as you have done pastor Nelson. May God help our church! May God continue to bless your ministry as you stay strong and courageous against all adversity. God bless you pastor Nelson!

Forgive me pastor. Normally I keep my mouth shut. But saying I am evil because I look white is a bit much. Yes, I am part European, and Jewish, as well as part native American. When I was young my mom , sisters and I lived in black neighborhoods. As I see it advantage goes to the non whites. Some of my friends are black. I see no difference between them and my other friends . So many for many years have told me how great non-whites are and how bad the whites are . Instead of playing this political game. I chose instead to read scripture. In Romans it says "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23 This verse which is all race inclusive tells me that all mankind is guilty of inhumanity to mankind no matter the color of their skin. The answer is Jesus . He takes the guilt away and gives purpose to life. Plus with Christ in the life, leading a persons actions, a person will treat all people with honor, respect and the love of God. Please make this your message in the future.

Hello Pastor Nelson, I was told of this sermon by one of the Elders of my Church in Guyana. (formerly British Guiana) and ohhhh.. I am so glad God used you to preach this message. Friday coming i am going to play this message to our viewing audience in as far as the signal can reach to our television audience. I plan to ran a campaign to have this sermon play in most of our churches across the country. I think the time has come for for such a message like this. I am a reporter and television producer and i can tell you, we have a big racial problem in our country between blacks and East Indians and this have split our country in half since the 50s to now. This Message is powerful for such a time like this. May God bless your ministry. Ps. If there is anything you would like me to do, in this new campaign to spread the message, let me know.

Thank You Pastor Dwight, for that message. Some will appreciate it and others will not, but we have to move forward, and keep God's commandment to LOVE one another. When we do, we will treat others the way we want to be treated. Based on the comments, it is obvious that some are not yet willing to accept the fact that they are privileged, so let us Pray for those people. Some of these comments reminded me of what Gandhi said about us: " I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ" As Christians, We need to set good examples. Thanks for being a Good example.

Wow, such racism here in these comments but it was the white "evangelicals" and "religious" right who gave us Trump and company. I wish you were all more familiar with the Gospels and not this phony prosperity gospel that has caused SO much suffering in the world.

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