Black Lives Matter street art in Los Angeles

God. Family. Country. And #blacklivesmatter.

Cross-Cultural Competency Training

In the early 2000’s, I gave my first cross-cultural competency training for our church leadership. That’s what it was called back in the day before I had deconstructed my faith and I knew fancy words like “active anti-racism” or “passive racist.” I was proud to have researched some Arkansas African-American history. Two professors who were sociologists at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock had given me tons of material to integrate. I even attended a 4-day training titled “Healing Racism Institute.” I watched and studied the Brown Eye/Blue Eye video which was $600 per tape at the time. I was eager, nervous, and yet overly confident. I was ready to teach really nice Christians how to change the world around race. I was prepared with slides, Bible verses, charts, and icebreakers.

I was not prepared for her anger though.

She had asked to meet with me because she was *really concerned* about some things I had said in my training. She wanted me to come over the next day to her house at a certain time. I declined. The anger in her voice gave me caution. I asked instead to meet at the church. Neutral ground. Obfuscated, she agreed. I had a sickening feeling as soon as I saw her tight jaw come through the door.

“You need to remove some information from your training. It is unnecessary and, quite frankly, offensive. I don’t know WHY you want to bring up the past like that?! What does that accomplish?! We just need to move forward and get along. Why shame the United States? Why shame my alma mater?”

“Which parts of the training did you think are unnecessary?” I asked, voice shaking.

Silas Hunt.

She didn’t like the part about Silas Hunt. The first African-American student that had become accepted at a white Southern university, the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in 1948. He broke the color barrier in higher education and started the integration of colleges and universities in the South. I had watched his documentary and found out that upon enrollment he could not attend classes with other white students. Instead, his professors would go down to meet with him in the boiler room to repeat the lectures they had taught upstairs.

The boiler room.

Boyyyyy, that made her blood boil.

I used kind words to explain that it was an example of systemic racism. I had researched the history of the land. I saw no problem in telling the truth about history to better understand the present fight for Dreamers in Arkansas to be able to attend state colleges upon high school graduation. The bill was on the floor, and the brave and courageous Senator Joyce Elliott (African-American) at the time had stated in a local Spanish newspaper: “I remember when the government used to have its boots on our necks before Central High was integrated. I want Latino children to be afforded the opportunity to get an education. We can’t just tell them they have to go to school through high school, but subsequently drop them after that without the ability to get a college education.” (paraphrased from memory!)

I will spare you the rest of the details of how this white woman in her late 60’s felt about affirmative action and how a foreigner like me shouldn’t be teaching U.S. history in the church. I didn’t know which one she hated more–the history or that I was a foreigner. My hands were shaking. I had never seen anyone so mad at me before. She repeatedly cornered me to remove the material from further trainings. I pushed back as strong as she pushed me.

“In my house, we hold 3 things as bible: God, Family and Country, and you’ve offended my country.”

The next day she and her husband, who happened to be an elder, left the church.

That was the first time that I faced an angry white, Christian woman. It was also the first time an elder’s wife and her husband would leave a church because of a 24-year-old me.

It wouldn’t be the last.

For those of you who have become awakened to the work of active anti-racism in the rise of protests due to the unjust deaths of #AhmaudArbery, #BreonnaTaylor and #GeorgeFloyd: Welcome and Warning.


I’m glad you’re here. I really mean it. I’m honestly concerned that some think this is, all of a sudden and God-forbid, trendy. I’m not saying anything that I haven’t said before in almost 20 years of working racial reconciliation as central to the gospel of Jesus Christ in and through local churches, mostly in the South. However, I gotta tell you the words that matter most, the words of Jesus in Luke 9:23:

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”


Be ready to pick up your cross, bring your nails and the hammer. Be ready to count the cost of following Christ in this work. Be ready to see the backs of people walking away from you, storming out a door and even slamming it. It could be the church doors, your house doors, your office door, or your classroom door. Time and time again. Be ready to lose friends and family, loved ones and those you have worshipped with in the sanctuary. Be ready for the long e-mails putting you in your place, with the patronizing tone and the patronizing text. Be ready to know the difference between when people want to debate and dismiss versus dialogue and learn. You need to know the difference to know when you need to walk away with your head held high for your own mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. You are not a punching bag. I learned that too late.

I’ve got more to say, but for now I encourage you to listen and learn before you lead in this work. It’s a marathon. Find your community of people that you will do this work with and show up when it’s time to show up. Show up to the Quinceañeras, the piñatas, and the cookouts where we cultivate community. I don’t trust people I haven’t eaten with and who haven’t eaten my food. Showing up won’t always be in the streets and in marches, but in the daily mundane things: in the office, in your home, and around leadership tables. Someone once said that “the revolution will not be televised.” Show up for the non-televised moments that are also building blocks for the televised movement. Follow leadership of color. Learn solidarity and submission to people of color, especially women of color.

I hope to see you here in 20 years when the hashtag isn’t trending anymore. It’s hard work, it’s holy work, but it sure is church work. We need all disciple’s hands on deck.

grace and peace,


5 thoughts on “God. Family. Country. And #blacklivesmatter.”

  1. Well written, and well done! Your work and your heart are beautiful and bring G9d glory, Ines. I’m in this with you, and am learning, growing, and above all, listening. Plus, I have plenty of power tools!

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