Dr. Cliff Mack’s Reflection:
Based on our current cultural tension connected to the recent tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and the subsequent outgrowth of those deaths, a personal mission I have adopted is to apply James 1:19 — being “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” — to our current climate. I’ve had to take stock of my own worldview, emotions, biases, and areas where I have been partial (James 2:1-13) in order to intentionally and pragmatically engage in dialogue with those who do not share my same cultural background, ethnicity, expectations, and experiences. The desired goal for these conversations is to listen to someone else's journey, learn from their experiences, and hopefully share my perspective.
I’ve had to take stock of my own worldview, emotions, biases, and areas where I have been partial
Keith Huisman, CCA’s Athletics Director, extended an offer for coaches like myself to chat and dialogue; I immediately accepted the opportunity. With me being a 5’6 African American from Maryland and Mr. Huisman a 6’9 Caucasian from Florida, our view on life is naturally different. Over the summer, we discussed our perspectives and understandings regarding our current national cultural climate — the tragic deaths, cultural responses (constructive and destructive), how the Christian church should respond, and how the Athletics Department can respond and engage.
Mr. Huisman and I both have a desire and vision for our Christian student-athletes to be a part of a community that has a “culture of athletic excellence that trains student-athletes to glorify God in competition.” Based on our dialogue and concern for our athletic community, the big question raised by Mr. Huisman was, “What can we do?” I was honored and humbled to engage in this type of dialogue, which was an answer to my prayers.
the big question raised by Mr. Huisman was, “What can we do?”
Based on my training and worldview as a Christian school counselor, the key essential response I provided to Mr. Huisman is for us to provide a space for our coaches and athletes to listen to one another and share our personal narratives, experiences, and unique journeys. This space would help our students walk out James 1:19 by developing empathy and active listening skills, which are key for career placement and retention.
Unity over Uniformity
Mr. Huisman and I concluded our meeting with the idea of seeking unity. It is obvious when a team is not unified or operating as one team or unit. Any team that has achieved a championship level has faced hardship and conflict, however, a championship team overcomes conflict for a greater goal. As our nation and CCA community walk through this fall season and the challenges it may bring, may we seek unity over uniformity.
Yes, we put on the same uniform and prepare for athletic competition (being uniformed). However, may we pursue a higher goal of seeking unity in Christ, which starts by each one of us understanding our identity in Christ as image bearers (Imago Dei). God has gifted us with different colors, backgrounds, and cultures.
My prayer is that as we work on creating this safe space for CCA student-athletes to interact with each other throughout the school year, it would result in intentional conversations about race, culture, and viewpoints for the purpose of understanding and bringing glory to God. Seeking unity will require coaches to engage and model the act of having difficult, yet worthwhile conversations because players will ultimately engage with coaches and teammates in matters relating to identity and diversity.
As our nation and CCA community walk through this fall season and the challenges it may bring, may we seek unity over uniformity.
Keith Huisman’s Reflection:
Over the summer, Dr. Cliff Mack and I sat down for a conversation. It was a continuation from an initial discussion that occurred four years ago surrounding the Colin Kaepernick events.
A few weeks before our conversation, I sent an email to our coaching staff. Dr. Mack was one of them. In my email, I announced that in Calvary Christian Academy’s young history, student-athletes had never been permitted to make political expressions. The situation with Kaepernick would be no different. When wearing the Calvary jersey, we would represent CCA — not our individual thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. I remember a mother, a woman of color, confronting me with both strength and love. She questioned my decision, challenged my motives, and explained her position. She helped me see what I could not.
She helped me see what I could not.
Like our conversation four years ago, my discourse with Dr. Mack was equally respectful. We were both honest about our struggles with the topic and how our friends and family members have influenced us. Dr. Mack is one of the most diplomatic and intentional communicators here at CCA, and yet, I could see the tension in him. I too was wearing my emotions on my sleeve. Within a two-week period, we experienced terrible circumstances in which Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd were killed — circumstances that shook our nation.
To say that I felt some level of stress about how to lead a diverse athletic department in this season is an understatement. How does one lead in this?
As I spoke to Dr. Mack, he knew the answer, but he allowed me to arrive at it. While we interacted, the tension lifted just a bit. Here is a man of color that I call my peer, my colleague, and my friend who comes from a different background. We share some similarities, but we also have glaring differences. As we exchanged ideas and experiences, our individual circles in the Venn diagram began to intersect more and more. We had areas of disagreement, but we focused on where we agreed. As I considered our two, unique circles in the Venn diagram of our relationship, I imagined what it would be like if another circle and another circle and another circle were added to the discussion.
We had areas of disagreement, but we focused on where we agreed.
I agreed with Dr. Mack that we must come together and engage our student-athletes, teach, and model how we speak, but more importantly, how we listen to one another. We must provide a means for tension to be released in a healthy manner. We also agreed that respectful discourse can bring about unity, especially during a time in our country when division seems to be running rampant.
As the school year progresses, we will monitor the need for engagement and dialogue and organically foster an environment where students and faculty are welcome to gather and engage in constructive discourse on racism and other social issues. Our goal as educational leaders is not to teach young people what to think, but how to think. May we always filter the cultural issues of our day through the lens of our faith and the Word of God.
May we always filter the cultural issues of our day through the lens of our faith and the Word of God.