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Letter to the White Moderate

Letter To The White Moderate

by Jason Janz

We are engaged in the largest civil rights upheaval since the 1960’s. The events in Ferguson, New York, and in many places we’ll never hear about have ignited a nation. My desire is to encourage sympathetic white people to use their voice and influence for change at this crucial time.

Sadly, I am not speaking to the majority of white Americans. According to Pew research, fully 60% of white adults do not believe race played a role in the Brown killing. Even after Garner, 48% of the whites do not believe race played a role in that case. I’m not sure what that group needs to see to be convinced, but it is what it is. I am speaking to 18% of the white population who believed race played a major factor in the Garner case, 16% who believed it was a minor factor, and 18% who don’t know.

If you are part of the 34% that believe race played some role (51,000,000 white adults), you ought to be deeply concerned. And I believe you ought to do something about it. You represent roughly 20% of the entire adult population in the United States. If you threw your weight around, things could change.

As a follower of Jesus, I’d like to remind you of the story of the Good Samaritan where he exhorted us to not walk by on the other side when we saw our neighbor in pain. It’s one thing to observe that we have a problem, it’s another thing to care enough to engage with and remedy the problem. Someone once defined compassion as “Your pain in my heart.” Can we feel the pain deep enough to actually do something?

The price of inaction is great. If nothing changes, we will continue to live in a society that still tolerates inequity and inequality. Martin Luther King, Jr., who is remembered on this weekend, had words for his enemies, but he had even more hard-hitting words for people who saw the problem but did nothing about it.

King makes a strong argument that the white moderate was really an enemy to the cause. To King, you were either a vocal supporter or you were anti-civil rights. He said, “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.” He goes on, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” King chides us today with prophetic words, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

What can you do? Of course you can write, call, post, march, vote, etc. But can I encourage you to do two crucial things first? First, listen. Place yourself in a position to deeply listen to the stories and feelings of people who’ve been oppressed by law enforcement. Hear it and feel it. Second, ask. Ask the oppressed how you can serve and then just do what they say. This article is not my idea. I was asked to do it by a friend who’s been hurt.

When you move to action, I want to encourage you to adopt a servant mentality vs. a leadership role. Historically, when sympathetic allies who have not experienced oppression take a central role, it has caused the movement to lose its edge. Frankly, we’re just not upset enough to be bold. So, let’s serve in the way that truly helps.

One way to get involved is to engage with a thoughtful, young impactful wing of the movement called the Denver Freedom Riders. We have designed a local conference here called Black Lives Matter on Monday, January 19th, after the MLK Marade in the McNichols Building from 1-4. Let’s show up, listen, ask, and act.

Jason Janz is a pastor at Providence Bible Church in NorthEast Denver, a multi-ethnic church. He participated in the 3rd Denver Freedom Ride with his son, Paton.

Sources:

MLK Letter From a Birmingham Jail

Article on Pew Study – http://jezebel.com/most-white-people-think-race-played-no-factor-in-fergus-1668476797

Harvard study on white involvement in civil rights – http://web.mit.edu/gtmarx/www/minmov.html

Teachers, We Thank You

teacherthanksThank you for a great year of hard work. You put in 12-16 hour days for nine months and it shows. My children know more stuff, understand more of their world, and have been impacted by your life and they will never be the same.

Thank you for working at night and on the weekends. When we see the homework folders brimming with papers and we see your packed school-day schedule, we are keen enough to know that you are putting in hours beyond the classroom to make learning happen. That means a lot to us.

Thank you for all you did when nobody was looking. Most of what you did everyday was not observed by another adult. But it matters so much that you did your best for the sake of the kids. As a dedicated teacher, you gave it your all because you knew that every day mattered.

Thank you for putting up with the system. You are more scrutinized than ever before and, it seems, less appreciated. Testing, evaluations, assessments, and longer school days make your job grueling. We’ve got some changes and improvements to make in American education and your patience and perseverance through this stage is appreciated.

Thank you for being diligent under less-than-perfect leadership. No principal, superintendent, or political leader is perfect. Decisions are made upstream that affect you. Political fights and policy decisions are often not implemented well and you bear the brunt. We are grateful that you demonstrated grace in keeping those factors at bay for the sake of our kids.

Thank you for not quitting in the middle of the year. The temptation was probably there and the grass probably looked greener somewhere else. However, it would’ve been so disruptive to our children. So, thanks for sticking with it.

Thank you for doing the extra things to bring life to the classroom. Throwing that class party, instituting that rewards system that got everyone pumped, and giving permission to dress all crazy that one day made a difference. It helped us get them out of bed in the morning and made the whole process a little easier.

Thank you for seeing potential in our children. We need a village to help us see all they can become. In our village, you are a trainer of little warriors and the hero of their hearts. They believed that you believed in them and that made a difference.

Thank you for telling us the good stuff. The stickers you gave them, the certificates you bestowed, and the upward trends on report cards made us feel better. As parents, we feel highly inadequate in our calling. Many times, we feel like absolute failures. We needed to hear those positive words more than you know.

Thank you also for telling us the bad stuff – for reaching out when you were concerned about my child. We are painfully aware that they are not perfect and we want to know when they need correction. The note, email, or phone call meant a lot and was the warning bell we needed to have a talk with our child. Thanks for being on the team with us as we seek to raise our children the best we know how.

Thank you for speaking into the heart of our child. We gave you a sacred trust and you stewarded it well. You taught them without talking down to them. You encouraged them without letting them coast. You corrected them without crushing them. You loved them without limits.

Thank you for loving all the kids, not just mine. The community of a classroom is a cherished space and you made it a family. Thanks especially for serving the kids who come from difficult home situations. The time you spent with them was perhaps the best time you spent all year. You were a constant presence of love in their life when they needed it most.

Thank you for forming a relationship with my children. You are more influential than you know. You have formed a forever picture on the memories of their minds.

Oh yeah…and thanks for teaching. It is a true art and your mastery shows.

Now, ignore the people who deride you for having a long break. You more than deserve it. Please take at least four weeks and do nothing – no professional development, curriculum planning, continuing education credits, or sketching out next year. You can love our children best by stepping away from it all for a little while for some recreation. Recreation is not simply having fun, it’s re-creating yourself. It can be defined as refreshment of strength and spirits after work. So, rest and refresh. We’ll need you back in the village soon enough.

Jason Janz is married to Jennifer. They have four boys in 2nd, 5th, 7th, and 9th grade. This year, they also had three foster boys live with them. In the mornings, six of them went off to five different schools to be taught by twenty-five different teachers. They are grateful!

It’s Messy…And There Seem To Be No Easy Answers

by Jason Janz

After working in the city for past six years, people will often ask me a question about the homeless wondering if they should help someone flying a sign on the sidewalk. They don’t know if they are helping or hurting

homeless-sign-500-20

if they give the guy money. This question doesn’t just stop at the sidewalk. It is at the root of a lot of the issues we run into in the city (and increasingly in the suburbs as poverty suburbanizes). It happens almost daily in this work – a perplexing question comes up and there seem to be no easy solutions. We all want the right answer! A lot of times there is a tug-of-war between our empathy and our logic, our heart and our head.

For example, here are examples of things that came up this week.

  • We found out that one of the recipients of our college scholarships is homeless. He’s 55 with diabetes and the weather is freezing. We put him up in a hotel for two weeks and then moved him to a shelter. But he walked out of it upon arrival. He said he’d rather ride the bus until 2:30am, walk around until 4:30am, and then get back on the bus when they re-started until it got warmer. “That’s better than sleeping on a concrete floor.” He muttered that he was thinking about giving up on everything. How long do we pursue him and how do we help?
  • We work with a single mom of one of our Boy Scouts who used money from the sales of our fundraiser to repair her car to the tune of over $500. She has paid back $200. How much should we hold her accountable for?
  • We are friends with a mother in our refugee ministry. She is living in a terrible place but the resettlement agency tells us not to encourage them to move apartments. Do we violate the “rules” for the betterment of this woman?
  • We suspect that some ex-offenders are using our free bus tickets and selling them for alcohol. Our office manager caught some guys selling them at the bus stop before. How does he know who is legit and who is just “shucking and jiving”?
  • We find out, third-hand and perhaps hearsay, that a former foster child was perhaps neglected and it resulted in her disease symptoms increasing. Do we report this as potential child neglect or was it just a normal parental mistake or is it just a ticked off relative giving a bad report?
  • A recently re-settled refugee child has been in his new home for two weeks. The agency is demanding that he see a trauma therapist immediately. However, the adoptive mom doesn’t believe that is best right now due to his need to adapt to a new home, a new country, a new school, new food, etc. Even though she believes in trauma therapy, how long does she put them off (and tick them off) for what she believes is best for the child?
  • A single mom with four kids totaled her car. She has to borrow a 15-passenger van to get around but it’s sucking too much gas and costing her too much. Her employer is phasing out her position next week. She needs a job, a car, and some hope. We have 20 families in this program. Many have needs. Who do you help and how much?
  • The school district has just fired the fifth principal in six years at the local elementary school. At what point do you start a riot on behalf of low-income kids getting screwed out of a good education?

I thought I would get to the point where I would know the right answers to all of these issues. While experience helps us make wiser decisions, I don’t believe we will ever reach a point where we “have it all figured out.” And I think that’s a good thing. Sticky issues help us to engage our values, our brothers and sisters, our minds and our hearts to try and do what’s best for our fellow man.

*Here are some good aids that have helped me process these issues.

Our good friend at the Issachar House, Scott Lundeen, produced this video.

http://www.urbanentry.org/index.php/videos/ue1-anything-helps

 

When Helping Hurts

http://www.amazon.com/When-Helping-Hurts-Alleviate-Yourself/dp/0802457061

Raising Kids In The Urban Environment

People ask me about raising kids in the city all the time. I took my son to a community meeting tonight and a homeless woman came and sat by him. When I turned around, I saw this. They say that fostering empathy in kids at a young age influences them for life. I believe that Champlin Janz is and will be a compassionate, transformative leader!

champ and woman

Man In Black

Man In Black by Johnny Cash

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin’ for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen’ that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen’ that we all were on their side.

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin’ everywhere you go,
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything’s OK,
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black.