Eugene Cho

can i just wear my darn shirt?

How ironic that on the day I was wearing my “Africa” shirt, someone emails me these images. Its’ either amazing timing or someone is a stalker. I’m really hoping it’s the former.

My initial vomitaceous thoughts:

  • Yes, we all care about image.
  • Can I just wear my darn shirt?
  • Everything can be criticized No one and nothing can hide.
  • But cynicism aside, can we try to see the “good”?
  • Are there such things as cynical prophetic voice?

Check out the shirt below. What do you think?

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18 Responses

  1. Ben from TIC says:

    I don’t like altruism being co-opted by Starbucks. Just buy our products and you’ve done your penance. Corporations have adopted charities because it’s good marketing and it makes them look good and green. Regarding t-shirts, there is a sense that it becomes more about fashion than about the cause. I remember I wanted the same doctors without borders t-shirt that Jeff Tweedy wore. At the time, I didn’t know anything about the organization, I just wanted to be cool and be the only other person wearing that shirt besides Jeff. Since then I’ve found causes that are near and dear to my heart to support and I’ve never gotten the t-shirt. But, perhaps the t-shirt incentive was a stepping stone for me to find a charity to support?

  2. mo says:

    Yeah it sucks when corporations like Starbucks get involved in charities, simultaneously raising awareness and generating orders of magnitude more money for the cause. The nerve of those people to co-opt MY charity…

    As for the shirt, whatever man. The only way to fight cynicism is to keep doing what you’re doing. Wear your shirt and wear it proud. I have a “i ❤ NY" shirt, even though I haven't been to NYC in a decade. I still wear it tho. Who? Because I ❤ NYC.

    If you ❤ Africa, wear the shirt. All the naysayers are saying is that they ❤ crapping on other peoples' parades.

  3. Kevin says:

    In terms of the above shirt — worse case scenario is it’s just a clever idea to make a few bucks. I don’t see it becoming a huge fad. Best case scenario it causes those of us who do buy and wear shirts tied to causes to evaluate why we wear them. Are we doing it just to appear a certain way or are we wearing them to sincerely promote the work of an organization, etc.? If it’s for promotional purposes, do we know enough about the organization/cause to share more with people if they ask about our shirt?

    I personally would love to just wear shirts that promote what I believe in. If someone is offended by it, so what. If someone is influenced/inspired by it, how cool is that? Plus, they often do raise money at the same time.

  4. I LOVE THAT SHIRT.

    Yes, I have a big cynical streak, and I also have a near vomitous distaste for what I perceive to be the common thread of socially-acceptable liberal activism in the Pacific NW (really, mostly Portland and Seattle).

    So yes, I think that shirt is awesome.

    Knowing you and knowing some things about ODW, I don’t think you should feel bad wearing a shirt that promotes ODW or World Vision or any charity that is doing great work in Africa, as long as there is a reason why you think that organization is good and/or is doing good work, other than “my roommate told me they’re good” or “I saw somebody at the Genius Bar wearing one.”

  5. Chris says:

    I’ve heard things like this from people before…a lot of it is from To Write Love On Her Arms shirts. They have become the popular “brand” in the music industry and people feel like people wear them to be cool or trendy or to look like they support a good cause but they might not even really know what TWLOHA is about. So the question is all publicity for a company, non-profit, cause, etc good? Sure there are going to be people that wear it for the trend but at least the money they spent on that shirt goes to something good and not just into someones pocket…

  6. Kyle Reed says:

    I think it is a very creative way of making a point.

  7. Miguel says:

    I have my share of thought-provoking, socially conscious t-shirts and I often tread that fine line between wearing the shirt because to advance a message, or wearing the shirt to advance a message about me.

    If I were to be perfectly honest with myself, I’d say it’s almost always both. On one hand, the message will (hopefully) speak for itself. A shirt like this one, in my opinion, is clear. The image of the African continent has somehow become synonymous with poverty and sickness, and hence, need. For better or worse, I believe this to be true. It’s unfortunate and yet still necessary just the same to keep reminding people of where there is need.

    A shirt like “I suck at math” however, might need some more explaining. If I, a Filipino-American man, were to wear it, the context gives it meaning, but it serves the dual purpose of speaking about myself. It says, “Think about this stereotype” and it also says, “Hey, look at me, I’m the kind of Asian guy who wants to defy a stereotype. In fact, label me progressive and conscious, immediately.” (And there’s my streak of cynicism)

    Those are my thoughts…

  8. Yeah, you should be able to wear your darn shirt. The problem isn’t corporations raising awareness, it’s hipster nerds who want to accessorize themselves with some compassion, despite the fact they don’t really care all that much. Most people who wear a Livestrong bracelet have never done a dang thing for cancer, beyond buy a bracelet. If you really devote your time and energies to a cause, you can legitimately wear your t-shirt.

  9. Joshua Daniel Franklin says:

    In the excellent 2007 Vanity Fair issue, Bono mentions “We believed that to ignore the neon and creative force afforded by corporate America would be to ignore the truth about where most Americans live and work . . . we want them to make money for their shareholders because that will make (Red) sustainable.” (search for “bono message 2u” for the article)

  10. David Knapp says:

    If I gave money to a cause in Africa or whatever I wouldn’t want to announce it on my shirt.

    But I think I might wear this shirt.

  11. I wonder if its a temporary backlash against what is true for some. Social justice sounds cool but its a costlier way of life. So if I can get people to think I’m doing it, then I don’t actually have to do anything. I think the shirt is funny.

  12. marissaburt says:

    That shirt made me laugh.

    But that doesn’t mean I’d stop wearing shirts like that – and we all have them. I have a “freeset” bag that I use for a diaper bag, and about 50% of the time I’m okay with that and glad to have purchased something where the proceeds go to something good (offering sex workers alternative employment). I have no idea if anyone actually wonders what freeset is or if they even care. The other 50% of the time, I am a little sheepish about this kind of “branding”. Maybe it is putting too much thought into my image.

    But reality is such that for those of us with the discretionary income to actually own more than two or three shirts, we tend choose them based on some idea of our image, right? It’s kind of the ridiculous piece of our culture – but it’s so ingrained. And it’s evidenced by the fact that we actually have a response to the witty shirt. If I want to overthink it, I’d say I suppose it depends on one’s motives for wearing a shirt. But better to say, hey, if you like a shirt, wear it.

  13. gar says:

    I laughed when I saw the shirt… does that make me cynical?

    I don’t think it’s necessarily bad for people to wear t-shirts that advocate for causes. If anything, at least the t-shirt is being used to promote something worthwhile.

    I do have a problem with people who wear t-shirts adovcating for a cause and these same people have ZERO idea of what it’s about or the organization named. It’d be like a guy wearing a Sonics t-shirt not knowing who Gary Payton is, or someone wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt who can’t hum any of his songs.

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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