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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One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. Thanks for your prayers. 
I have numerous stories to share but for now, the following came up in every conversation with Iraqi/Syrian refugees:

1 Have tea with us. Or coffee. Or juice. Or something with lots of sugar in it. Or better yet, all of the above.
2 We want peace. We want security. 
3 We hate ISIS. 
4 We just want to go home.
5 Please don't forget us.

Please don't forget them... Father, please bless and protect these Iraqi and Syrian "refugee" children that have already endured so much. Protect their hearts and mind from unfathomable trauma. Plant seeds of hope and vision in their lives. And as we pray for them, teach us how to advocate for them. Amen. "We don't call them refugees. We call them relatives. We don't call them camps but centers. Dignity is so important." -  local Iraqi priest whose church has welcomed many "relatives" to their church's property

It's always a privilege to be invited into peoples' home for tea - even if it's a temporary tent. This is an extended Yezidi family that fled the Mosul, Iraq area because of ISIS. It's indeed true that Christians were targeted by ISIS and thatbstory muat be shared but other minority groups like the Yezidis were also targeted. Some of their heartbreaking stories included the kidnapping of their sister. They shared that their father passed away shortly of a "broken heart." The conversation was emotional but afterwards, we asked each other for permission to take photos. Once the selfies came out, the real smiles came out.

So friends: Pray for Iraq. Pray for the persecuted Church. Pray for Christians, minority groups like the Yezidis who fear they will e completely wiped out in the Middle East,, and Muslims alike who are all suffering under ISIS. Friends: I'm traveling in the Middle East this week - Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Make sure you follow my pics/stories on IG stories). Specifically, I'm here representing @onedayswages to meet, learn, and listen to pastors, local leaders, NGOs, and of course directly from refugees from within these countries - including many from Syria.

For security purposes, I haven't been able to share at all but I'm now able to start sharing some photos and stories. For now, I'll be sharing numerous photos through my IG stories and will be sharing some longer written pieces in couple months when ODW launches another wave of partnerships to come alongside refugees in these areas. Four of us are traveling together also for the purpose of creating a short documentary that we hope to release early next year.

While I'm on my church sabbatical, it's truly a privilege to be able to come to these countries and to meet local pastors and indigenous leaders that tirelessly pursue peace and justice, and to hear directly from refugees. I've read so many various articles and pieces over the years and I thought I was prepared but it has been jarring, heartbreaking,  and gut wrenching. In the midst of such chaos, there's hope but there's also a lot of questions, too.

I hope you follow along as I share photos, stories, and help release this mini-documentary. Please tag friends that might be interested.

Please pray for safety, for empathy, for humility and integrity, for divine meetings. Pray that we listen well; To be present and not just be a consumer of these vulnerable stories. That's my biggest prayer.

Special thanks to @worldvisionusa and @worldrelief for hosting us on this journey. 9/11
Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.

Today, I had some gut wrenching and heart breaking conversations about war, violence, and peacemaking. Mostly, I listened. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having these conversations on 9/11 of all days. I wish I could share more now but I hope to later after I process them for a few days.

But indeed: Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.
May it be so. Amen. Mount Rainier is simply epic. There's nothing like flying in and out of Seattle.

#mountrainier
#seattle
#northwestisbest

my tweets

  • Boom. Final fishing trip. Grateful. A nice way to end my 3 month sabbatical. #catchandrelease twitter.com/i/web/status/9… || 20 hours ago
  • Christians: May we be guided by the Scriptures that remind us, "Seek first the Kingdom of God" and not, "Seek first the kingdom of America." || 21 hours ago
  • Every convo with Iraqi/Syrian refugees included: 1 Have tea with us 2 We want peace 3 We hate ISIS 4 We want to go home 5 Don't forget us || 3 days ago
  • Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan to assess @OneDaysWages' partnerships & to film mini-documentary on refugee crisis. So many emotions. || 3 days ago
  • Pray for Mexico. For those mourning loved ones. For those fighting for life - even under rubbles. For rescue workers. Lord, in your mercy. || 3 days ago
  • Don't underestimate what God can do through you. God has a very long history of using foolish and broken people for His purposes and glory. || 6 days ago