Tag Archives: hashtag activism

#HoodieSunday: What was it and why?

In the neighboring state of Oklahoma, one state senator wants to crack down on protestors using their First Amendment right to wear a hoodie. Of course, there’s always some random clause that gives out exemptions for holidays like Halloween or for persons who wear religious coverings, but the proposed legislation is so vague that people wearing hoodies in PUBLIC spaces can be arrested and sent to prison for up to a year.. The proposed law has come under scrutiny from local and national news outlets

As a response, one of my friends and former classmates from Brite Divinity School, Pastor Michael Riggs teamed up with Reverend Jesse Jackson Jr. of OK to create a Facebook Event: #HoodieSunday. Hoodie Sunday took place this last Sunday on January 18th, 2015. Through the power of social media, clergy organized laypersons and activists, encouraging them to wear hoodies over their Sunday’s best in solidarity with advocates of free speech in Oklahoma. Yes, I realize that this movement is more than about my favorite piece of clothing, the hoodie. At the same time, I have come to realize the Hoodie has been transformed as a symbol of resistance.

When I first started writing as h00die_R and I am still keeping it as my personal Twitter handle, I realized that I was taking a stand. The object that had become a marker for Trayvon Martin’s death (the reason for his being racial profiled and murdered in cold blood) had now become an unofficial preferred clothing for protestors all over the country.  Last year, when my friend Ryan Murphy and I visited what was supposed to be a Christian-owned restaurant, we were denied any sort of hospitality or customer service simply because we were wearing hoodies. Last week, we visited the exact same establishment, sans the hoodies, and it was a completely different and more, uh, positive experience.rod hoodie sun

This Sunday, I DID choose to participate in Hoodie Sunday. I was pretty excited, and even one of my Tweets was featured in the Oklahoma City Sun.  As pumped as I was, I pretty much knew what to expect. The number of awkward smiles. The perplexed looks from congregants, probably wondering, “What did we do now? Why is he always so angry?”  It happened on #HoodiesUp Sunday after Trayvon Martin “trial,” and I got the same looks this past HoodieSunday.  Unlike last time, no one bothered to ask me why the hoodie, or was I cold. It goes to show that

 

 

the Hoodie has taken on a strange political significance, a fugitivity associated with outsiders whom the dominant culture deems unworthy of hospitality. What thuggish neighborhood watchmen and overly aggressive police officers have defined as a reason for black death (wearing a hoodie, having dark skin), the oppressed have transformed into a symbol of resistance.  Just as the Cross once stood as an overbearing threat against rebels versus the Roman Empire and now stands as the ultimate symbol of God’s power, the donning of the hoodie has become a subversive political act of defying the state violence.

#RESISTDAILY

Further Reading:

The Parable of the Orange Hoodie by “NMSP6”

Jesus Wore A Hoodie by Rodney Coates

 

Photo Description: Photo of author of post, wearing a sky blue hoodie, in front of a church building. 

be ye kind one to another: civility, blogging & social media

The Internet can be a cruel place. Now that we have means to be interconnected more than ever, the formation of communities is made uh, easier?, but also has the means for divisiveness and harm become easier as well. We see this for example in the sexual harassment that women celebrities are now facing, having photos stolen from their phones (for an excellent discussion on this issue, I would recommend fellow MennoNerd Ryan Robinson’s piece: Rape Culture In Celebrity Photo Theft). I observe the harassment that Women of Color educators/activists face everyday; trolls creating multiple accounts to make racist diatribes and violent threats against persons like Mikki Kendall, Sydette, Trudy, Suey Park, and others. I don’t think I can claim to have encountered a microcosm of what these brave women deal with every day, but when trolls get into my timeline, they usually leave with their feelings hurt because I do them the kindness of confrontation through sarcasm.

Of course there’s a time and place for everything, as the author of Ecclesiastes contends. My good friend Tyler Tully has a good reflection on expanding public theology to cover online behavior. As a Liberation theologian, I understand that all theological statements that are made have political ramifications. The practical is always the theoretical, the abstract really isn’t that far from the concrete. The thing is about a lot of people’s notions of civility or what it means to be “grace-filled” online in the Christian blogosphere is that, as Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig suggests, it is “squishy”: Bruenig: “Anyway, one of the chief defects of demands for civility is that they rarely elaborate as to what they mean by civility.” Not only this, but the rules for civility keep changing, and one right after another, they just keep getting added. We hear from one side, well, yes, I know I needed to be called out, but you could have been a little bit nicer, and then the same civilized party admits later, I needed to be called out to persons who give them similar feedback, but its nicer because their interlocutor may look like them. The civilized party postures as if they believe that all ideas are equal, but in reality their practice reveals something quite different.

What is the norming norm for defining what kindness is? As a Liberationist, I find the Exodus story as the primary paradigm by which Scripture is interpreted. I also like the idea of God’s kindness demonstrated in the narrative. YHWH’s kindness is sort of unruly, and is mentioned a lot throughout the Hebrew Bible. Why NeoMarcionites would want to discard of the First Testament is beyond me! 😉 What is clear however starting with the first chapter of Exodus, YHWH’s kindness is defined first and foremost by observing the cruel treatment of the oppressed Israelites, and then responding to their cries. YHWH the God of Liberation hears the oppressed’s concerns; as a relational God, YHWH first spoke the Word/Wisdom at creation, and now God listens. God’s kindness and compassion are not restricted to ever-fluctuating rules of civility that give those with privilege the advantage. Rather God’s lovingkindness for all persons shines through in God demonstrating God’s preferential option for the poor. It is in the bodies and experiences of the oppressed that have the greatest knowledge of what human wickedness looks and feels like. Conversely, YHWH’s power and glory are made known greatest through those who are labelled as weak in society to shame “the strong,” the powerful, those who falsely view themselves as having the future in their hands, operating in God’s place.

Kindness, in the biblical metanarratives of liberation and reconciliation, is inextricably linked to communal justice, freedom for the prisoner and the enslaved, dignity for the impoverished.  According to the story, Pharaoh  ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill baby boys once they were born. The midwives who feared YHWH showed the infant boys kindness and spared their lives. When Pharaoh asked why infant boys were living, the midwives satirize the essentialist logic of the Egyptians, “declaring” Hebrew women to be stronger (therefore, more capable of reproducing more children, thus the population growth). The Hebrew midwives played with the fears of the oppressor. And in turn for their acts of mercy, Exodus 1:20 says that YHWH was kind to the heroic midwives.

The midwives provide a glimpse of YHWH’s own compassion. YHWH sees, observes, hears the misery of Abraham’s children, and makes it God’s mission to “rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:7).  If kindness involves listening to the voices of the silenced first in the Exodus, the same principle should be applied to our public ethics of civility online.  It is also important to note that the Hebrew midwives, Pharaoh’s daughter in Exodus 2, and YHWH– all three recognize their positions of power.  Their truthful analysis in each case meant a recognition of difference in power, between the lowly and their earthly superiors. The Exodus brand of Kindness requires, #1, listening, and then #2, a joining in the solidarity with those in bondage with a viewpoint that starts from the bottom-up, and neither the top or “the middle way.”

For Christians, Jesus is the Exodus God Incarnate, and embodied an untamed kindness and solidarity with the least of these. The civility party I mentioned previously wants to bracket Jesus as a feminist or civilizing European socialite above his Jewish community. If a public theologian online seeks to be one who wishes to practice lovingkindness and follow the Golden Rule, then the more faithful view point is the kindness we learn of in Exodus.  The marginated do not need other persons, even allies who seek to throw stones; rather, they need accomplices who will join them in the valleys to speak to the mountains, and make them move.