When Spiking Your Best Friend’s Drink Is Okay

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Image above came from this tweet.

This was a week, no, actually a month, of one major uproar over another.

Football players. Halloween costumes. Frat parties. Ivy League professors and free speech. And then the above image tweeted out and the question why people were not in more of an uproar about it compared to the unbelievably lopsided insanity around the Starbucks’ coffee cups during the holiday season.

Because this Bloomingdale’s ad is blatantly and unabashedly violent towards women. I don’t care that they apologized for it already. It’s another example of the persistent war on women’s lives and bodies, and another reminder that women matter less. How anyone in Bloomingdale’s marketing department decided this would be at all appealing or appropriate is beyond me, I mean, didn’t we go through this recently with Budweiser? Remember:

The tag line: “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night. #UpForWhatever.”

It literally was this past year. A beer company that thought it would be okay to perpetuate the insidious rape culture all around us. Now, it’s a high-end retailer, a department store, one of the ultimate symbols of privilege and wealth, an emblem of impossible standards of beauty, and a bastion of utter capitalism and wastefulness, it’s Bloomingdale’s that thinks it can get away with rape culture because its ad is couched in this cliche chatter of oh-so-cute-best-friend romance and holiday-oops-lets-get-drunkenness.

Let’s get this straight. It’s never okay to spike your best friend’s drink. It’s never okay to spike your friend’s drink. It’s never okay to spike your date’s drink. It’s never okay to spike anyone’s drink. Period.

This isn't just about the culture of consent, but a culture of respect for every fellow human being.Click To Tweet

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Even now. Even at this very moment, when I think back to the summer of 2000, and that night, though I don’t have evidence of it, I know 100% in my flesh and blood that I did not drink enough to black out, and that one of the young men in the house hosting the party slipped something into my drink, but I still feel responsible, I still feel like it was my fault, I still feel like I deserved to wake up the next morning completely naked next to someone who was basically a stranger, confused and disoriented, ashamed and lost. Maybe I encouraged him. NO. I clearly remember at least that part, saying, NO, and trying to leave his room, and he shut the door and stood in front of it, and I said, No, No, No, and then the world went dark. 

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I’m reminded, and frantic, almost, by the reality that I am raising a daughter in a world where the culture keeps imposing this horrific notion that women’s bodies are to be drugged and taken advantage, or that they are deserving of state-sanctioned violence, or that they are to be incarcerated or prostituted or abused or trafficked by the dominant culture. I KEEP HEARING THE ANGUISH IN THAT YOUNG BLACK FEMALE STUDENT’S VOICE AS SHE RIGHTFULLY DEMANDED HOW COULD THE RESIDENT ADVISOR AND PROFESSOR NOT SEE THAT THE ISSUE WAS ABOUT SAFETY? DIGNITY??? I don’t care that she shrieked or screamed or cursed because I was there with her – it was ultimately about her effort to protect her body, and realizing that terrible reality that women’s bodies are ever in danger. And, I struggle, STRUGGLE with how we need to teach our sons that women’s bodies are to be respected not because they are someone’s sister, daughter, or mother, but simply because they have the imago dei, the imprint of humanity and divinity on their skin and in their cells, and they are of value.

These ads remind me that women’s bodies are constantly being trafficked – their physical bodies, the images of their bodies, and the worth of their bodies. And I am aware of the various ways that women of color and transgendered women and then transgendered women of color – their bodies are appropriated and commodified, too, and always in danger, just look at the statistics – nearly 1 in 5 American women are raped in their lifetime (19%), and half of those rapes are “drug/alcohol-facilitated rapes.” Look at the number of black women jailed and killed, AAPI women like Purvi Patel convicted and jailed, and trans women of color murdered on the streets. I think of the words of my sister, Austin, who wrote a piece recently reminding me of the ways that the reality of sexual violence towards black women gets lost in these movements. Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman says that “Black women are the Black church,” but these issues of gender inequity and disparity ultimately begin within the church just as much as in the department stores or beer companies. And so, we need to be diligent, we need to name the ways both rape and purity culture go hand-in-hand to bind up our girls, with words, images, and stories, with physical violence, pitting the value of women against one another, and it will have to be the Church that needs to be a part of this movement to decenter and dismantle purity discourses because they are rooted in religious institutions and language. 

No more lip service, we have too much to do to uphold the dignity of every single woman, and anyone who is marginalized within our walls, and in our communities.  Click To Tweet

Because it’s 2015, and it’s almost the holiday season. I don’t care or worry what’s on the outside of my cups, but I also shouldn’t worry about what’s being put in them either. And no one, no woman, should ever have to think about it.

ON Scripture: Guns, Drugs, Sexual Violence

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The emotional, physical, and spiritual violence that we inflict on one other is a sign that something is amiss in our world. A study from the World Health Organization paints the terrible truth that sex workers have a heightened risk of HIV. The sex and drug industry “tear up women and use them ‘til they throw them out” as Rev. Rebecca Stevens, Executive Director of Magdalene Ministries, says. Magdalene is a recovery program in Nashville, Tenn. for women who have histories of substance abuse and prostitution. Stevens has helped countless women get off the streets and put their lives back together. Yet there are so many more in need. It is clear that something is persistently bent on the annihilation of our bodies and souls. What can we say or do?

The widow of the longtime minister of the Anglo-American congregation that housed our Korean immigrant church taught us Sunday mornings. She would open our gathering time together with this question: “What is the chief end of man?” We would all respond with the proper answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever!” we would sing-song it together not really understanding the words.

Even at 10 years old I felt the weight of centuries behind those words. Somehow it felt like the perfect answer to anything and everything. Later, when I went away to college, I would remember these words and they would be like a flickering light in those dark times of isolation and loneliness. It was a reminder that our lives are meant for so much more even if we sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees.

In college I began to sense a call to ministry. I felt compelled to become an ordained minister in the Presbyterian church as my own way to “glorify God” and “enjoy him forever.” Yet, the only examples in ministry I had were the typical white, male pastors and staff of para-church organizations. I felt uncertain.

It seemed the leader of any organization was expected to be strong — someone with a strong will. Strong focus. Strong vision. Strong command. Strong abilities. I didn’t feel I had the charisma of a leader who could not only inspire, but direct, move, and act decisively.

Hebrews invites us to consider an alternative vision of leadership in Christ, the High Priest. Instead of power, the writer describes Jesus’ service in terms of compassion and mercy, even citing weakness as the source of his efficacy as high priest. Even though he was a Son, “he learned obedience through what he suffered,” and we hear an echo of the familiar hymn from Philippians 2.

Read the rest at Sojourners here.

Not An Ally: Getting to Work

3378vangoghvine_00000002657I didn’t come into an awareness of my racialized self until late college, and didn’t really engage the issues around it until seminary, and even then wrestled with whether there was a third way beyond the black-white paradigm of racism because it felt like there wasn’t space for me. For my parents. For my siblings and cousins. Stories of picture bridesVincent Chin and the LA Riots haunted me. Where do we fit in? I would often ask myself. We’re not white or black but the whites treat us like we’re black unless we “act” white and the blacks treat us like we’re white unless we “act” black. It wasn’t until the murder of Trayvon Martin that I began to realize that it is undeniably, in Jon Stewart’s words – “black and white.” That anti-black racism is alive and flourishing. 

It took me a while to get there but it’s all a process, right? To realize that it’s not oppression olympics and that there’s no way to compare the impact of antiblack racism and simply, white supremacy. The three pillars of white supremacy are intertwined but separate and distinct – the one thing in common is the notion of white heteropatriarchy and supremacy as the norm. It’s the center. Bottom line. Full stop.

I woke up the morning after the #ameshooting in Charleston to my Facebook and Twitter covered in photos of the terrorist killer and stories about the nine dead and … whining, screaming kids already going at it outside my door. I couldn’t take it. I did my own crying and screaming all the way down to the kitchen trying to get breakfasts and lunches together, trying to get them to stop shoving each other, trying to get them to put clothes and shoes on and get ready for camp.

After I yelled at them for the 518th time to stop hitting, stop pushing, stop crying I stopped and took a breath. I pulled out my laptop and queued up the newscast video from NBC and told them:

“Last night a bad man (Should I have called him a bad man? Should I have called him a white man? Should I have called him a bad white man? A troubled man? An angry man? A mean man?) walked into a church with a gun and shot and killed 9 black people.

It was a church like our church (Should I have compared the church to our church? Should I make any comparisons even for the sake of understanding? I shouldn’t have said like our church) that we go to every Sunday. The people were sitting together praying and reading the Bible and he walked in and killed (I’m not sure they know what kill means? Should I have not brought up guns?) them. Now there are people who won’t see their mommy or daddy or brother or sister or son or daughter anymore (What does this even mean?).”

They were quiet. Commercials about body lotion and luxury cars came on in between videos of the newscast that derailed the conversation. The twins asked questions. Anna asked, “Did the man shoot Jesus?” Desmond said, “Your hair is black.” Anna said, “Is the man going to shoot our church?” Desmond asked, “Can I have pretzels?”

Ugh. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything?

Eventually, they figure it out, assures Seth, a writer-friend of mine, who shared a story with me about his eldest son asking about the confederate flag, what it is and why it’s all over the South. He basically walked his son through the Civil War. Thinking through the ideological conflicts and what the flag represents even today, the son asked: “The people who still display these flags – aren’t they traitors to the country?” Seth replies, “That’s a really good question, isn’t it?”

This is the work. With my own kids. Even if I have no idea how they’ll respond and what kinds of questions they’ll ask me. Even if it means taking them to protests and demonstrations and have them shout “Black Lives Matter” with me when they don’t totally understand the words. Even if they fall asleep in my arms as we stand in vigil for lives that were lost this past year. Even if we sit in the pews of an unfamiliar church in town to pray for a similar church in Charleston, South Carolina.

We tell them the right stories. We tell them the real stories.Click To Tweet

We show them how we live and love and what we believe by speaking up and pointing out that those flags need to come down. Now. Why? What we say or do or pursue – it matters.

Because part of the work is yes, making space and listening, but now is also the time for so much more as Rev. Tawyna Denise Anderson calls us to in this movement. Now is the time TO SHOW UP (yes, I’m shouting). Now is the time for not cringing and shying away from the “awkwardness” of race conversations, now is the time for calling it EXACTLY WHAT IT IS then talking and questioning, now is the time for the messy work of tearing down and building back up again. As my sister Austin says, “I need you to know those are the only two choices. There is no such thing as neutrality. You are either nurturing love or hate. There is no middle ground, no third way, no alternative.” Austin, Micky, Darnell, Broderick, Denise, Laura, Chanelle, Michelle, Christina, Monica, Bridgett, Mashadi, Nyasha, Grace, Kimm, LeQuita, Tara, Cheni, Erick, Derrick, Kesha, Kwame, LaMont, Jessica – I’m in this with you.

So, right now, for the kids, “it’s the bad man who shot the nine people.” Later maybe it’ll be “the white man who shot and killed nine black people.” Then maybe it’ll be “the white American terrorist who murdered nine black people in a church.” It’s a process for me. It’s a process for them. And by God they will get there, and they will be working right alongside us. And it’s going to be in the church where we learn these stories and perspectives, too.

It is, precisely, because race and racism is a reality, and because of everything that has come out of those constructs are ongoing, that we need to talk, write and catalyze these conversations in order to become aware of the depth of this disease, even as it has infected the church. – Ruth-Aimee Rosario-Belonni

No more talk of allies. We’re hitting the ground running every single day. We’re going to see it and call it out every single day. We’re getting in the trenches with our brothers and sisters every single day. I don’t care if people question my motives or methods, or question my platform, or question my mistakes because fuck, I’m going to make a ton of mistakes a long the way but that’s no excuse, or question my expertise or background or my investment because I’m not black. I don’t have time for that – you’re either in this now or you’re in the way. It starts now every single day whether I’m in college, seminary or the mother of three children who aren’t even five years old.

KEEPING IT REAL: Jon Stewart on Charleston Church Shooting! It’s like Jon Stewart is the only white dude with a name who keeps it real and has the back of the wrong doings happening to black people.

Posted by ROCK-SOLID on Thursday, June 18, 2015

Do Justice: Reclaiming Mission Trips

I have lately had my doubts about church mission trips.

But it’s been a while. Like 4 years and 3 months, to be exact – which is how old the twins are at the moment – finally after this long stint away I went to West Virginia with the lovely good folks from First Presbyterian Church. My mind was all over the place with stories about #dejarriabechton and #racheldolezal and #freddiegray and #tamirrice and then we were helping with VBS at the local Presbyterian church where the main verse was the familiar Micah 6:8. Do justice. How do we do justice? I kept turning this over in my mind. I’m thinking about restorative justice and transformative justice and racial justice and reproductive justice and social justice. All really important. Still. As much as I theorize and criticize the white savior complex, the nonprofit industrial complex, the christian mission trip complex (might as well throw that in right now), I had forgotten about the complexity of feelings and dynamics that happen on these kinds of trips. Like:

The feeling of the sun wringing the sweat out of my skin so that no matter how much water I drink I never have to use the restroom. Because it’s just so dang hot. But, that feeling of sweat and dirt and sunlight mingling together so deep in my cells so that no matter how hard I scrub in the shower at the end of the day, I still feel it all right under my fingertips.

Like a different kind of baptism, and one that doesn't wash it away but makes it a part of me. Sweat. Dirt. Sunlight. And a little bit of Gatorade.Click To Tweet

It’s good to embrace these moments.  But,  we need to thoughtful and critical along with being hopeful:

We have to be self-reflexive. We have to constantly check our privilege. We have to check our language. We have to check the work that we do and make sure it isn’t about our agenda and what we think is necessary. We have to realize that we’re not necessary, in the long run.

We have to be sensitive. We have to listen. To each other. We have to see. The people we’re working with and for and around on the work site. We have acknowledge our insensitivities.

We have to be sincere. We have to be open. We have to be honest. What we do means nothing if we don’t embrace our bumbling and clumsy way of doing this work.

Ultimately we – and I’m preaching to myself – have to remember that nothing is perfect. None of these endeavors are ever going to be void of the social, historical and institutional problems that make such work necessary, but even our theologies are lacking, too, our faith language is faulty and we will fall short. It’s okay. The Holy Spirit makes up for it. The Holy Spirit fills in the holes. The Holy Spirit takes cares of the gaps.

So we trust, we follow, and we strive and struggle to make God’s kingdom known, yes, – but not just in a cerebral way, we want to taste God’s kingdom and share and be nourished by that same food at the table with all, so we taste, we drink, we pass, we break bread and pour out the cup, and sometimes that looks like tortilla chips and granola bars, sometimes it looks like hammers and nails, sometimes like riding a bike with training wheels, sometimes like taking photographs  and selfies with a little black girl named Evaline.

Because this is how we do justice. We show up. We aren't above digging holes and moving dirt. We get our hands dirty. We acknowledge our mistakes and flaws. We give thanks. We keep showing up.Click To Tweet
The Salt Collective: Embracing Being the Token

The Salt Collective: Embracing Being the Token

Today I’m over at the SALT Collective!


“I am the only one. On most committees or organizations, I am usually the only one. The only woman. The only young person. The only racial “minority.” The only liberal. And most recently, the only mother with young children. It was something I grew accustomed to rather quickly, this being the token fill-in-the-blank.”

This was the opening to the chapter I wrote in Streams Run Uphill: Conversations with Clergywomen of Color. A book full of theological, sociological, cultural reflections on the experience of clergywomen of color I had the privilege of editing turned into continuous fodder for my own reflection on the complicated intersections of race, gender, economics, and more.

Being a Presbyterian minister now for over ten years I’ve spent much time struggling to articulate what it means to be the token, a standout and a novelty – a Korean American clergywoman. Though I’ve come to feel comfortable in my clergy-skin teaching, leading worship, administering sacraments, and preaching from the pulpit, I still wrestle with the gaze of the wider public when I am out and about with my collar on. The white tab in the center of my neck surrounded by the somber black seems to cause a double-take by those who walk by me. It’s the clash of the traditional images of the office with the (relative) youthfulness of my face, my being a woman, and my East Asian heritage that perhaps elicits this response.

But, I haven’t always worn a collar – it’s not terribly common attire for Presbyterian clergy. Generally, Presbyterians like to blend in a little more.

I chose to wear one because I wanted to stand out.

Read the rest at the SALT Collective.