One quiet midnight, I had come home from a late session at the gym and planned to end my day editing and publishing for GUG, but because I have #secondshiftproblems, I first checked Twitter to see if I had missed anything “newsworthy” while I was getting paid to be bored at a warehouse. There, I stumbled upon #LoveforLeslieJ trending. Following the posts, I discovered that this hashtag was in response to Leslie Jones, a co-star in the all-female Ghostbusters remake, threatening to leave Twitter due to what many outlets have designated as a heinously vile hate campaign against her.
I did not even know who Leslie Jones was before her Ghostbusters casting. My wife used to be my “entertainment insider,” but she is no longer a stay-at-home mother; we both work full-time jobs, so she does not have time to watch E! and report to me what we call “news you can’t use.” Though Ms. Jones is all but a stranger to me, I can empathize with what she experienced. Her plight reminds me of a gaming-related controversy which took place earlier this year. As the story goes, a Hearthstone player known as TerrenceM (for Terrence Miller) had advanced to the DreamHack finals, only to lose to Keaton “Chakki” Gill 3-2. However, TerrenceM was still pleased with his performance after having been eliminated during the early rounds of previous tournaments. Unfortunately, during the Twitch livestream of their performance as well as TerrenceM’s post-game interview, all kinds of racist unmentionables were spammed in the stream’s chat panel. Apparently, many folks on the internet took umbrage with TerrenceM’s success due to his blackness.
I am well-acquainted with this kind of anonymous online harassment, having been exposed to more N-words and other abominable terms than I would ever care to stomach through years of playing Defense of the Ancients (DotA) on Blizzard’s battle.net, let alone random encounters with the uncouth on private message boards. Thus, it was a significant victory for not just myself, but everyone when Valve would ban these potty-mouths in DotA 2 (and I have the receipts in screenshots). Though I had heard of people getting banned from World of Warcraft, this was the first time that I had personally experienced the euphoria associated with a company in official capacity caring about gamers calling other games out of their names. Thankfully, since the TerrenceM incident, Blizzard has vowed to make changes to curb online misbehavior, which is better late than never.
I actually intended to write an article on GUG concerning TerrenceM and online harassment when the story first broke in May, but life got in the way. Actually, that is only a half-truth. The real reason I abstained is because I did not feel like performing the rhetorical hurdles of explaining black struggles to an audience that probably would not understand those struggles. I did not want to appear as the token black guy on staff who is “always makes things about race / is talking about race.” As a Christian, I navigate enough digital circles to know there are some people I am supposed to call my brothers and sisters in Christ who wish “race” talks would simply disappear, firm in their belief that conversations about race is the source of our problems rather than the solution.
The culmination of the recent events in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Dallas, and Baton Rouge again along with the hate campaign against Ms. Jones has forced me to break my silence. Just as an addict’s vices escalate to the point of destruction, so does hate evolve from just words into actions. My pastor has already performed the hard work of addressing the violence that has run amok these past few weeks (here, here, and especially here, which lists many events we may have overlooked or forgotten already), engaging in the century-old problem of the color line which WEB DuBois predicted we would struggle. After wrestling with the first two articles for nearly a week, I called my pastor at 10:30 PM one day, and he answered knowing exactly why I did (ironically, he needed to talk to me as much as I to him) . After our conversation, I decided to drive the hour-plus long Sunday commute to my old church to hear him give a sermon on current affairs, interrupting an ongoing sermon series. Before he could perform the benediction, Baton Rouge happened again. Nevertheless, his message reminded me of a few things that I had forgotten in my emotional roller coaster of despair, rage, antipathy, and stoicism. It also highlighted truths in ways that, had I said the same thing, would not have been “gracious and seasoned with salt” (Col 4:6). I praise the Lord for placing mellow people in my life from whom I can learn!
My pastor reminded us we are all created in God’s image (Gen 1:27) and that we are all descended from Adam and Eve. He reminded us of 1 John 4:20, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” He reminded us that one day, people from all backgrounds will be reunited in heaven before Christ himself in a sort of reverse-Tower of Babel. (Rev 7:9).
What stuck with me the most during that sermon is a scripture analogous to Gen 1:27. Christians often cite Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well,” on the topic of abortion, but it has broader application. All of God’s children are fearfully and wonderfully made! I urge my readers to consider this the next time they might consider hurling insults at someone, directly or indirectly, for their skin being midnight-black or Casper-white; for having long or short hair, both with incorrigible texture—or for having hair where it supposedly should not be, or not having hair where it is to be expected; for having “chicken legs” or “thunder thighs”; for having full lips, a broad nose, slanted eyes, and dimples in the cheeks or chin. Because God hand-crafted us all in his image and breathed into us our souls (Gen 2:7), then that means criticism of His creation(s) is a censure of Him, and not one person on earth is qualified to make such a critique.
I especially challenge those who are not direct participants in harassment, but do bear witness to others being defamed: confront the perpetrators! A poignant biblical example of this in action can be found in Gal 2:1-14. There, Paul describes divisions in the church brought forth by ethnic division, and how to resolve these sorts of conflicts within a (church) community. We are all reconciled through Christ as members of God’s household, (Ephesians 2 11-22). There was once a time when I, too, would SHAME people for their appearances, but I had to humble myself and be willing to change (Acts 10:34-35). Rather than perpetuating the cycle of hurt people hurting people, let us be ambassadors of God’s love (1 John 4:7-9), even and especially to our enemies (Matt 5:44), who may need to be shown an example of how to care for their fellow human being despite present circumstances.