Photo Credits: MARKUS KAEPPELI / AGGIE
Third-year communication major Daniel Rajabi shares his thoughts after interaction with woman holding “Hell is hot, don’t be a thot” sign
In a now-viral tweet from the first day of Spring Quarter, a short video clip recorded at the Memorial Union shows a woman holding a sign reading, “Hell is hot, don’t be a thot,” and a student next to her with his own sign reading, “I am a thot,” along with his phone number. That student is third-year communication major Daniel Rajabi.
first day of class pic.twitter.com/rf5Bw4jhqO
— nikita (@mistermdmazing) April 2, 2019
Rajabi described the events leading up to his appearance at the MU. He said he was walking to class when he heard a lot of screaming and profanities being thrown around and noticed that one of the organizations tabling close to the woman was a sorority.
“This is what really caught my attention,” Rajabi said. “Not only were they just kind of like ‘Who is this lady?’ but they were looking off to the side, and you could tell that they were a little bit scared and a little bit worried.”
It was in part due to their reaction that Rajabi went to the bookstore and bought a poster to make his own sign, proclaiming that he was, in fact, a thot.
“I thought, you know, [screaming is] really no way to have dialogue, because it’s pretty obvious that [a dialogue] is what everybody wanted,” Rajabi said, “It was just a screaming contest for the sake of a screaming contest.”
Because his handwriting is “really bad,” he asked the members of the sorority who were tabling if anyone had good handwriting and if they’d be willing to write his message for him. They agreed. It was Rajabi’s idea to add his phone number to the bottom, and since the tweet of him went viral, he has been texted over 800 times and called about 50 times from people as far away as New York.
“I actually responded to every single one of them,” Rajabi said. “And I’m still in communication with about 30 or 40 of them, maybe more.”
In addition to this digital communication, people at UC Davis have stopped him and asked if he’s “that guy from Twitter” and if they could take pictures of or with him. But some of these interactions goes beyond his poster declaring that he’s a thot.
“[A couple of them] started opening up to me a little bit about the kinds of stuff they’re dealing with,” Rajabi said. “Not necessarily that level of persecution, but especially the Muslim students, because I am [Muslim] myself, [they tell me] what they may be dealing with and how they were happy that they felt I stood up for people who are getting persecuted in some kind of way, shape or form.”
When Rajabi was at the MU on April 1, he said that students starting cheering, and when the woman with the poster saw him, she took a double take.
“She goes, ‘You’re a thot?’ and just kind of screams it as an accusation,” Rajabi said. “But you know, I clearly had the sign, and I was like, ‘Yes, yes I am.’ She goes, ‘You’re going to hell,’ and I was like, ‘Yes, I am.’”
That day, Rajabi stayed at the MU for about an hour. He said that eventually, she started smiling and lightened up a little. Rajabi says that he thinks that was in part due to the students’ change in attitude as well.
“People eventually began actually talking to her,” Rajabi said. “And nobody’s mind was changed, don’t get me wrong. Nobody was like, ‘Okay, that’s why I’m going to hell’ and she wasn’t like, ‘Okay, I guess you’re not going to hell’ — that was absolutely still the case. But they were calmer, their blood pressure was lower. And it seemed like everybody was at least heard and listened to, you know, just not convinced, though.”
He described his experience with the woman as “pretty fun.” He has seen her since, and they know each other’s names and have had a few conversations. He asked her about her strategy and she told him a little bit about her motivation.
“She says, ‘Oh, I know, this is not a good thing to say. And I know it’s a sinful thing for me to do. It’s very hypocritical. However, the reason why I do it is because we’re trying to get as many eyes on us as possible, so that we can then project our image of what we think is right onto them. And then that way, we can potentially catch more people and do more good on the overall,’” Rajabi said. “So they’re thinking big picture.”
On the content of her message, Rajabi evidently disagreed, as over 923,000 people who have viewed the tweet have seen. He adds that he disagrees with her plan, and that it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be very effective in the long run by having people look at her in a negative light.
The responses that he received inspired him to create a club, which he plans to call the Smile More Campaign.
“People are very serious when it comes to discussions about most social justice events, religious events [and] activism events,” Rajabi said. “And what’s lacking is not necessarily […] we’ve got enough people that say, dialogue is missing, and this and that are missing and […] I feel like what’s missing [are] some smiles and laughter and happiness. Just because you’re talking about something rough, doesn’t mean that you have to feel terrible while you’re doing it.”
Rajabi hopes to help the “overall dialogue of negative interactions around and even outside campus” with this club.
“We’re floating around a bunch of ideas,” Rajabi said. “We’re hoping to turn it into something great.”
Written by: Anjini Venugopal — firstname.lastname@example.org