The views and opinions expressed in this article are hers and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Matador Network.
Yes, I’m White. Yes, that entitles me to layers of privilege that far too many in America don’t have. No, I’m not a wimpy bleeding heart who thinks that wearing a solidarity safety pin excuses me from engaging in actions that are about to become far riskier than they have ever been in this country. And, yes, I believe there are more than a few solid reasons to wear the pin.
The safety pin became a symbol of opposition to the Brexit vote in Great Britain, in which British citizens voted to leave the European Union. For many, that vote represented increasing prejudice and discrimination, as well as triggering a 57% rise in incidents of xenophobic abuse. An American woman known only as Allision sparked this new, simple, and quiet way of showing our beliefs: “I quite like the idea of just putting a safety pin, empty of anything else, on your coat. A literal SAFETY PIN.” Many Americans have taken up her suggestion in the aftermath of the recent presidential election — an election that has called Americans’ attention to the prejudice and xenophobia bubbling under the surface — and often on the surface — of our country.
The pin is more than a casual gesture. Some wear it to let those who are treated unfairly because of race, ethnicity, immigrant status, gayness and non-mainstream beliefs know that the wearer is committed to being a safe place — and will help if the marginalized person is attacked. Others, angry about the president elect’s hate and fear mongering, pledge to work to combat xenophobia, sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism and ableism. One pin-wearer writes: “If you wear a hijab, I’ll sit with you on the train. If you’re trans, I’ll go the bathroom with you. If you are a person of color, I’ll stand with you if the cops stop you…If you need me, I’ll be with you. All I ask is that you be with me, too.”
Some have criticized wearing the pin as “Slacktivism” — an easy thing for White people to do. “You are not a “safe” person just because you wear a #safetypin. This is nothing but a project to alleviate white guilt. Get up and do work.” Wearing the pin is and will be work. It invites attention from those who agree with its message — and those who don’t. It invites conversation, hard conversation. And, it invites the possibility of solidarity.
While I am usually critical of those who only talk the talk and don’t walk it, my hope is that as this movement spreads, more and more people will ask me why I’m wearing the pin. I’ll tell them it is because my family and I have been targets of racial discrimination. I know how it feels to know the terror of not being protected and of being the odd one out in the majority. And, I’ll tell them that I believe that over the next four years, many of us who have felt protected in America, will find ourselves subject to institutionalized discrimination and the economic consequences of an administration which serves only the privileged mainstream. We — you and I — if we are not already marginalized, have just been inducted into that horrifying condition.