This post was originally published November 16, 2016, and was updated February 15, 2017, to improve grammar and to make links more visible.
Origins of the safety pin movement
The New York Times posted an article on the safety pin movement, which provides a brief history along with some of the movement’s controversies.
It’s been suggested that the safety pin movement has its roots in the hostage incident in Australia. Australian citizens used #illridewithyou, not safety pins, to show support for Muslims who might feel threatened or scared riding public transportation. It’s important to note, however, that different perspectives about showing support in this way do exist and are worth considering. Nevertheless, the #illridewithyou movement took off.
Fast forward to Brexit, which witnessed a 57% increase in hate crimes toward immigrants. An American living in London, who couldn’t vote in the referendum, wanted do to something to show solidarity with the victims who were being abused on buses and trains. But she didn’t expect people to purchase something in order to show that support. Because almost everyone has safety pins, the woman coined the idea of wearing this simple inexpensive symbol to denote a willingness to protect the vulnerable. The idea is to offer solace and help, when needed – not to confront abusers.
Since the recent election in the U.S., the safety pin movement has become a way for people to show solidarity with those who might feel threatened by current hateful attitudes. It’s about kindness and respect for all people. Part of that is agreeing to offer support, if needed. However, wearing a pin isn’t supposed to equate with which candidate a person voted. It’s all about being against hate and negativity. Although I do understand the cognitive dissonance that might occur at the thought of someone wearing a safety pin while having voted for our incoming president.
An alternate view
Because I’m sticking my neck out by writing this post, I do feel I need to educate you on an alternate view that’s circulating out there. Some people find the safety pin offensive as it reeks of white privilege and apathy – ignoring the real needs of those we marginalize. If you do click on the link above to read the article, please also read the comments posted below. And they are numerous. Already, people are experiencing an unspoken comradery and a sense of trust from the safety pin movement.
What to do?
From what I’ve witnessed on Twitter, jabs at the safety pin movement have already begun. The implication is hypocrisy on the part of the participant. Or alternately, supporters of our president-elect are seizing the opportunity to display cruelty. I feel disheartened by both of these attitudes.
At this point, even considering the view that disses the safety pin movement as one of privilege, I’m going for it. The world isn’t perfect, and our expressions of kindness and support for those at risk aren’t always perfect, either. Furthermore, we might want to take a cue from John Oliver by following up with financial contributions to organizations that support the vulnerable and/or the environment. Not everyone who wears a safety pin has the financial means to donate, however. I get that. But petitions and opportunities to volunteer abound.
I added a few buttons to my safety pin, one of which is a heart. I need that heart to tame my beastly soul while the parade of those who seek to deny basic constitutional rights to all Americans — and climate change deniers — passes by on its way to join the president-elect’s army of advisers.
*Please note, I removed prior references to xenophobes and racists because name calling doesn’t seem like a good idea. Is shaming really all that helpful in creating change?