Meg, I first read about the safety pin thing in a friend’s Facebook update with an accompanying article. She’s white, privileged, chic, but very socially. I guess you could call her an ally—I say “guess” not because her commitment to social justice for all people is in question, but I don’t think she’d run around seeking attention for herself by calling herself an ally. She doesn’t mince words and is passionate in her beliefs. I’m proud to call her my friend. And after reading the article and her commitment to taking action, I thought hm, that’s nice, and went on with my day. That’s not dismissive, it simply didn’t cross my mind again because I knew I wouldn’t be wearing a safety pin. That’s not the sort of thing I do.
The next day, yesterday in fact, another white female friend shared the article you cited above. And then I read H. Nemesis Nyx’s response.
Three times in 48 hours this subject has come up.
I don’t know what I think. I’ve been focused on shoring up my own resources, trying to find my emotional center while trying to be a voice of reason that says we have to first see the humanity that’s inherent in all of us. Is wearing a safety pin in response to naked -isms baring their fangs in the light of day the perfect response? No, but it is a response. Is it better than no response? Yes. Will it be the only response? I certainly hope not.
When I think about it, this safety pin thing is much like the AIDS ribbon or rainbow paraphernalia. They are merely outward expressions of a person’s beliefs. For some people there’s an immerse backstory of why they wear it and their commitment to the cause. Some people wear them in remembrance of those who’ve died, others as a sign of their involvement with a movement, and others as a mere fashion accessory. Thing is you never know by looking at them.
Immediately after the Pulse shooting here in Orlando, the entire city embraced the rainbow flag. And it’s now become more a symbol of unity in this town as opposed to solely a gay symbol.
As a graphic designer/art director symbols are a second language to me. It takes time for meaning to form in society’s collective mind around a symbol. The golden arches, the swastika, the cross, the pink ribbon even—they’ve all taken time to develop an identity and an accepted meaning.
We can’t control anyone’s motivation for wearing it. If someone with racist intentions lies in wait to take advantage of someone else, yes, that’s a wrong and despicable thing. But hopefully, there would be others around (pin-wearing or not) to intervene.
One thing I’m developing an appreciation for examining both sides of issues. I see no real reason not to wear the safety pin if that’s how a person wishes to show support. As I understand it, the reason is to let people of color and those who would be harassed that the wearer supports their right to be here, equal rights under the law, etc. If someone finds comfort in seeing another person wearing it, great. it’s doing its job. And that’s a good thing. To that end, there’s no guarantee that it will inhibit wrongdoing; but if it stops one incident of someone being harassed, then it’s doing its job.
A safety pin’s impact also depends on the context: the wearer, the number of people wearing it, and the situation. Let’s not forget that.
For people who would say it’s a bad choice … they’re right. It could be a bad choice for them. I’m not a ribbon or pin wearer. But I refuse to tell someone else the manner in which they choose to show support is wrong because it makes “me” feel weird. (If the benefit derived benefits society on the whole, I can deal with a little uneasiness.) I will engage with people via my writing or in relationships. That’s how I feel I’m most effective. Others might see writing and talking with people one on one as a poor choice, but the decision is mine.
People, we have to stop being so quick to criticize other people’s ideas just because the execution is not what we would do. Let’s give it time. This is but yet another way for people to take a stand. It just can’t be the only way. It can not be the only way.