In the wake of the vote in favor of the United kingdom leaving the European Union (infamously known as Brexit), many of my friends in Scotland began wearing safety pins visibly on their tops. Their safety pin was a symbol of solidarity with immigrants who faced a terrifying wave of vocal discrimination after the vote. Some people took the vote as justification, validation of their feelings that immigrants didn't /don't belong in the U.K. and therefore they felt safe making their xenophobic feelings vocal, visible and even physical. The idea behind wearing the safety pin now is that I pledge to stand up for people being targeted by racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic words and acts. Especially in the wake of the election of Donald Trump as the American President given his divisive and deplorable rhetoric. I appreciate the importance of a visible symbol and hope that seeing this symbol will give comfort to people being targeted. More importantly and more likely I hope that wearing the safety pin will start conversations and give me the opportunity to inspire other people to also stand up and take action against intolerance. I have read several articles written by both people of color and white people about the insufficiency of wearing a safety pin. I agree completely, and encourage you to read those opinions as well.
Ijeoma Oluo makes a real and important criticism of choosing a symbolic act rather than actual action in her article.
"All that energy that I had hoped would go toward real-life action in support of marginalized populations who have been fighting this system alone for far too long was diverted to a symbol that most people wouldn’t even notice."
Christopher Keelty offers ideas and challenges people to find more productive ways to show solidarity than just putting on a safety pin in his piece
"We aren’t going to congratulate ourselves on it, we’re not going to wear some stupid symbolic badge that says “Hey, I’m a good white person” so other white people will congratulate us on how woke we are. "
I will continue to wear a safety pin as a symbol but I will not let it replace the actual work that I have committed to. My safety pin means nothing if I do not call people out on intolerant acts and statements.
If I see someone being targeted, I will step in.
If I hear a racial slur, I will speak up.
I will actively increase the number of voices of people of color that I regularly listen to - I will seek out blogs and twitter accounts that offer me new perspectives.
I will question myself on my actions and not just my intentions and take criticism with an open heart.