So You Want to Wear a Safety Pin Part 2: Is it Really About Your Feelings?
No it is not. It isn’t about your feelings. In case you were wondering and a lot of you were.
Before I get all the way into this, let me welcome my new readers. Welcome new readers. I post intermittently about a bunch of things that range in subject matter from knitting and my cat to activism and politics. Sometimes I write about all of those things at once.
I’m skilled like that.
So, welcome new readers. Hope you stick around. Some of you won’t and this post will be why. I’m OK with that. Please see the tag line of this blog. It’s true.
There has been a lot of comment on my previous post which is great. I welcome commentary. I also strongly advise that anyone who wants to debate with me read the rules of engagement. It’ll just make things easier for everyone.
One of the comment trends I’ve seen is people pointing out to me that Alt-right/racist groups are co-opting the safety pin.
This seems to come as a surprise to some people; the idea that those who hold the most vile of ideologies would attempt to corrupt this symbol of safety. I am not surprised.
Of course they are. Of course, white nationalists are attempting to devalue this symbolic gesture. That’s what they do. They co-opt our symbols, they co-opt our language, they co-opt the concept of bias and racism and paint themselves as the victims.That’s the only way they can get anywhere close to being taken seriously.
As Progressives it is our instinct to pause and take into account the thoughts and feelings of others. That’s part of what makes us Progressives, that ability to understand a plurality of ideas and see more than one opinion on an issue as valuable to one extent or another. I generally think this ability is a good thing, except when people try to use it to shoehorn concepts like “white genocide” onto a list of opinions and points-of-view that any rational person considers valuable.
I’m not linking to the definition of white genocide. Look it up.
Because some points-of-view are not valuable. Climate Change is real. There is no Tooth Fairy. And the concept of white people being subject to racism is laughable. You should laugh at it.
So yes, of course white nationalists are attempting to co-opt the safety pin movement. So what? Wear it anyway. Or don’t. Whatever.
The most common response to this revelation is “what will people think if they see me wearing a safety pin if racists are wearing it?”
To which I say, “who cares?” Seriously. Who cares what people think of you? Do you think that as someone who carries privilege marginalized people are going to see a ten cent pin and suddenly trust you? Do you think the pin is some magical talisman that negates your privilege?
It’s probably better for you to assume marginalized people aren’t going to trust your good intentions no matter what. Trusting good intentions and the better nature of the privileged is what got us here in the first place.
In fact, the idea that racists might see you wearing a pin and think you are actually on their side could be good. It could be the best possible weapon in a confrontation because when you step in and help the person being attacked the shock of your actions may rock the attacker further back on their heels thus giving you an opening to remove the marginalized person from the confrontation.
What other people think of you doesn’t matter. Helping people does. If you’re not in it to help, then wearing the safety pin isn’t about the marginalized, it’s about your ego. Your ego doesn’t matter. And if you’re suddenly feeling the urge to post your social justice CV in an effort to convince me that wearing the pin isn’t really about your ego, don’t. Because all you’ll be doing is proving it really is about your ego. Don’t wear the pin.
Because it’s not really about the pin either. It’s about the promise. It’s about recognizing that marginalized people are and have always been in danger. The election didn’t change that. The election didn’t embolden anyone. It didn’t make privileged people more bigoted or more aware and comfortable with their privilege. Nothing is different for the marginalized. Only one thing has changed.
Privileged people are noticing. Yes, the SPLC is saying that they have over 200 reports of violence against the marginalized since election night but the key word there is “reports.” They are tracking the data more closely and calling for submissions of incident accounts as a result of the election. But these things were happening before. They’ve always happened.
If you are among the marginalized, especially if you live on the intersection of several marginalized groups, the threat of verbal or physical attack is just something you live with every day.
When I see a vehicle full of white men I don’t think “OMG they might be Trump supporters!” I think “White men are statistically the most violent group in the US and that statistic rises sharply if you are only tracking bias crimes and domestic terrorism.” Because that is the nation in which I live. I don’t think white men might target me for violence because of Trump. I think they might target me for violence because they are white men and I’m neither of those things. That’s all it takes.
I am in no more danger now than I was on Monday, by which I mean I was always in danger. A safety pin doesn’t change that. It doesn’t make me feel safer. A safety pin is a symbol. If that symbol doesn’t carry with it a plan for action then it has no meaning. In which case, don’t wear the pin.