I started wearing a safety pin on Friday. No, let me rephrase, I started wearing a safety pin Friday, with pride. The movement as I understood it, was to say to anyone that was feeling unsafe that “I am a safe place. I am a person you can trust.” This started in Britain after Brexit and the outpouring of racism over across the pond. Here it was in reaction to Donald becoming our president elect.
A couple days after this, I started to see a backlash to the safety pin. First a claim that it was being used by white supremacists, that there was an attempt to coopt the symbol. But I couldn’t find any actual proof of this. However, then I started seeing legitimate concerns from POC that this was simply another way to soothe the soul of white privilege. And this upset me. Yes, this hurt my feelings. I was afraid that something I was doing as a sign of solidarity was simply my naivety showing itself. So I took a couple days. I reevaluated why I was wearing a safety pin (all the while stubbornly refusing to take it off). I read articles about the good and bad of the safety pin movement. I’m sure you’re all sick of them by now, and I can’t find the one I wanted to link here anyway: which actually makes me sad because I dislike the Huff Post commentary – it seemed incendiary for no reason – if you’re interested, look around there are much better (and non apologetic) written posts about the issue. Anyway, I digress.
Over the past couple days while I mulled this over I forced myself to think on my white privilege. And I have a lot of it. I am a straight white cis female, I was raised in upper middle class white suburbia, by two parents who are still together, I was able to go to college and had the privilege of failing out and (hindsight being 20/20) it didn’t fuck up the rest of my life forever, I have a stable full time job, I’m married to a white man I love, who also has a stable full time job, we’re well on our way to being upper middle class ourselves. I have had a lot of things handed to me just because of the circumstance of who and where I am.
However, on an overly personal note, when I watched the SNL opener last night (I know I’m late to the party), I cried. A lot. For the very first time in my life I am afraid. I am afraid to be who I am simply by being female. For the very first time in my life I purchased mace to keep on me at all times. My husband and I are talking about when we want to start trying to have children, and I am afraid of bringing a child into this world – privilege or not. I am very very afraid. And this is nothing compared to what the people who are irritated by the safety pin movement are feeling. NOTHING. I can’t even imagine – but I can try.
And while I can’t even imagine what my POC, gay, trans, muslim etc. friends are going through, I refuse to stop trying. I hold no guilt for Donald being elected simply because of my skin tone. I hold guilt that Donald was elected because I could have should have done more. I should have been involved in the politics. I should have supported Bernie when he was running. I should have gotten out there and helped. I didn’t.
What drew me to the safety pin movement, beyond the fact that yes, it makes me feel better, and we all need that right now is that it is holding me accountable. I’ve been silent too long. I’ve witnessed harassment and not had the stones to do anything, not even say hello and put another body between the victim and harasser. The safety pin I don is a reminder that I am with anyone that doesn’t feel safe. I may not always be able to do anything. You think I’m going to stick my body into a physical fight? No. But I will not turn away. I will find some way to help, even if it is just striking up a conversation with someone who is clearly being harassed.
My safety pin is not just to tell you that I am a safe place. My safety pin is to hold me accountable to do something. My safety pin is to remind me that my privilege can be used for good, not just guilt. And sure, it’s tucked up that it took a Donald fucking Trump presidency for this to happen, but I am with you and I am a safe place, to the absolute best of my ability.