Safety Pins: The bat signal of white guilt for Donald Trump's America


The results of this election caught many of us off guard and left us speechless. For people of color and other highly marginalized groups, it left many of us in fear for our lives and futures, particularly Hispanics, African-Americans and Muslims — groups who Trump maligned and degraded as the cornerstone of his campaign. 

In the aftermath of the elections, people — mainly white liberals — have begun wearing safety pins as a "symbol of solidarity." Celebrities like Debra MessingAlyssa Milano and Patrick Stewart have adopted the idea from Brexit voters who did the same without truly understanding the difference: Brexit affects all citizens of that poor decision equally, Trump's election does not.

Media outlets have glorified this misguided attempt of solidarity, like the Huffington Post calling it an "incredible reason" and Yahoo calling it a "powerful fashion statement." But white people, it's time you understand where you went wrong. 

Now bear with me here, cause this is gonna sting a bit. 

Your safety pin is passive nonsense and may very well be the height of performative wokeness. This faux activism couldn't be more untimely. Even calling it activism is a reach I'm not properly stretched for. You've already failed us. The results are in.  

Now, before you prick me with it, it doesn't go unrecognized that this gesture is full of good intentions. Those good intentions don't go unnoticed, but they are utterly and inarguably devoid of meaning without collective and continued action. Use your voice, privilege and power in ways that can make meaningful change to liberate groups of oppressed people and understand that it is perfectly fine for a group of marginalized people to question your allyship and suggest better ways in which you can take action to serve their community. Especially when POC are living in the face of imminent oppression by people who look and and sound just like you. 

A safety pin is literally one of the most insignificant things one could wear. They are nothing but badges made for white people to assuage white guilt and declare themselves allies completely autonomously. It's convenient and puts the wearer under absolutely no scrutiny from their peers. It signifies almost nothing at all. It is a self-administered pat on the back for being a decent human being. Privilege at its finest.

There is a distinct difference between not being racist and being anti-racist. This safety pin nonsense shows the majority of people are very comfortable with being the former and not the latter. The complacency of well meaning white people got us here and this safety pin isn't gonna hold it all together now. About 70% of voters in this election were white and about 60% of them voted in support of a racist troglodyte. The white electorate mobilized in massive numbers to protect the power and privilege they've spent years telling POC they don't have. 

Forgive me for not shedding a tear over the safety pin I'd likely be stopped and frisked for wearing over the next four to eight years. 

Where was your proverbial safety pin when more than twenty trans women of color were murdered this year? Where was it when black men and women were the subjects of police brutality? Where was it when your bigoted family members said something questionable at Thanksgiving and you didn't speak up? Was the turkey that dry? Was it too emotionally exhausting for you to continually speak up against racism? They took your silence as ratification. They voted accordingly. 

You couldn't find the courage to wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt or donate to the NAACP, but you'll go buy a $24 dollar vintage safety pin from Urban Outfitters to tell people of color you're "not one of the bad guys"? Keep it. 

POC and marginalized communities have needed support and action since the inception of this country to be liberated from systems of oppression and now you wanna wear a safety pin to show support only after you didn't get your way too? Stop putting on a show. The people you let down by not confronting your racist friends, family members and coworkers don't have time watch it or to seek out your borrowed safety pin when they're fighting for their lives and dignity. 

When you see a bunch of guys harassing a women in a hijab on the train and she looks up to see a bunch of safety pinned folks with their headphones in and texting, it's gonna say a whole lot more about you than it you intended it to. Save yourselves the embarrassment. 

Finally, white liberals have notoriously formed their own churches of white liberal sanctimony that allows them to self-segregate and preach equality without ever once standing amongst the congregation of those who are really suffering. They can have their white savior fantasy where they're going to have queer Muslim women flocking to them for sanctuary, but the reality is, many of them designed their lives so the only people they routinely encounter — online and in the real world — are other people that look and think exactly the way they do. Which dissolves any utility a symbolic act like this would normally have. 

Don't give a performative display of solidarity while being complicit in white supremacy. I see your safety pins, but I really wanna see is some major follow through.