14 November 2016

Safety pins

Y'all have heard about the safety pin initiative, right? White people who consider themselves allies are putting safety pins on their coats as a sign that they're allies. Or something. Depends who you talk to. And the backlash is epic. From snark like "If only we'd had safety pins in 1933" to legitimate serious questions about what they mean? Does a pin mean that person will stand up and help? Or is it just a little feel-good way of saying #NotAllWhitePeople without doing any work? Good question. And I think it probably varies from person to person.

For me, I'm going to wear one. Why? Because if someone who is in a marginalized group needs help on the street, and they're scared that the response might be "Fuck off, $Slur", a little safety pin might be enough to allow them to ask for help. From something as little as "Can you help me get that off the shelf, Tall Human?" to "Help! I'm being harassed by bigots". And while the pin is no guarantee whatsoever, it's a tiny thing.

That's the thing. I know the pin isn't the answer. I know the pin doesn't really solve a single thing. I know the pin isn't something that guarantees a damn thing. But I also know that I have basically no power as a single individual. I can't bring down fascism myself. I can't end racism. I can't make my bigot brother vote for a decent human. I can't make my mother stop being afraid of minorities. I. Cannot. Do. This. I can keep talking to white people and learning from Indigenous people (the most marginalized group in Canada) and other minorities. And, I can offer a tiny sliver of hope that I am not going to hurt you if you talk to me, a sliver of hope that I can be trusted to help. And hell yes, trust is earned, not due because of a pin. But I also know if I need help, a wee clue about who might be safer than the next guy is a good thing. Mom always told me when I was little that if we got separated, I should look for a woman with children. It wasn't a guarantee that she'd be helpful or useful or safe, but it was definitely safer than a random man.

I see lots of angry people demanding we progressive white people do more. I'm not sure what it is we can do. Because the bigots don't listen to us either. We're losing friends, family, and loved ones to the hatred. We're not the victims, I know, and I'm not complaining. I'm saying that I have lost family, my friends have lost family, my family has lost friends. Because we are standing up for you. We are saying that bigotry isn't okay. And they don't care. We're writing to our politicians. We're donating money. We're educating our kids. But we're outnumbered. Vastly.

So no, safety pins wouldn't have helped in 1933. And they won't help much now either. But a question for the angry progressive people who are mocking the idea of a visible symbol of support, do tell, what should progressive Germans have done in 1933? And what should progressive Americans do now? And for the Canadians like me who are worried we're next in the fall to global fascism, what do we do? Because "Don't normalize it" isn't helping any more than pins are. We need concrete ideas. Plans. Roadmaps. Because we are fucking trying, and it isn't working.

And yes, I know this sounds like "me me me". I can't help that. The only experience I have is my own. It's simply this: I want to help. I don't know how. I'll keep talking. I'll keep listening. I'll keep writing. I'll keep donating. I don't know how much it'll help, because so far no good. But if I can be "the Mom with the kids" that someone might approach simply because I can use a safety pin, I'll do that too.