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Safety for who?: A Critique of the #safetypin Campaign

In light of this November’s (traumatizing) elections a new campaign, if you will, has surfaced. First starting in Britain as a result of the Brexit, it has now been adopted by many Americans; from college and university campuses (like yours truly–JMU) to the general public. #Safetypin is an effort to show support, and allyship to those most effected by the results of the 2016 presidential election. It is meant to be a sign of solidarity for those who are “targets”, and a way of showing that the wearer of the pin is a ‘safe’ place. As someone who is a women but is also Latina, my “target status” so to speak, as a minority increases. As a result, I have justified doubts and critiques of this new #safetypin wave.

1. I’m leary of the fact that this new campaign is more about supporting a good idea. Everyone wants to feel good about themselves, especially when it comes to supporting a good cause. However, is this good cause simply something that people are fistpumping to, saying, “look at me, I’m wearing a safetypin”,  or has it moved them into action? Are people supportive just in theory or also in action?

2. Are we not all human beings? Yes! We are. I will not deny that there are those people who have no problem acting savagely towards other people. However, we are all human beings. Can we not treat each other in such a way that we also recognize they are a human being too? Why do we need to start new campaigns that say, “hey, I will recognize your human status,” as if someone wasn’t a real person to begin with.

3. Everyone has their own way of expressing their allyship–and yes, there are wrong ways to be an ally–but my question is what is it costing you to be my ally? No, not your life. Perhaps your pride, popularity, a move out of your comfort zone, your voice even when no one else’s voice is with you. Even then are you my ally? Are you still willing to speak up on my behalf? Confront someone who is harassing me because I’m Latina and not White? How is the darning of your safetypin supposed to make me feel safe? Lets be honest, at a time like this, being an ally costs more than the price of that safetypin.

Now, you might feel like I’m being a bit harsh, demanding or maybe missing the point of the efforts. I would certainly have to disagree. But, in an effort as to not be the voice of complete doom, there are some potentially positive aspects to this campaign. While a safety pin is hardly likely to make anyone feel safe, it is a small step in the right direction–everything has to start somewhere.

Allies are attempting to make themselves known. It’s a peaceful way to oppose the incited hate, due to the election and the preceding campaign, and to support those who have been targeted: persons of color, LGBTQ+, immigrants, etc. In other words, anyone not white or heterosexual. While this campaign is a small effort it may grow to be a movement, much like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, by Americans for Americans, not just whites, that will hopefully move people fully into action rather than simply claiming a good idea and feeling good about oneself for wearing a safetypin .

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