The UK had Brexit and the US had Trump. Two entirely different situations, but in the aftermath of each, there are commonalities. Both were very divisive issues for their respective nations, and after a vote that was unpopular with many, there was an uptick in xenophobia across the nations. In both nations, there was already an element of dislike toward foreigners, particularly Middle Easterners who are often, unjustly and inappropriately, viewed as having ties to terrorist organizations.
Though Brexit is a multi-faceted, complex issue, one part of the reason the UK proposed and ultimately voted for Brexit (separation from the European Union) was to be free of the pressure from the EU to accept a certain number of refugees from predominantly Muslim countries. Similarly, Trump’s campaign leaned heavily on anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric. And in the days following these two contentious votes, anti-Muslim sentiment surged, primarily among those on the far right.
In the aftermath of Brexit, there came into popular culture, a symbol … a simple symbol … a safety pin. The “safety pin” symbol was inspired by the 2014 #illridewithyou movement in Sydney, Australia. where people offered to sit next to Muslims who felt threatened on their commutes — at the time, there was fear of an Islamophobic backlash after a terrorist attack in Sydney left two hostages and the gunman dead.
In the U.S. since the election five days ago, there have been numerous reports of anti-immigrant hate incidents, particularly in schools, which I find even more disturbing. I continue to believe that there are more good people in both the UK and the US than there are bigots, however as the saying goes, ‘the squeaky wheel gets the oil’. Each of us who recognize the fact that we are all a part of the human race, each of us with both a brain and a heart, must do whatever is in our power to stop this madness before it destroys our nation. For many of us, that means we write and try to educate those with narrow or closed minds. Others may take a more active role. Still others may someday have the opportunity, be in the right place at the right time, to actually offer aid to a victim of bigotry. Whatever role we play, we must stop the proliferation of racism, xenophobia, and homophobia. I think that, no matter your race, your religious beliefs, or your ethnicity, we can all agree that children of every race should be able to attend school without becoming the victims of hatred.
The safety pin is a symbol, but as is the case with all symbols, it stands for something. It is not just a ‘well-wish’, it’s a commitment. You will HELP people. You will stand up. You will defend. It’s action. It means that if your Syrian or Mexican neighbor is afraid to go to the grocery or for a walk in the park alone, you will go with her.
A couple of comments I saw as I was researching for this post resonated with me:
“We don’t just need you to wear a #safetypin. We need you to do the work and educate yourself and your loved ones on white supremacy.” – Morgan Jenkins
My little son has already asked me if we could hide his “brown-skinned” friends in our basement, should there ever be a need. I wept for America Wednesday morning. But now it’s time to work from the inside.
Trump is shell-shocked and clueless, an ideological empty vessel, and the quicker we get Senators Sanders, Warren, Franken, Duckworth, and Booker talking to him, the better. Time is of the essence and there’s more than one [way] to skin a cat.
Stop the protesting in the streets; the man won according to the rules. And for heaven’s sake: stop talking about impeachment; Pence is 1000x worse.
Get busy. But keep that spare room in the attic ready, just in case. When my future grandkids ask me, “what did you do during the war’, I want to have an answer to be proud of: Fought Like Hell.”
A symbol by itself is just that … a symbol, in this case a little piece of aluminum twisted up in such a way as to hold a diaper together, replace a button, or repair a clothing tear. It is the intention behind the symbol that matters. I do not necessarily suggest that everyone wear a safety pin … my intent is to promote awareness of the issue and to urge people to act accordingly. If the wearing of a pin helps us to remember that, then there is far more of value in that pin than simply a bit of metal. Think about it.