In the first ten days following the 2016 Presidential election, the rights group Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 867 hate incidents. A vicious and bigoted Presidential campaign had unleashed an epidemic of hate crimes and hate speech.
Several incidents have occurred in my own community in suburban Pittsburgh, including a young man of Indian descent who was subjected to racist obscenities and then physically assaulted in a local restaurant, and a swastika that was carved into the playground of an elementary school.
In response to the seeming open season on people of color, non-Christians, LGBT folk, and women, many of us began wearing a safety pin as a visible signal that the wearer was not a dangerous person, and would be an ally to anyone being harassed.
After unsuccessfully rummaging around in my various stashes for a safety pin, I realized that I could more quickly MAKE one for myself before I would be likely to unearth one. And so I began a mission of creating Safe Person Pins which I sell in my Etsy shop, Sadie’s Bethel Beadery. Now I don’t leave home without one.
So where did this symbol come from?
Most recently it popped up in the UK following the unexpected vote in June 2016 to leave the European Union, referred to as “Brexit” (British exit). One of the factors behind this vote was a rise of nationalism and intolerance of immigrants. The safety pin was a way of signalling vulnerable persons that the wearer of the pin was an ally, not a threat.
Digging a bit deeper, the symbolism leads to World War II and the Dutch resistance to the Nazis. A safety pin would be worn inside a hem or otherwise concealed until the wearer wished to indicate that they were a member of the resistance, at which point the pin would be revealed.
The humble safety pin. Emblem of solidarity and compassion, and also of participation in a resistance movement.
A perfect signal to send today.
So when you see someone wearing a pin, let them know that you appreciate its message. And consider wearing one yourself. Let the world know, “I am not a dangerous person. I am a compassionate and courageous person.”
It will give reassurance to those who are most vulnerable among us. And it will be perhaps a small yet significant deterrent to anyone who might be contemplating a hateful comment or action. “I’m watching you,” it says. “And I will not stand by while the rights of other human beings are violated.”
There are, after all, no “innocent bystanders.” There are only guilty bystanders.
Visit my Etsy shop to buy a pin! http://www.sadiesbethelbeadery.etsy.com