It couldn't be easier. Go to a drawer and find a safety pin. Put it on whatever you're wearing, in a place it can be seen.
Congratulations! You are now part of the movement to help anyone who feels threatened by racism. You have told the world that you are willing to be “a safe person to sit next to on a bus, walk next to on a street, even have a conversation with.”
How sad. We can no longer assume others will accept us or even let us pass by. Because we are immigrants. Because of our skin color. Because we dress in a different way. Because we are willing to take jobs that no one else wants anyway.
Because some of us have to identify ourselves as non-racist by displaying an item originally meant for speedy repairs.
The rise of public displays of racism have been astounding. Suddenly it seems as if the Statue of Liberty--and basic everyday tolerance--have lost all meaning. White guys rule. Everyone else can go back to the hole they crawled out of.
Take Brexit for example. By a teeny margin, UK citizens voted to leave the European Union. Big mistake, said all the people who are smart about these kind of things, including the UK Treasury Department, warning that the country would be "permanently poorer." Nonetheless, there it is, the UK is now all by its lonesome.
One of the "Leave" principles was pure anti-immigrant, including promoting the idea that to remain in the EU meant “an almost limitless number of Middle Easterners and Muslims,” as well as publishing information creepily similar to the Nazi party's posters of the 1930s. The leader of the Leave Movement, Nigel Farage (who resigned four days after the vote: "I have achieved my political ambitions.") proclaimed, "I can't apologize for the truth." Even after Jo Cox, a Member of Parliament who supported immigration and the benefits of remaining in the EU, was murdered by a white supremacist.
The United States has suffered a terrible, heartbreaking week of racism. Men apparently killed because they were black, followed by a revenge massacre of white police officers who were present during a peaceful protest. None of it makes sense, but totally fuels the fire of hate for people of different color.
Okay, you get the picture. Events are trending to support racism in both the UK and the US. But so not fine with many, many citizens. Some of us are sickened by what is happening to our family, friends, and neighbors.
Hence, the safety pins.
Following a December 2014 attack in a cafe by a Muslim man, Australians started a "I'll Ride With You" campaign to let Muslims know that they could feel safe on public transportation. Thousands of Aussies responded, offering to meet fellow countrymen at a train or bus station and accompany them to their destination. After Brexit, an American named Allison took this concept and launched #SafetyPin.
In school we learned of brave Dutch citizens who wore the humiliating yellow star during Nazi occupation as a sign of defiance and protest, as well as loyalty to their Jewish compatriots. Some paid for their bravery with their lives, but they did what they could to show support.
What makes the choice of the safety pin as a symbol of anti-racism interesting is that it was invented almost simultaneously by an American and an Englishman, both filing patents in 1849. (The American, Walter Hunt, won by a few months.) Now both countries are caught up in fierce, divisive arguments regarding immigration. Countries who should know a lot about the topic. After all, one of those countries once had the snappy slogan "The sun never sets on the British Empire." I imagine there was quite a bit of movement within that empire. The other country was started by, well....immigrants.
Are you willing to wear a safety pin? To help another human?