I remember a time when the worst trend to enter my life was that of high-waisted jeans. I mean it was hard enough to find jeans that fit comfortably but all of a sudden the jeans had to be slim fit and high-waisted. Such a task.
Alas, the high waist jean debacle has been replaced by something far less constricting yet equally irritating to my stomach.
Some time last week I read an article about how people – mostly white – were wearing safety pins as a sign of support and alliance with minorities, immigrants, Muslims, and anyone else considered a target after this past election. When I first saw this article I had no feelings or thoughts towards the matter.
Then, yesterday, I came face to face with a young woman wearing a gold safety pin on her sweater. Finally, the thoughts and feelings came to me. My immediate thought was LOOK AT THIS PRETENTIOUS ASSHOLE despite the fact that this young lady is actually quite polite and has never bothered me in the slightest way. So I dug a little deeper and here is what I found in the corridors of my mind.
Wearing a safety pin is the easy way out.
Wearing a safety pin is a sign that you recognize something has happened and other people are scared. It is a sign of white privilege that you all are now able to be the allies for the downtrodden because you know that this president-elect has nothing against you. I don’t have to check on my white friends to see if their parents are getting deported to Ireland any time soon. I don’t have to call my Catholic friends and console them about the potential attacks on their cathedrals. White people are protected by the new administration. Whereas guilty white people are using the safety pin as an extra layer of protection against the scorn of people of color.
And to make it worse – you’re now selling them for $335.00.
I fully understand that what I’m writing is divisive. I’ve broken up the country into an us vs. them scenario which seems unfair, doesnt it? The sad truth is that right now, at least for a short while, we are living in the reality of an us vs. them. Them elected Donald Trump. Us will suffer for that choice. Democracy.
I don’t have to call my Catholic friends and console them about the potential attacks on their cathedrals.
It’s easy to slip into that mindset of well I’m white and opposed Trump so I’m certainly not a them but indeed you are. You do not get to wash your hands of your own people the same way I cannot remove the stain of terrorists from mine. There is no safety pin a young Muslim can wear to show they denounce ISIS and are allies for everyone effected by terrorism. We take the blame, we denounce, we repeat. Now it’s your turn.
The safety pin is also a sign that you were never an ally to begin with. If you were not able to convey acceptance and compassion to minorities BEFORE the election then I don’t want to see some twisted piece of tin on your shirt that’s supposed to make me feel more comfortable around you. It’s simply too late for that kind of thing. Real allies don’t need walking advertisements.
When the election was over and I was literally crying in the corners of my office I knew that my co-workers Annie and Elizabeth were safe people to speak to immediately – not because they wore some sort of insignia but because never in our working relationships had either of them made me feel “other”. They treated me in the way that I should be treated: as the hilarious girl in the office that prepares a large portion of paperwork and buys the groceries. Plain and simple.
A safety pin will not be the thing that assuages white guilt either. The same way an American flag hijab does not spare a woman from being called terrorist. The same way that me working 60 hour weeks does not shield me from “Latinos are all loud and lazy“. The same way my college degree does not prevent people from asking me if I’m the first person in my family to obtain a higher education.
There is no way for people of color to escape the suffocating stench of fear and racism wafting through the air right now. There is also no way for white people to come out from under the blame for unleashing the anti-Christ on America. Yes, I know that’s dramatic but I want so desperately for everyone to understand my point.
There is no easy way out.
If you’ve read this far I trust and believe that you are either a person of color nodding or shaking your head in response – or you’re a well-intentioned white person. If you’re the second then I’m glad you’ve made it to this point because it’s at this point I explain what’s actually going to make you a better ally. One that doesn’t have to feel the hate slowly brewing inside a person like myself.
Your first step is to wait. People of color have just been dumped by white America as if we were the side chick. When a person gets dumped they don’t want to get any help from the dumper. So, just chill out for a second while we collect ourselves and find an emotion other than anger.
The next step is to learn to empathize with the targeted people around you whether they be the ethnic or religious minority. You don’t have to get together and sing campfire songs – just be cool. Try to understand why they’ve been so disgruntled lately and moreover put your disgruntled feelings on the back burner for a bit. It helps.
The final thing you’re going to want to do is join the resistance. Sign and circulate the petitions, call your congressman (I called Jose Serrano 3 paragraphs ago), join a protest, donate to a legitimate organization – essentially put your safety pin where your mouth is and actually take up action.
A safety pin is honestly one of the most condescending ways white people are resurrecting their savior complexes from the times of John Smith and Pocahontas. We minorities do not need or desire your protection from the big bad Trump administration. The thought is appreciated on some level but it’s not necessary. We’re all living and trying to better this country together. Yes, right now we’re still us and you’re still them but what makes us all Americans is not what we look like or where we were born – but the lengths in which we’re willing to go to protect and enjoy our American rights and freedoms. So take the pin off, put a smile on, and let’s all work to bridge the gap that this explosive election has created. How hard can it be?