Okay, this is actually a click-baity title. I’m a liberal, so as long as you aren’t hurting anybody, I’m not really in the business of telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. You should follow your conscience. But I can tell you that I won’t be wearing a safety pin in protest Trump or in solidarity with women and minorities. And these are the reasons why:
It’s Passive and Condescending
I’m a straight white guy, so I’m willing to listen and be corrected on this. But it seems to me that, if I were part of one of the groups Trump has spoken disparagingly about, my response to a safety pin on somebody’s shirt would be “Really? That’s all you got?”
Symbols can be powerful, sure. But do you what’s even more powerful? Doing something. And for too long, we just haven’t done anything. We’ve been too content to keep the peace. To not offend people.
What’s truly powerful is standing up to bullies in real time, as it happens, instead of not confronting them because you don’t want to make a scene.
What’s powerful is having that uncomfortable conversation with a dear family member about why a particular behavior or attitude is so distressing. Even if it does make Thanksgiving uncomfortable.
What’s powerful is finally having those talks at church about why eleven o’clock Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in the country, or why LGBT kids are killing themselves over our “good news,” instead of avoiding the subject because it might offend the big donors.
Hate and ugliness too often thrive not because other people are awful, but because we let it.
It Encourages Tribalism
Say, have you heard that we have two Americas? I know, I was just as surprised as you! It seem that coastal elites live a bubble, and so does rural America. How did this happen? I’d like to suggest that it has something to do with the Jesus fish on our cars and our segregated Facebook feeds. That is, we only talk to people who already agree with us. And like wearing a sports jersey, the safety pin is less likely to be a beacon to a hurting person that “I’m safe” as it a flashing neon sign to “my people” that we’re on the same team.
Case study: I used to wear a WWJD pin back in the 90s. I got tons of comments on it! From people in tribe, that is. From everybody else? Zilch.
It May Make People Less Receptive To What You Have to Say
I have a lot of conservative friends. They are really wonderful people, and it’s great that they listen to what I have to say and respectfully consider it. But honestly, I know they always consider the source. On certain subjects, no matter how right I am (and I am right, of course), they take everything I say with a huge salt shaker of salt, just like I do when they tell me something. That’s just human nature. All else being equal, a critique from a like-minded person is much more powerful and impactful than a critique from the other side.
Now imagine you are in a situation where the people you are interacting with aren’t even your friends. They’re just acquaintances, or coworkers. But you want to stand up to some bit of casual sexism that’s going on in the office, because you don’t want to just be that passive ally anymore. So you intervene.
But they see this safety pin on your shirt. And immediately your criticism is invalidated because you’ve identified your tribe from your attire. You’re a poor fragile liberal hippy safe-spacer. To use a sports analogy, you are the guy in a Red Sox cap trying to convince me that Jackie Bradley Jr. is as good a centerfielder as Kevin Kiermaier. No offense, dude, but you’re an idiot.
So don’t wear a safety pin. Or do, if it makes you feel better. But I won’t be. I will be advocating though. Because like it or not, we don’t really have a choice. We’re all in this together.