I have posted repeatedly on this blog about people wearing different things to signal solidarity of various sorts. I research how people build alternative securities through solidarity - so I have been following the debates about recent attempts to create safety by wearing safety pins.
If you are in the US, and maybe even Canada, you have probably heard about wearing a safety pin to signal solidarity for safety in the face of a hateful attack. But I will start with a brief explanation for global readers, since I recently presented on it at a workshop in Brussels and no one had heard of it. This was all the more surprising since it was a workshop on 'Nurturing solidarity in diversity' put on by the DieGem research group (see their paper on that page about their work, Putting flesh to the bone).
People started wearing safety pins in the UK after Brexit, in response to a huge rise in anti-immigrant attacks. It was inspired by the by the #illridewithyou movement in Australia, in which people offered to take public transportation with Muslims fearing a backlash after a Muslim gunman held people hostage in a cafe in 2014. I believe the initial idea was to signal something like 'I will step in to create safety' in the case of an anti-immigrant attack.
1) Address recognizing a harassment situation, including hate crimes
3) Teach different strategies for intervening in harassment situations
4) Outline how to choose the appropriate strategy while prioritizing safety of self and others
It makes a real difference if the person wearing a safety pin frames it as 'you are a victim, I am not - I am here to help you', or something like, 'I believe in safety and human rights for everyone. I am part of the new civil rights movement and in the struggle to ensure that everyone’s rights are respected. When I am a bit safer than someone else under attack, because of a particular privilege, I will leverage that privilege to try to increase their safety.'
Whenever privilege is used in solidarity organizing across difference there is a danger of reinforcing the systems and practices that make some lives worth more than others, but when used carefully and with awareness, sometimes privilege can be used to wear away those inequalities.
Much as with the international protective accompaniment that I research, a quick and easy use of safety pins could reinforce the superiority of some over others. It takes doing more consciousness raising and organizing - but if safety pins are used as part of a larger project of education and movement building they could play a role in changing the reality that now some people are safer than others.