Your Safety Pins Are Not Enough.

Lara Witt
Lara Witt
Nov 12, 2016 · 4 min read

Have you seen people wearing those safety pins on their lapels, tops and coats? They’re the latest trend in allyship. For the low cost of $2 for a pack of 10 pins, you can show people that you’re one of the nice ones without having to actually dismantle white supremacy and do any hard work.

I’m taking a hard position on this because as nice as solidarity can be, it isn’t solidarity if nice white people aren’t confronting their racist relatives, co-workers, friends and acquaintances.

A safety pin is cute but i’ve seen solidarity trends come and go, and i haven’t actually felt safer around people who label themselves as allies. I’ve seen white people avoid oppressive situations, avoid interactions which require more than a shake of the head all because it was too much work.

A safety pin does not give PoC any proof of you actually dismantling oppressive structures. It’s a badge white people want to wear so that PoC don’t associate them with Trump. It’s performative allyship at best. It’s a sign which says, “don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for him! I’m not racist!”

There is nothing nice white people hate more than to be associated with racism. They don’t say n*gger, they’re all for equal rights, they know gentrification is bad, but they really like dollar taco night at the Mexican place owned by two white bros.

This form of performative allyship is rooted in a pathological need that white people have for praise. But your safety pin is lazy.

The nice white people don’t actually confront white supremacy in the workplace, they’re not aware of microaggressions and even when they are they would rather not use their privilege to dismantle the pervasive inequalities around them. No, they have a safety pin, they didn’t vote for Trump.

Meanwhile they can maintain their own biases and fly under the radar. Wearing a safety pin does not show us that you challenged racism in the last eight years, it does not stop you from talking over our experiences within our spaces, it alleviates any pressure you may feel to actively tear apart the racist structures of this nation.

Now that we have established that wearing a pin won’t be enough for the next four years and that it’s too little too late, there are things that white people can do to dismantle racism within their circles.

The problem with hyper visible forms of allyship is that they can easily be co-opted by white supremacists in order to harm people of color. Bystander intervention is going to be necessary especially with the recent uptick in violence against us. If you witness intimidation or harassment, use your whiteness to comfort the person who is being harassed, speak to them, distract the harasser.

Confront your racist family members when they begin exposing their bigotry. Explain to them how their ideology is harmful and reduce it to what it is: hatred and a need for power over oppressed groups in order to feel superior. Racists need to be reminded that there are white people who are prepared to confront them on their hatred.

Contribute to your local anti-racism groups. Grassroots organizations are a valuable asset, they also provide support to their local communities by providing goods and resources. If the space is primarily run by PoC, contributing is good, but don’t co-opt the movement and don’t value your voice over theirs. Their experiences are more important than yours when discussing racism.

Be aware of the micro and macro aggressions which frequently take place in professional settings. Pay attention to how PoC are treated in comparison to their white coworkers, use your privilege to dismantle white supremacist structures within the workplace. This sounds scary to some, but white supremacy is primarily maintained under capitalist structures which rely heavily on the oppression of people of color within hierarchical structures.

Attend local protests and protect PoC who are attending should police forces become violent. I know this sounds like a risk but whiteness protects.

If you have a good and regular source of income, donate some funds to causes which support anti-racism and provide resources to women and the LBGTQ+ community. Help provide local shelters with blankets, clothes, paper goods, sanitary pads, tampons and other everyday use goods.

Spend your money wisely. Help support businesses owned by people of color, pay writers of color who are freelancing, tip them for their threads on Twitter which help educate you on racism, feminism and forms of oppression. Tip us for taking the time to answer your questions, many of us don’t get paid for our expertise.

Allyship is only valuable if it is tangible and an asset to people of color. A safety pin is only tangible for white people, it doesn’t support people of color in any the ways which I have listed above.

Yes, allyship is work.

Yes, deconstructing white supremacy is work.

Yes, eradicating racism is work and you’re only an ally if you dedicate yourself to it.

We PoC know who to trust and it isn’t a safety pin which tells us who we can.

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