Christopher, I hear and witness your anger. I deeply understand your outrage — at white denial, white apathy, white non-activism, and white talk-it-but-don’t-walk-it pontificating. These realities are a significant reason we find ourselves where we are today, collectively. I am with you.
However, I feel moved and compelled to challenge you on your denigration of the safety-pin symbol, as, for many of us, it’s far more than a effortless symbol — an easy out.
I’m a white woman of privilege who has worked tirelessly and ceaselessly for the entirety of my adult life to utilize and leverage that privilege for the greater good. I’ve put myself at risk, I’ve engaged in countless hours of volunteerism, and countless more in actions of activism. I’ve stood publicly and steadfastly as an advocate for First Nations peoples, for the Black community, for women, and above all for our shared natural environment.
I’ve lived for decades by the tenets you float in your article as a untried test-balloon. (And I’ve done this for probably more years than you’ve been an adult.) My wearing of a safety pin is by no means an assuagement of guilt, or an effortless act of non-activism. For me, and for many of us — for other tireless activists (many of whom are well-respected published authors and public speakers of strength, courage, intellect, wisdom, and experience)—for us, this symbol is a pledge to action.
This weightless pretzel of metal I wear is a very public pledge that I have been, and will only continue to be, a loud and vocal, noticeable advocate for social justice. It is proof I wear outwardly—that I will only continue to step up, step forth, and take action when and where it’s needed. For many of us who embody the practices you outline, the pin is the visible tip of a deep, tested, sacredly held iceberg. A monolith of vocal responsibility. An emblem of warriorship.
I understand where you’re coming from. Deeply. And I project I understand what you were seeking to do, with prose. But please — please — do not denigrate this important action, or those who support it. Please, instead, encourage people to do both — to get busy, get involved, get active — to speak up and act out, peacefully yet powerfully, for the greater good. Please encourage people to take action in earnest, AND to visibly pledge their promise to no longer hide behind their privilege.
The dark marathon before us will take everything we’ve got. Leadership now falls to each of us. We must do all that we can to advocate for and champion those who need it most.
Now of all times is not the time to discourage people from taking, potentially, their very first step.