How to Easily be a White Ally to Marginalized Communities
Christopher Keelty
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Once again, I’ll respond to the safety pins = bullshit trope. We must distinguish between symbolic acts and signaling acts (sociology at work). If wearing an emblem is just a symbolic act, then I agree it is just one more empty gesture that makes the bearer feel good. But, if it is a signaling act, then it has meaning: A signal, in this case, to people who may feel or actually be in a moment, at risk. If someone is being hassled, and they can see others wearing a signal, they know they have someone to rely on. Then of course, it is up to us to intervene, follow through on our signaled commitment. Or, if they are just out and about, feel at risk just by being out there, and see a lot of folks wearing the signal, then they can, it would be hoped, feel less anxiety in their daily lives. They can see that not every white face in the crowd of daily life who might be a threat, is a threat. It can also become, once the meaning is recognized, a signal to those posing the threat, that they are not in a universal majority of haters. They may be less likely to act if they see people around them they know will intervene. Conversely, engaging in a signaling act can also put the wearer at risk. I used to wear a peace sign (forty years). Especially back in the day, that occasionally put me at risk. But it was a risk I was willing to take because I had a statement I wanted to make, a signal to send. I still have a peace sign on the back of my car. That signal occasionally gets people waving the two finger peace sign back, but I also have gotten road rage salutes, honks, been called names. I also have a written signal, Howard Zinn’s quote, “There is no flag big enough to cover the killing of innocent people.” I love seeing people notice it, read it, and watch their reactions. If I happen to be near the car, and I see a positive look on their faces, I will try to catch their eye. They know they have a compatriot. Both our days are a bit better. When I see disgust, I usually let it go. Signs and symbols can matter. I’m willing to run the risks, act if need be, pay the price of being a truly signaled ally, not just a symbolic ally. Do not belittle any act of kindness. Peace

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