How to Easily be a White Ally to Marginalized Communities
Christopher Keelty

This article is extremely well written, and covers the very subjects I have been advocating for, for years. But I am going to take umbrage at the snide way in which the idea of the safety pin as a symbol is treated in this column and in another column by a white man which was foisted on us by a well-meaning female member of Pantsuit Nation. You both assume that by clipping a safety pin into a garment, a person kids him or herself that he or she is making a difference. And you and the other writer arrogantly assume that this person is doing nothing else to make any difference.

Like a person who wears a pin saying “Ask me about becoming a Mary Kay representative,” or just “Have a nice day,” the person who has chosen to put on the pin has decided to start possible conversations. I have a pin from the TakeonHate campaign of the National Network of Arab-American Communities. It simply says, in vivid colors, “Take on Hate.” It has started a number of conversations, in a surprising variety of settings and with a surprising variety of people.

And the act of putting on the safety pin in the morning is a mnemonic device for the person, a tiny “Fired up? Ready to go.” None of us knows what a day will bring — or we might not get out of bed. But the pin takes a moment out of our preparations to remind us to square our shoulders and make a difference to ourselves, and thereby to others.

I believe with all my heart that every one of us every day decorates the lives of the people we encounter. A small gesture, a tone of voice, a hand to help, patience when we are feeling impatient — these can make a difference in the lives of those people. We can leave their presence with them feeling valued, or leave them feeling despised and worthless. The day we do the latter is the day we need to take off the pin, look at it, and either live up to it or put it in the junk drawer.

And last, it is not out of the realm of possibility that a vulnerable human being might see our pin and feel better, even safer, even willing to ask for help.

As a correspondent on Pantsuit Nation wrote: 
“White dude. A Michigan professor who is African American as well as several who are LGBTQ wrote that the pins are reassuring to them. 
 Our privilege is advertised by our skin tone. 
 Our willingness to stand up to bigotry is not.”

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