Safety pins and allyship
Like many around me and many people I know, I cried when I woke up on November 10. I had truly not anticipated the results of the US election and had blindly, optimistically, believed that there was no way such a terrifying human being could be handed so much power.
How wrong I was. How wrong so many of us were. I cried, not because I lost. Frankly, I lost twice in this election cycle, as I had voted for Senator Sanders in the primaries, and then for Secretary Clinton in the election. No, I didn’t cry on my big sister’s shoulder because my candidate lost. I cried because I feel less safe today than I did on November 8.
I’m no where close to alone in this. Many women fear losing their rights to reproductive healthcare. Gay and queer people fear the rolling back of their hard-won rights to serve in the military, marry, etc. African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Muslim-Americans are facing outrageous racist verbal and physical attacks.
We are afraid. And our fear is justified. MY fear is justified. But I must own that I have a lot of privilege in this. I’m a white woman, and don’t have a short, or otherwise extreme hairstyle that might tip someone off to my sexual orientation. I can pass, and that is privilege. And even though I fear for myself, it is absolutely my duty to use my privilege in defense of others. So last week, I clipped a safety pin onto my clothing on my way to work.
I work in Washington DC. I ride the metro and I work in a wonderfully diverse office. I work closely with a brilliant and diligent African-American, a playful Pakistani-American, and a hilarious Costa Rican-American. I am so privileged to work with these people. And I wore my pin because I will use my privilege to protect them, and others, from harm as much as I am able.
Imagine my sadness when I saw posted all over Facebook an article shaming white people for wearing their safety pins, saying that we were just embarrassing ourselves. As someone who has had need of allies in my own life, I am going to say clearly that I utterly reject this ally-shaming.
Not everyone is ready to be exactly the kind of ally you need or expect. But everyone is on their own journey. Shaming someone for taking a small step will discourage them from taking larger steps or growing into more of an ally. And for many, putting on a safety pin, publically declaring their opposition to the new administration, exposing themselves in that way… for many, that is one huge, almighty step.
People walk the path of allyship at different speeds. Not everyone is ready to loudly defend my rights at the risk of their own safety. But they’re working on it. I appreciate everyone who has taken even one step on the Ally Path. Thank you, allies. Thank you so much for learning about, caring about something outside of your own experience. That’s huge, and I am grateful to you, whether you where a rainbow bracelt to church, surreptitiously read feminist articles, or even just recognize within your own heart that all God’s children deserve love and safety. You’re on the Ally Path. And I appreciate you. Please continue wearing your subtle symbols, because I am looking for them. And I know others are, too.