On Safety Pins, Actions, and Intentions

Yeah, yeah, y’all knew this was coming…that whole safety pin thing. Really, it was inevitable. But it isn’t because I’ve been slacking (despite what I tell myself). It’s because I’ve had to sit down with  myself and have a really long hard think about not just how I feel about the safety pin issue, but how best to frame it around Backup Ribbon Project. I know there’s a great deal of controversy over what precisely the pin is meant to symbolize, and what should (or shouldn’t) be expected of anybody wearing (or not) wearing it. All I can say is that these are *my* thoughts and how I view it.

First, a bit of history: The safety pin concept actually first came about in response to the Brexit vote, in which the UK voted on whether or not to remain as part of the European Union. Ultimately, it voted to leave, albeit amidst a great deal of controversy and (sad to say) a rather sharp spike in hate crimes targeted against immigrants in the UK. I am half-British, born in London, and went back every summer while I was growing up. I first pinned a safety pin to my backpack as a show of solidarity to my British heritage and those who had wanted to remain within the EU.

Of course, it was quickly adopted here in the US immediately after our contentious presidential election, in response to our own sharp rise in violent hate crime. But this is where my attitude toward the meaning behind the pin had to take an immediate change. As a simple show of solidarity toward my British heritage, not much was required of me in order to have that pin be visible. In fact, most Americans likely would not know what it meant. But that’s all changed now.

I still have the pin on my backpack, but I am acutely aware that my attitude toward its meaning has dramatically shifted. Ultimately, it lives in the same space for me as the Backup Ribbons, but in a larger universe than just the geek community. It’s an active decision on my part to step in to back up anybody who is being either threatened with violence or actually being assaulted. And yeah, that’s a scary thing for me to contemplate. It’s one thing to say this for a geek event, but another entirely for me to say it for *any time I am out in public.* That’s an order of magnitude larger in my mind.

But at the end of the day, I find that I can’t NOT do it. I was raised to believe that actions mean more than intentions every single time.  We can say that we are willing to help, but until we actually put action behind that intention, we have not truly made a difference.

So I guess that’s what I would ask people to consider. Are you willing to actively do something to help? Obviously, it doesn’t have to be direct confrontation, but making an proactive step to reach out to those in need, rather than waiting for them to find you can make such a difference. Your actions toward somebody mean so much more than your intentions.

Solidarity is great. It felt good for me to do that in response to Brexit. Now that these same terrible things are happening right here in my very city? Solidarity is not enough. The safety pin is a great symbol to show that you will not stand for hate crime, but that symbol must also have action to back it up (see what I did there).

And yes, Geeks Got Your Back pins are in the works!



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