Alright, this might upset some folks. To which I ask you to reflect on why this is upsetting for you to read (c'mon, you knew I was going to ask that!).
It's about that safety pin you just bought and are about to pin on your shirt.
First, thank you. Thank you for signaling your support and your commitment to being a safe person for anyone who feels or may feel targeted by the racist, homophobic, ableist, and all the other horrific acts of violence going on.
And, now I need to be clear.
If you know me or have been following my writing, you must know that I don't believe in performative allyship -- that is, the act of showing support without actually knowing what that support looks like. I don't believe in changing my profile picture with a country's flag superimposed on it; I don't believe in just hanging up a "safe space" sticker or card; and I don't believe in pinning a safety pin on my lapel UNLESS I'm willing to take action. I don't change my profile picture to a flag because, frankly, I haven't done anything to ally with people in France or Nigeria beyond reading articles and blog posts. There isn't a single person in country that has experienced violence who is sitting at home thinking, "That Liza, she's really shown up for me and my people in this international violence." I haven't. I want to believe that I am emotionally committed to global equality, but there is no one who has gifted me with label "global ally."
I do feel comfortable having a Safe Space sticker, but only because people within the LGBTQ have told me that I have demonstrated a commitment to their issues, done work to educate myself and others, and have actively worked to dismantle oppressive structures that have impacted their community. That safe space sticker reminds me of that commitment and the work that I need to continue doing.
I'm not interested in performing allyship.
I'm interested in actually allying through my every day actions.
Let me give you an example of why this whole pin thing is difficult for me.
Over the past 3 days, I have heard about and read about people -- who I know personally and who I don't know -- who have experienced physical, verbal and emotional violence. If someone were to throw eggs at me while I'm on a walk with my children or yell for me to go back to my country or verbally harass me on a subway train, you know what I will be doing? I'll be freaking out. Know what I won't be doing? I won't be looking around for a person wearing a safety pin on their shirt.
I won't be looking for your safety pin; I'll be looking for a safe escape route.
I won't be looking for your safety pin; I'll be reaching for the keys in my pocket in case I have to defend myself.
I won't be looking for your safety pin; I'll be looking for my child's hand to grab and to protect them, possibly through flight or possibly through fight.
I won't be looking for your safety pin; I'll be looking for a place to throw up after the adrenaline courses through my body.
Friends, your safety pin does not help me.
But, I hope it does help you. I mean that sincerely.
I hope that your safety pin reminds you that many of us have felt pricked and stabbed by the rise in assaults against us and our communities.
I hope that your safety pin reminds you to take action when you see someone being harassed.
I hope that safety pin holds the witty comments you'll say when you see me frozen in my chair and receiving verbal assaults.
I hope that your safety pin gives you some sort of confidence to intervene when someone is being yelled or screamed at on a train, on a sidewalk, in a restaurant, or in class.
I hope that your safety pin holds you accountable for the promise you have decided to make when you put it on.
I hope that your safety pin sends you on a personal journey of unpacking the decades of racism and racist agenda that has been the foundation of this country.
I hope that your safety pin gives you the strength to respond when someone says to you, "Nice fucking pin, asshole."
I hope you are strong enough to not hide the pin under your jacket or under your scarf when you are outside in public, only to reveal it when you get to your liberal, progressive, and socially accepting workplace. After all, there are many of us who don't get to choose how we show up in these spaces. We hold marginalized identities whether we are in our socially just community and when we are at the local grocery store.
I hope that your safety pin is just the beginning.
I hope that your safety pin reminds you of your plan -- the plan you will enact when you witness all of the above taking place.
I hope that safety pin includes a plan -- your individual plan -- for action and reaction.
I hope you look at yourself in the mirror when you put that safety pin on and practice all of the things you'll say or the looks you'll give or the way you'll hold your body when it's time to ally with others.
So, what's your plan?
Is the safety pin something you'll just wear because it's the right thing to do? Or is the safety pin the thing you'll do right?