Wearing a safety-pin shouldn’t be required to tell someone you’re “safe”. This apparently is the new thing to show solidarity and opposition to those of us that target and spread hate to marginalized people. Americans in particular seem to be polarized the last year or so because of the amount of hate that has been witnessed by bystanders that decide to take video of violence instead of stepping up and trying to stop it from happening in the first place. I’m not saying that every situation is appropriate for someone to step up, when guns are involved for example, but I’m willing to bet that most situations don’t involve guns. There are so many ways that hate can be spread to others, most people will just watch and hope that it doesn’t involve them personally. We’re in a sad state of things if we’re just letting this sort of thing happen and continue to consciously choose to live in our bubbles of complacency.
Doing nothing is just as bad as the bully spreading hate.
I’ve read several blog posts about the meaning of the safety-pin and even found one that stepped you through what to do and when to step in during a situation where someone is being a bully to someone else. I use the term “bully” to represent Islamaphobia, racism, anger, hate, etc. to make things easier for this post. We don’t live in a perfect society, there will always be bullies around us. Our reactions to bullies is what matters though as it is the attention that gives them their power. I used to be that person that didn’t understand what racism, bigotry, hate actually were and how they manifested themselves. I admit that I have not always been the best person I can be, but that doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of learning how to be a better person; learning to embrace difference; learning how important it is to treat others the way they deserve to be treated. My path to learning hasn’t been easy and certainly hasn’t been without mistakes, and to the ones that I offended and lost in the past, I’m truly sorry. You will never know how those events helped me to truly grow into a better person.
You need to want to know me before you can judge me.
My experiences have taught me up to now that to be effective and stand up to bullies, I do not need a safety-pin on my shirt. What I do need is a more effective radar to know when to step up and when to just let it play out. That involves the ability to read the situation carefully and to know when or if intervention is required and whether it would be welcome or not. I’m not naive to think that my appearance alone is enough to make a situation worse rather than better; a middle-aged white male. I’m also not naive enough to think that I won’t be judged on my appearance prior to me saying or doing anything once I decide that I need to intervene. In my 40 years on this Earth, I’ve only stepped up 3 times to bullies, 2 of them for my own personal benefit (they were my bullies). The third time was several years ago and unfortunately didn’t end well for the person I attempted to help or myself. It’s not relevant for this post as it was the beginning of my journey into tolerance and understanding that I’m still on now. My own realization that I had been the stereotypical “white male” made me furious. I was even more determined to cast out what I knew and replace it with what was important to know to be more open-minded and embrace rather than reject our differences.
In order to be enlightened, what you accepted of the world around you is more than likely wrong.
I’m sure there are people out there saying that I am privileged, I could never understand what real suffering is, I can’t begin to understand what it means to be black, brown, yellow, whatever. To those people I say, you’re right. I would never say that I understand your suffering or how it means to be anything other than white. None of this changes how I feel about a bully mercilessly attacking someone else just for being Muslim, black, brown, a woman, a transgender, gay, lesbian, etc. All I see is a human being attacked by another human being based on appearance or perception out of fear. Yes, fear. Fear that has been passed from one generation to another. Fear that has been perpetrated by hundreds, if not thousands, of years because of a difference from what is considered “normal”. Fear of the unknown actions that could potentially hurt you. Fear that, if it were to go away, would mean that the false sense of superiority, elitism, and privilege you feel would go away too. Well, f**k that. I’m tired of being the one that stands on the sideline. I’m tired of my eyes being closed when I think they’re open. I’m tired of the BS that continues to define what it means to be white, what it means to be black, what it means to be brown. I’m choosing to be a human being that loves their fellow human beings. I’m choosing to see race as just another trait that makes someone unique like eye color, hair color, or nationality. I’m choosing to understand before being understood; to listen before speaking; to love instead of hate.
If you want to do the right thing through understanding, listening, and loving; you already know wearing a safety-pin is a hollow gesture.