There's about 150 think pieces right now about whether wearing a safety pin is a great show of solidarity or an empty gesture of the privileged. This is not one of those, although the safety pin movement did set the train of thought out of the station. And look, wear a safety pin or don't; I'm not here to judge you either way. We all have to do what we think is right and helpful.
That said, the safety pin movement made me realize how much we love our symbols. The yellow ribbon magnet on the car. The safety pin. The temporary Facebook profile pic overlayed with the flag of whichever nation (of white people) had a recent calamity. Whether we do anything concrete or not, we feel the need to advertise our good intent.
And mostly that's fine, except when it gives us the little feel-good charge of having helped without actually helping. Then it's the activist equivalent of taking off our shoes at the airport – nice theater, but pointless in practice.
I'm as guilty of this as anyone else. I retweet voraciously, I Facebook fervently. But my concrete actions are fewer: I donate to an animal shelter and a local NPR station every month and volunteer at the same shelter. And... right now, that's about it.
So I'm not willing to pin on a safety pin and pretend I've done something. The country – and possibly the world – became less safe in a very real way for a lot of people last week. (And by the way, if you deny that or think protesters are just "whining," you'll probably be happier unfollowing me now because I'm not shutting up any time soon.)
Like I said, I'm not here to throw stones at anybody from my glass house. I'm just saying that it's easy for us to get caught up in our symbols and forget that without action behind them they mean very little. That's something I forgot. And I was raised by activists, so I have no excuse for my complacency save the fact that my life has been mostly comfortable and easy.
I'm still trying to figure out where I'm going to focus all the animus in me. But I know that my complacency has to end, because I have friends and loved ones that need more than symbols right now.
Post title courtesy of Kimbra.