— Patrick Stewart (@SirPatStew) November 11, 2016
In the days since Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election, a number of people have started wearing safety pins on their shirts. Some people are even getting safety pin tattoos. It’s not just a fashion statement, either. The safety pins are meant as a visual sign of support and unity.
@sarahfelsinger Lovely, lovely, lovely!
I’ve made a couple of little changes and freshened up the font a bit. pic.twitter.com/iQLS7474zJ
— Dr. Alice Fusco (@Dr_Alice) November 12, 2016
Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos reports that the safety pin gesture started in the U.K. after the “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union back in June. That decision was seen by many as a triumph of xenophobia and racism, and after the announcement people started seeing an increase in the number of racist attacks and bigotry out in the open. In an effort to let strangers around them know that they would support and defend the people around them against harassment and bigotry, some brits started wearing safety pins on their shirts and jackets. “You’re safe with me,” it’s meant to say. It’s a small gesture, but the hope is that a person who is scared might see it and know they were supported, and maybe feel less alone.
It’s like when you see a protester with a big sign in the street and you think, “Oh God, what’s he on about?” And then you feel a wave of relief when you see the sign is advocating something you think is good and just, and not something vile and hateful. The safety pin is meant to show solidarity and make people feel like someone else is on their side.
That feeling of solidarity is especially important when the country seems to be celebrating the results of the election by engaging in a public performance of racism and bigotry.
In the U.S. the election is still fresh and it is at this point unclear if the amount of overt racist harassment and abuse is increasing a result of the election, or if it has always been that bad, and it’s just that the election is making the media take more notice of it. Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos reports that in the U.K., though, there was a clear correlation and after investigation the police said there has been a “57 percent rise in reported incidents” of racist harassment and attacks since the Brexit vote.
Hence the safety pins. They’re a little way of waving to the people around and saying, “I oppose bigotry and harassment.” It’s a small gesture, but a way to show solidarity and let people know where you stand.