Taking a cue from those coping with Brexit across the pond, political fashionistas are sporting safety pins as a sign of alliance with those feeling even more vulnerable than usual after the election: immigrants, Muslims, people of color, women of all colors, lgbtq folks, to name just a few. As Bex Taylor-Klaus tweeted, “My #SafetyPin shows I will protect those who feel in danger bc of gender, sexuality, race, disability, religion, etc. You are safe with me.”
The safety pin movement is, of course, well-intentioned. It seeks to acknowledge diverse forms of privilege. Although those who view a vote for Trump as a hate crime against the republic are all in this together, the safety pin police rightly affirm that some are more immediately affected by a Trump presidency than others, that we’re not all feeling the same sort of terror. Yet this show of solidarity strikes me as misguided and even offensive for many reasons. It’s not only “embarrassing” and fastens over the fact that white people overwhelmingly voted for Trump, as Christopher Keelty has argued. It’s also paternalistic and presumptuous. Individual promises to protect one another are largely empty when it comes to mob and state-sanctioned forms of violence against classes of people. As history teaches us—over and over again—the kindness of strangers simply isn’t adequate when a cozy band of puppeteers that includes the likes of Stephen Bannon take control of democratic institutions and allow them to run amok.