Tag Archives: US election

Thoughts on the Safety Pin

27 Nov

Since Brexit an interesting phenomenon has appeared – the use of the once innocuous safety pin as a symbol of safe space. It has popped up in the USA post-election as well.


It’s heartening to see people recognizing that spaces are not safe for everyone. Check.     It’s also great to see that people are recognizing that those who don’t feel safe need allies. An ally is someone who stands up for and speaks up for those who are being victimized, oppressed, marginalized, harassed, harmed, etc because of who they are. Check.

Those are the good things about the safety pin phenomenon, and if it’s helping to make people more aware of, sensitive to, and likely to intervene re: racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc. when they see/hear it, then that is a step in the right direction. IF however, they are a cute symbol to pin on and show that one is supportive and an ally – and it’s not backed by awareness and followed by action, then they are dangerous and misleading and actually making spaces LESS safe.

Often we think of isms, oppression or marginalization as individual and personal, requiring an individual response. But there are other more insidious ways that undermine people’s safety- and these are systemic. Speaking up and standing up against those are also necessary – and more challenging because it’s hard to see these inequities if they are not impacting you. And so often they are not seen, and not spoken up or stood up against.

Which is where the safety pin causes some consternation and anger.

Unsafe spaces did not begin with Brexit or the US election. They have existed for too many years. Some see the safety pin and wonder where it (and more importantly, the sentiment) has been all this time – this symbol and expression of solidarity, safety and the promise of allyship. It’s a good question.

Wearing a safety pin also suggests that someone can know what a safe space feels like for someone else, which is questionable. But if we ask questions, and learn about each other, we can perhaps help to make spaces safer.

In the end, I’m torn about the safety pin.

I understand the anger about it. That it seems like the fashionable “in” thing to do, that it’s easy and safe for the person wearing it, that it is a pin rather than action.                    And I hope that maybe it’s also the beginning of people seeing more, of considering how different life can be experienced, of speaking up and stepping up against the isms, the phobias – against hatred. Some people may be late to the game, but if they are ready to play, then there will be more allies on the team. And isn’t that a good thing?

The safety pin could be an amazing symbol of action, mobilization, solidarity, courage, and hope. But to accomplish this is requires awareness of self and others, understanding the bigger picture, recognizing your privilege and using it to create change (among other things). It could signal a much needed change in how we see each other, what we notice and what we fight for and against – to make the world a much safer place for everyone.

But if you aren’t educating yourself about the issues, if you don’t know what it means to be an ally, if you’re not willing to step up and stand up, then it’s just a cool thing to do that will pass when you get bored or you think enough time has passed – in which case, please don’t wear one.

Either way, I encourage you to be open to hearing people’s reactions to them, and being willing to have a conversation about it – in order to see more and learn more about the people around you.

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion


Some thoughts on the US Election

13 Nov

The US election is devastating for so many reasons – not just the results, but the whole campaign.

Beyond the US president elect, it has shown us the underbelly of what seems like half of American voters: Racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, white supremacy… But Trump didn’t cause this; he merely said out loud what many were thinking and feeling, and gave them permission to say it out loud as well. These sentiments are not new – to the US or any other country. I’m not a history scholar but I know that US history is rife with entrenched and systemic racism and sexism, and many of the other isms have a trajectory that is similar, if not as long. Other countries are not innocent to these same intolerances.

Yes, there have been advancements – some big, some not so big – in human rights, equity, civil rights. But what is clear from this election (and which should be a wake up call globally) is that these advances have not reached everyone’s hearts. We have managed, in some way, and in some places – not all and not always well – to make at least expressing the isms and phobias unacceptable. Anti discrimination laws, human rights codes and acts, hate crime laws, and movements like the Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives Matter help to raise awareness and consciousness and create a standard of how we should be together – or what we should strive for. This election race and outcome has undermined these efforts and advances by normalizing and sanctioning overt hatred and violence – specifically Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, immigrants, Muslims, women, and people who identify as LGBT.

The horror of this election campaign and victory is that in addition to systemic racism and oppression – which is demoralizing and exhausting to live with as marginalized people, with far-reaching negative economic, social, health (and other) outcomes – there is now an even stronger threat to actual physical safety and the devastating personal experiences of racism, xenophobia (etc) and oppression.

While at least part of the US population reels from the results and the reality that the Trump victory suggest for their country for the next 4 years, there is another danger beyond the US borders: smugness.

Many of us in Canada are sighing with relief and saying how happy we are that we don’t live there as we point south towards the Canada-US border. I’m sure these sentiments are echoed in other countries as well. But consider this: it wasn’t long ago that we had a prime minister who successfully whipped up a national fear of Muslims, contributing to the rise of Islamophobia in this country. And we have legitimized racial profiling in many police departments through a practice called carding. The KKK exists in this country too. And although we have good LGB human rights, trans rights across the country are not consistent. Indigenous populations living on reserves are dealing with conditions that rival those of some developing countries. And women still don’t have adequate representation in positions of power. Although our current prime minister made sure the house of commons was 50% women “because it was 2015”; it wasn’t “2015” for Black people, or Indigenous people.

 Hatred and bigotry are not reserved for our US brothers and sisters. They may be showing theirs in fuller force and for all to see these days, but if we point our fingers at them, and think we are better, we miss the opportunity for self-reflection and our own healing – and to make the communities, cities and the countries we live in better for everyone.

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder                                                                                          Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion  www.annemarieshrouder.com

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