A few years ago I was a residence hall director on a college campus and it was a time of unrest because of stereotypes and misconceptions directed primarily toward the homosexual students on that campus. We ran up against all of the value statements, Catholic church teachings and social mores of the time in order to build a safer environment.
One response from the university, after a series of seminars and presentations on diversity targeted at residence hall staff, faculty and administration, was a request that they hang rainbow logos on a door or a window in a residence hall, a faculty office, a classroom or any other university space. It would be a sign that the space was safe; a place where anyone could come to talk about anything, not just homosexuality, and know that their conversation would be held sacred. It took awhile for this to catch on, but it was successful, and change did begin, slowly but surely. It was a very visible sign.
Today, we are hearing about a new symbol to represent this same idea of unity, A safety pin, really. How does something that we usually use in an emergency to hold a blouse or shirt together, keep something from falling down (like the strap of a dress or a pair of pants) or put holes in our best blouse, jacket or shirt, suddenly become a sign of unity? Just consider its name: safety; and how it is used: to hold things together.
There is some criticism being lobbed towards this simple symbol. There is a concern that it will just become a fashion statement, you know some people will want to bedazzle the pin, right? Or more seriously, there is concern it will become just another statement of white privilege and become mediocre at best. The answer to the criticism is to make the symbol more if you choose to wear it; to make it lead us to action on behalf of those on the margins. If we choose to wear the safety pin, let us do so in order to discourage racism, heterosexism, sexism, ageism and all of the other “isms” that would deny basic human dignity to God’s creations. It is the Gospel mandate: Love one another.
Let us all be thankful and share the gifts and blessings we have received.
So, if you see someone wearing such a safety pin will you presume it is just holding something together or that it is an opportunity for a conversation on important matters? And what could come out of that conversation?