Why The #Safetypin Campaign To Tackle Post-Brexit Racism Makes Me Feel A Little Uneasy
The Debrief: It's comforting to see this take off - but I just hope this kind of movement doesn't stop at a hashtag and a selfie
In the hype of the Brexit campaign, race has been very much at the forefront of conversation. Nevertheless, I’d really like to think that regardless of which way people voted, everyone is still scratching their heads thinking ‘errrm, sorry. How do Brexit and race even have anything to do with each other mate?’ But the sad reality is that for far too many people, Brexit and race have everything to do with each other.
A quick search of #PostRefRacism on Twitter will show you just how far this goes. From the recent attack on a Polish community building in West London, to verbal abuse experienced by those on public transport, or walking the streets of their own home towns. With a 57 per cent rise in reports of hate crimes since the EU referendum vote, the situation is pretty bloody horrific.
Young woman in the street stops me to tell me she's just been verbally abused for speaking Spanish on her phone— Jon Snow (@jonsnowC4) June 28, 2016
For people who are ‘not British’, or more accurately, aren’t white and don’t visually appear to be from the UK, it’s a really difficult time. People are being made to feel that they’re not safe in a country that very much *is* their home, and nothing about that is okay. The question is though, how do we tackle it?
Allison, an American woman living in London, has started a new campaign that has picked up a lot of steam on Twitter. She’s asking people to wear a simple safety pin as a badge in solidarity against racism. It’s beautifully simple and mega easy for anyone to get involved in. But as clearly fantastic Allison’s intentions are, I can’t help but feel a tiny bit uneasy about it.
I quite like the idea of just putting a safety pin, empty of anything else, on your coat. A literal SAFETY pin!— miss pommery 1926 (@cheeahs) June 26, 2016
The trouble with this sort of initiative is that sometimes you end up inadvertently excluding people. In physically labelling those who humbly want to identify themselves as not racist, by default, as a young black British woman, I can’t help but feel like I should be constantly checking the collars of passers-by to check whether I should be on the alert for a racial attack.
Earlier this week, popstar and Loose Women presenter Jamelia shared her horrific experience of being racially abused by a police officer in front of her two daughters. A BBC journalist was racially abused while reporting in her home town. These sorts of incidents are way too common, and it really does feel like the Brexit campaign has given licence to bigoted people to be openly racist to anyone they consider an outsider.
It’s this that makes me think 'you know what, yeah, everyone better take a second to rummage through their drawers, dig out a safety pin, take selfies and wear it with pride, damn it. We really DO need an outward and visible demonstration of unity against this sort of hatred. Power to the fucking safety pin'.
But then there’s that niggly part of my brain. The part that is really determined to to stop me in my tracks before I reach into that draw and prick my index finger on that inconspicuous safety pin. That’s the part that’s thinking that actually kids, the best way to prove you’re not racist is to, erm, not be a racist. Why should anyone have to wear a symbol on their chest to prove to the world that they (unlike the minority, it’s important to note) stand by the people born outside of the UK who feel unsafe right now. Is wearing a safety pin the right way to do that? Isn’t it a bit passive for the awful situation we’re in as a country?
The answer is, I really don’t know.
Sure, #SafetyPin does make us realise that the majority of people out there not only are aware of a situation that can too often make minorities feel isolated, but it makes us realise that people want to do something about it too, and that no one should feel like they haven’t got people to turn to.
Much like things like the #IceBucketChallenge and #NoMokeUpSelfie, we’re bound to come across those who decide to wear a safety pin just to jump on a super trendy band wagon, who cave under the pressure of social media, or suffer a manic case of FOMO when they suddenly realise that all of their friends are safety pinned up.
It’s comforting to see taking off, and assuring to be a part of. And that’s truly great. I just really hope that this kind of movement doesn't stop at a hashtag and a selfie.
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