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In the days since Britain voted to leave the European Union, reports of racist attacks have skyrocketed. So, in a show of solidarity against racism, people have turned to an unexpected symbol: the humble safety pin.
#Safetypin was inspired by “I’ll ride with you,” an Australian campaign to support and protect Muslims from backlask in the wake of a terrorist attack. By wearing a safety pin, people are marking themselves out as allies in the fight against racism.
While the #safetypin campaign’s heart is in the right place, it has already inspired a lot of criticism. It’s been described as “the visual symbol for ‘not all white people,’” and a reason for people to “take selfies and make it all about them.” And if well-meaning white Britons decide to just wear a safety pin and go no further, those criticisms are probably accurate.
It’s nice you wear a safety pin but if you aren’t asking your dad about why he keeps calling brown people the p word then what good is it?
— Rachael Krishna (@RachaelKrishna) June 29, 2016
After several days of fear and uncertainty in the U.K., #safetypin’s virality feels like the direct result of a nationwide desire to “do something.” It caught on like wildfire, and people have already reported instances of it having an impact in real life. But for #safetypin to really make a difference, wearers must take its meaning to heart. That’s why, alongside the viral hashtag, two instruction manuals have become very popular over the past few days: A 2015 Guardian article about responding to racist attacks, and a guide to intervening against public harassment, from the organization United Against Racism.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor