by PL Byrd
Last weekend, I held a small musical gathering at my home and served up tea, cookies and safety pins. FYI, it’s a challenge to find a safety pin these days. Even my drycleaner staples his inventory tags into my clothes now. I went to three stores before I found one small pack of pins. It appeared the “you are safe with me” safety-pin movement had ginned up support in Winston-Salem, and it felt good to be a part of it.
I had no idea that a safety pin could cause so much controversy but, as the proverb states, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Shortly after the idea caught fire, several bloggers pushed this simple show of solidarity and kindness into the “white privilege” category.
Now, I have this weird idea about white privilege. You may or may not agree, but hear me out. Is your skin white? If you answered yes, then guess what, you’re privileged. Specifically, if you’re white, there’s a very high probability you’re not afraid that your child could be killed when walking down the street wearing a hoodie (aka racial profiling) or that government agents will knock on your door in the middle of the night and take your daddy to a deportation center (an immigrant reality). You are privileged. Accept that as fact. End of Chapter One.
Chapter Two: More than 500,000 children living in North Carolina will go to bed hungry tonight and wake up hungry tomorrow. About 150,000 of those children are white, approximately 165,000 are black, and close to 185,000 are Latinx. Can we overlook the hunger and poverty of 150,000 kids simply because they’re white? Please don’t talk about white privilege to the mother of a hungry child. It’s too much. If you can find it in your heart, please take the white-privilege argument off the table during the safety-pin discussion. It has been divisively overfed and may benefit from a short fast.
Those who back the idea of (mostly) non-violent emotional support for any person who feels maligned, abused, bullied, harassed or fearful are not thoughtless, so how did the people who responded favorably to the safety pin become disparaged? I don’t know about y’all, but this confuses the heck out of me. All of a sudden, mostly good and basically average people who are standing for kindness, including some who may have little other than a smile and safety pin to offer the world right now, are being shredded by people who seem to need only an eggshell’s space of room to create a maelstrom of negativity aimed at concerned and yes, okay, maybe impulsively kind people.
Hello! We’re human. Being kind is natural to us. There is no shame in kindness. The safety pin idea has touched the hearts of hundreds, or thousands, or maybe millions of people who are worn out by meanness. It has sparked a spontaneous outpouring of compassion. It has given many people a purpose, a way out of darkness into light. It is a movement that feels helpful and pure, non-political, respectful and generally good for the whole world.
Most of us will never have an idea this simple or brilliant, ever. And if that bums you out, think of it this way: It’s not your turn to be recognized as the creator of a brilliant idea. Give someone else a chance to shine. Maybe we’ll all rise above our egos, recognize our vulnerability and resolve to embrace the best parts of our common humanity during the long haul ahead.
Maybe it’s time to thank the Good God A’mighty or whomever you pray to for bestowing these challenges upon us. Maybe we’ve been given another chance to tune our collective soul to the job we signed up for which, last time I checked in with my heart, was to love each other.
Sometimes that particular lesson comes disguised as tragedy, discomfort or controversy. Sometimes it manifests as rowdy yet respectful discourse, dusted with humor and sealed with a kiss. That’s if we’re lucky. Or open. Or however it works for you. Ain’t no such thing as one-size-fits-all soul work. Every human being is connected to this big fat loveball of a planet through a substance known as universal soul shine. If you get lost, simply follow the path of kindness. It’s the route illuminated by grace, the one that leads to your soul’s true home.
Safety in numbers, right? Let’s stick together. That’s what pins are for.
Author PL Byrd is an animal-loving, tree-hugging work in progress in Winston-Salem. Read more of her writing at humanwords.com.