Would Martin Luther King, Jr. wear a safety pin?

Would Martin Luther King, Jr. wear a safety pin?

thWould Martin Luther King, Jr. wear a safety pin?

I woke up with that question on my mind.

Our nation is still reacting to a presidential election that surprised everyone. Millennials are wearing safety pins to say, “You are safe with me. I stand with you.” Here’s a link to a more in-depth article that explains the origins of the safety pin movement. 

th-1Again I ask. Would MLK wear a safety pin? I’ve been streaming his speeches on Spotify and have to wonder. Would MLK want us to feel safe? Maybe. Then again, maybe he wouldn’t.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought against racism from pulpits, pavements and prisons. He gave his life for a civil rights movement that shaped our country into something better. When things got violent, he stepped into the fray and preached a position of love and peace. Here’s a link to his famous speech, “Loving Our Enemies.” I encourage you to take a few moments to read it. Don’t worry. I’ll wait. 🙂 In this speech, Dr. King tells us that “Jesus wasn’t playin’.” He says we are to love (not like, LOVE) our enemies. In other speeches he urges us to look upon our fellow man and expect goodness. Those sentiments lead me to feel that Dr. King might not have donned a safety pin. A recurring theme of his speeches was to challenge us to look upon each other and expect the best, expect goodness, expect safety.

thMaybe that’s why I resist wearing a safety pin. I want to walk through my days and look into the eyes of my fellow man for goodness, not look down for a pin on a lapel. Because what if it’s not there? What then? Do I assume that person is unsafe? Ignorant? Racist? Misogynist?  I can’t. I won’t. Right now there’s enough us versus them, him versus her in the world. I choose to look upon everyone as safe and if I am harmed because of that supposition, well then, I’ll hurt. But I won’t let it color my judgment against everyone.

To every single person wearing a safety pin, I respect your choice. Your fear is real and I have great compassion for you, but the truth is places of fear and discomfort have inspired the most dramatic steps forward in civil rights. If Rosa Parks hadn’t refused to give up her seat on that bus, forward progress would have been delayed for who knows how long? Anxiety, fear, anger, discomfort, and the passion to right a wrong led to change.

I guess the mom in me needs to say something else, too. Whether you’re a millennial or middle-ager like me, you have a right to feel however you feel. For now honor it. Cling to one another. Grieve. But then for God’s sake rise up! Take action to defend what you feel is most at risk. Use your fear and anxiety to push you out of your comfort zone and use your voice, your strong, unique and perfect voice to take action.

Attend that city council meeting. Write a letter to president-elect Trump and and local politicians to say that you expect the rights of all to be preserved and revered by this administration. Volunteer for a suicide hotline. Give to the local food bank. Help a neighbor. Do. Something. Now.

This has been my strategy all week and I feel better, way better doing something with my anxiety and fear than not.

And I’ll confess something ugly to you, too. If Hillary had won last week I’d be smiling. I’d feel safe. I’d feel comfortable. And I sure as hell wouldn’t be recommitting myself to the causes I’ve always felt most strongly about. So for me, a self-confessed Pollyanna, this is the silver lining.

Wishing you all love and peace,





4 thoughts on “Would Martin Luther King, Jr. wear a safety pin?

  1. Hi Jenn!

    A very poignant blog! I actually have been wearing a safety pin. And I’m in no way a millennial, so it’s not just people in a certain age range doing it, it’s people of all walks of life. As someone who has been wearing the pin, I believe it’s a symbol to people everywhere that they’re not alone, that I’m a safe person to come to if someone is being bullied, harassed, or feels unsafe. But that’s not all I’m doing, so I hear your comments. And the people I know wearing safety pins are getting out there too. Truly, I would have felt safe as well if Hillary had won. And I would be sitting home in my safe bubble. But now I’m passionate about fighting for justice, civil rights, our environment. I need to act. That said, I truly believe if you wear a pin and be the safe place that a person needs, then that’s enough. I’ve heard a number of stories from those feeling threatened who have seen someone with a pin and been comforted. Not everyone is going to jump into the fray. Some people have said if you wear a pin there’s the responsibility that comes with it to live up to what it means. And that’s true.

    I think MLK would have worn a pin when he was doing his good works, because it’s a symbol of solidarity and hopefulness that there are people out there willing to stand with you. And symbols are powerful.

    Thanks for writing about this! <3

    1. Hi Katrina,

      What a beautiful comment. I love your choice to mark yourself as a safe place for others. I love that you are also reaching out to take action as well. I’m ashamed of how apathetic I might have been if last week’s events hadn’t happened. But, all I can do is move forward and champion a message of love and hope to people. Thanks for all you are doing.

      Playing devil’s advocate here, I’m not sure MLK would’ve worn a pin. He didn’t even wear a cross. He was about uniting people in love and that sometimes meant not wearing any symbol that might single out him from others. We will never know. I do know that I’ve fought for women’s rights and the rights of children my whole life. I’ve worked to give migrant workers a voice, even as a young teen, and much more. I don’t want to wear a pin because I feel like my face, my voice, my hands, my example should be enough to mark me as a safe person. And also, I might forget most days to pin it on and feel really bad about it. 🙂

      With love,

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