Thought Leadership

Safety in numbers

By Colin Walls

I am back from my vacation and just about over the shock of having days that are not simply filled with sunning, swimming, eating, drinking, reading, and other leisure activities in no particular order. While I was away, things seemed to be happening in the UK. I am not deeply interested in politics, and do not plan to discuss it here, but the referendum obviously caught my attention. I feel very strongly that everyone should vote, as many people died so that I might have that privilege. There is also a large proportion of the human race who either do not have the vote or only have a meaningless one. I had set up a postal vote, so being away from home did not stop me from participating …

There were two difficulties with the referendum. Firstly, there was no certainty about effects of either outcome and an enormous amount of disinformation and misinformation was put out by both the Remain and the Leave campaigns. It might be argued that the safe vote would be Remain, as that is the status quo [also we might have had another chance to exit in the future, but the EU sure won’t let us back in]. Sadly, there was no “abstain” or “don’t know” box to check on the form. The only way to abstain was to not vote, which looks like apathy. The second problem was a question of timescale. In a regular general election, the effect of the vote is temporary, as there will be another one soon. We do not have fixed terms in the UK, but another election must occur within 5 years. The effects of this referendum are likely to be significant for decades. I am sure that there were those who voted Leave as a protest against our Prime Minister and did not consider the serious implications.

Notwithstanding the outcome or my views on the matter, there was an almost immediate consequence of the result: racist and bigoted behavior suddenly became much more commonplace. I believe that there is absolutely no place for racism in a civilized country – period. I will form opinions about you on the basis of what you do, what you say and how you behave, not what color your skin is or how “foreign” your name sounds. Fortunately, I am not alone in this attitude.

pinA woman called Allison was looking for a way to symbolize her rejection of racist views and came up with an ingeniously simple idea. She started a campaign asking people to wear an empty safety pin as a badge to symbolize solidarity against racism – and let any potential targets know that the wearer is a friendly face. A safety pins costs almost nothing and is an elegantly simple way of saying “I am a safe person to talk to, to sit next to, or from whom to ask for help. I will not racially abuse you.”

Ingenious eh? Why not give it a try yourself …

To learn more, Google #SafetyPin

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at