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Ann Arbor — The image of a safety pin encapsulating the word “Indivisible” has cropped up in the windows of various businesses in the Ann Arbor area.

Underneath each of these pins is written a couple of sentences:

“We at (fill in the blank) pledge to support an inclusive society, in which the human and civil rights of each individual are respected. To this end, we will never discriminate against any individual on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, disability, national origin, religion or sexual orientation.”

This is the Indivisible Pledge, an initiative begun in January by Ann Arbor resident and political and social activist Hanna Raithel.

Raithel, 54, said she was growing concerned about recent threads of dialogue that tended toward the normalization of dividing Americans based on immutable characteristics — gender, race, ethnicity and so on — and so took it upon herself to do something about it.

“I started the Indivisible Pledge Initiative largely because I felt that harmful rhetoric against specific groups is becoming dangerously common, and that it is brewing hatred and distrust of specific groups in our society,” Raithel said. “Growing hate-speech and hatred against specific groups must be countered immediately and in a united fashion, for the safety of everyone.”

Raithel, who previously worked as an ordained Lutheran reverend in Germany, where she grew up, said more than 70 businesses in Ann Arbor have already signed the pledge.

Businesses in Ypsilanti, Saline, Belleville and other southeast Michigan cities have also signed on, according to the official list compiled at indivisiblepledge.org.

“Standing indivisible is not as easy or uncomplicated as it seems,” Raithel said. “It may require some individuals to protect rights for others that they may not be entirely comfortable with.”

As an example, Raithel mentioned the juxtaposition of religious groups and the LGBTQ community, saying the former would be required to protect the rights of the latter “regardless of whether (or not) that community is supported by their doctrine.”

“Standing indivisible requires positive action in the face of prejudice against any person or group,” she said. “It requires many to go against their instincts to hide in the face of perceived danger or conflict. This can be difficult even now … and it becomes more difficult the more deeply prejudice ingrains itself in a society.”

Raithel said she hopes the initiative will keep expanding geographically and that once the threshold of 1,000 participating businesses is reached, further steps will be taken to reaffirm the value of diversity.

How exactly the initiative will look to expand is still under consideration. Raithel said community input is welcomed.

“There is value in action, and it is important not to lose your voice to fear,” Raithel said. “We have come a long way, and we all need to actively communicate the message that we have no intention of moving backwards.”

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