Time and context change everything. A time traveler from 100 years ago would not understand, for instance, why showing up to school with a swastika on your shirt would get you sent home with a stern letter to your parents. And the changes go both ways -- the awful insult of the past is today's badge of pride.
So it's always weird to look at the pop culture symbols we just take for granted and realize how often the origins are somewhere between insulting and utterly horrifying.
5 The Gay Rights "Pink Triangle" Was Invented by Nazis
It's one of the most well-known symbols of gay pride, second only to the rainbow flag. Gay rights advocates the world over use a pink triangle on their clothing to symbolize their allegiance to the cause, even though it makes them look a little bit like a weird cult.
Bill Wilson via San Francisco Sentinel
All glory to the mighty Isosceles!
But a pink triangle wasn't something you wanted to be wearing back in the 1940s, because it would have meant that you were in a fucking Nazi concentration camp.
Back when the Nazis were trying to figure out what kinds of people were deserving of life and settled on "white, blonde, straight, German" as the basic criteria, they realized that there were kind of a lot of people who didn't fit that mold for one reason or another. This presented a problem -- how could they easily distinguish between people who deserved to die because they were Jewish, those who deserved to die because they were gay, and people who deserved to die because they looked at you funny?
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The logistics of mass genocide are truly a nightmare.
The answer they came up with was to attach color-coded triangles to prisoners' shirts so that the worst people in history could easily identify the crime and therefore decide efficiently how bigoted they should be against the wearer. So Gypsies got brown triangles, common criminals got green, and homosexuals got pink. If you were a Jew in addition to any of these other categories, you got an extra yellow triangle, and God help you.
Himmler loved him some cheat sheets.
So why would homosexuals today want to use a symbol invented by Hitler? Simply, there's no better way to defuse a symbol of hatred than to appropriate it. That's why, after the war, German gay rights groups began using the symbol as their own, and gay activist organizations of the '70s followed suit.