Modern Problems: What Is a Safe Space?
Back in the good ole years of the Obama administration, "safe spaces," became a frequently used phrase for both good and evil. From the left you had a calling out for sanctuary from the world, and from the right you had lambasting for the left wanting to produce, "snowflakes," and neither side did the topic justice. In these days I was in college, and I had the pleasure of discerning what safe spaces were all about by visiting one for myself.
Safe spaces were way more than what I was expecting them to be.
What Is a Safe Space?
Definition of safe space: "A place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm."
Now this definition does well at shoehorning a callous definition into a term, and I absolutely agree with it, but I want to try to give a better and more personal perspective of what I saw in the safe space I visited. The safe space I visited was all that this definition claimed and much more.
Safe space was a place that you could go where people would, essentially, mediate any conversation on any topic you would wish to discuss. You could be a racist, sexist, homophobic piece of human trash wanting to explore your own thoughts, or you could be the converse militant anti-racist, militant anti-sexist, or militant activist wanting to calmly discuss with your, "aggressors," what your problem with them was. It was truly a place of acceptance and understanding for everyone, no matter what beliefs, backgrounds, and personal expressions we chose.
Inside a Safe Space
I'll readily admit that, because of the media attention and their exaggerations, when I signed on to mediate a safe space environment I was expecting a sob-fest of hypersensitive leftists wanting to rip into me for being conservative-leaning at the time. I mean, that's what the media portrayed these things to be, a place where leftists would congregate to scream into an echo chamber; and granted, sometimes it was like that and those people were asked to present things in a fair manner conducive to everyone's acceptance and understanding, or they were asked to leave if they could not do so. What occurred in safe space stayed in safe space, and I respect the anonymity of the safe space, but I'm going to give some general examples of things we explored in safe space.
The most prominent of all the stories was from an individual who was raised Christian, in what they described as a cult. This cult regularly passed them around as a sexual object, and they discussed how this turned them into an atheist and how any time they heard about God it would cause them physical and emotional pain. This person was, "brought back to God," by the Christians in the group who went on to pursue justice on this person's behalf. Essentially, these Christians believed, "God isn't a deity, God is our actions and Heaven is what we make it here on Earth."
On another occasion we had hosted a group that wanted to discuss racism, both racists and anti-racists showed up to the meeting. Quite a few representing both sides, and the revelations from both sides were astounding. The most astounding revelation during this meeting, by my standards, was that we concluded, "Everyone seems to be biologically drawn to some form of racism, and by fighting militantly for one side or another we only created more racism," and within this same meeting we did an exercise where many ended up switching from one side to another.
I'll save you from any more stories and reading, but I believe the point here has been that when people sought to discuss things fairly and safely, we discovered we were all actually pretty rational despite some of our more seemingly-irrational beliefs. It took one of these, "safe spaces," to bring out the best in people.
Imagine what it would be like if we could all create a safe space for everyone we talk to; it'd be a brighter world for those of us struggling the worst!
Do you think a safe space would benefit you and your opinions?
A Relevant and Necessary Place
Hopefully you actually took the time to read this article, because it is so relevant and important to touch on. I always tell people that they need to seek to understand those they disagree with, because if they do not then they are only going to compound the issue with their ignorance of their opponent. If you don't like the word safe space, the idea of a safe place, then look at it like a military general; a safe space is really just a way for you to study your enemy and get into their head.
Even a military general needs to think as his enemy thinks, know them inside and out, and most generals—if you can pardon my jest—aren't absolute snowflakes. Safe space is a place to come to know your enemy, to make your enemy a friend, or to get a better understanding of the mechanisms for problems in society. A safe space is a place where you don't have to fight to express your opinion, you don't need to give in to performative cruelty, and you can trust that those who do not respect others will be justly and swiftly reprimanded to the benefit of everyone.
Safe spaces are a place to have a voice, where the government would prefer you were silenced under the boot of those they make your opponents.