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PC and Safe Spaces: Who Makes the Rules

Last week, I discussed the merits of trigger warnings and how they are respectful courtesies to people who have been impacted by trauma. This week, I’m looking at the parallel debate involving safe spaces on campus and how they are important and the least we can do to help people.

In my opinion, safe spaces have a fairly self-explanatory objective: to create an environment where someone in a minority group can go where the group they’re in doesn’t completely define them. It’s definitely important to note that this is simply my view of what such a space should be, and there are certainly variations to the space based on who inhabits it. Declaring somewhere a safe space is essentially saying that an area is a place for certain things/discussions and not a place for other things/discussions. This distinction is how safe spaces ended up caught in a debate about free speech (see previous issue’s mention of the article from the Atlantic), but they’re really just actively changing what topics are considered socially appropriate in an area- and, like trigger warnings, any change in social norms are met with resistance.

In understanding the need for designated safe spaces it’s important to recognize that a lot of spaces are tacitly safe for certain people but not for others- different people have different needs. Safe spaces are analogous to trigger warnings in the sense that trigger warnings would only affect a certain (and often small) number of people, but those people are affected greatly by them- if you feel like you don’t have anywhere to go (or have few places), a single space can make a large difference. Designating a space to have a specific social purpose offers an opportunity for people to have more options when finding a place to be. Safe spaces, in order to remain safe, also have to be maintained, and part of maintaining the space is affirming its purpose. This is especially important for the people who don’t need the space since they would be able to alter its purpose in a way that wasn’t intended, thus ruining the space. Thus, for safe spaces, it’s very important to keep yourself in consideration with regards to how you interact with the space, since it’s very easy to ruin it for those who need it.

2 Comments on PC and Safe Spaces: Who Makes the Rules

  1. Then just put a “Whites keep out” on the multicultural center then, right? You can go ahead and speak plainly since that’s what you’re trying to say. You say that’s your version of a safe space and then go on to make strong inferences about what they should be by using racial undertones.
    I was forced to attend integrated schools for 13 years with a majority of low income black students. As a skinny white kid, it didn’t go well. I was bullied and intimidated because of my race. Why don’t I get a safe space? Maybe increased diversity makes me feel unsafe because it reminds me of the violent public school I attended (it does.)
    There’s a reason why South Park devoted its entire last season to Social Justice. That would be because issues like this are becoming so inflammatory that others feel like we can’t have a real conversation with you guys or else we’ll be called racist or recipients of “white privilege.” How ironic and sad it is that progressives are the ones wanting to segregate the races into “safe spaces,” limit free speech and enforce sexual contracts (affirmative consent laws.) 50 years ago, that’s what liberals were fighting AGAINST. Try to keep in mind that others will disagree with you and they really actually might be in the right for doing so.

    • Chris Cribbs // March 20, 2016 at 4:55 AM // Reply

      First of all, omigosh someone read my article!!!!1!!!
      It’s actually pretty important that whites are involved in the center. Modern racism hides in social norms, and it’s important that everyone understands what those norms are and how we all can change them. A safe space, in this sense, is a place where those norms are actively fought. Without changing the functions of our society, the status quo will persist. I’m largely addressing safe spaces as an abstract idea with a real-world example.
      I’m definitely opposed to racial shaming. It’s unproductive. People who aren’t aware of racist structures shouldn’t be expected to know them. Progressivism today is generally about moving towards a more equal society, but progressives are not a monolith and certainly don’t all advocate for change with the same methods. There’s certainly more attention on the louder forces for change, though.
      Making sure that someone actually wants to have sex with you, though, seems like a no brainer. Don’t make people do things that they don’t want to do. Simple.

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PC and Safe Spaces: Who Makes the Rules