We see this word thrown around a lot on college campuses. Safe Space. In dialogues, in trainings, in social justice workshops, and on stickers on our walls. I appreciate this idea of a “safe space” but I must admit, there are reasons I feel a tremor of unease run through my body when this word is spoken into being.
While I can do everything in my power to make someone feel “safe” in a shared space with me, I know that I can never fully remove that fear of the discrimination that will inevitably come as soon as they walk out the door.
Then there are folks with privileged identities that mock the idea of this “safe space” further reminding marginalized individuals that this could never be their reality. They give unsolicited advice and say, “grow thicker skin” and be ready to deal with the harsh realities and adversity the “real world” will bring. What these folks don’t realize is that they are the reason for these harsh realities.
Folks who mock the idea of a “safe space” are truly the ones who need to swallow the bitter pill that is their own advice and “grow thicker skin.” For the discomfort that comes from being challenged to own and recognize their privilege makes them retaliate behind the cowardly anonymity of social media. Really it is these individuals who don’t want their idea of a “safe space” challenged – their reality where they have the privilege to turn a blind eye to the hurt and pain and fear that is the truth and lived experience of so many students. And if they took the time to listen and reflect, there would be so much less hurt and pain and fear to experience.
“Safe Space” has started to become this ugly word thrown out with distaste like old garbage. As I sit from afar and watch the heart and hurt of so many students at my alma mater, there is one word that comes to mind. Brave.
I embrace the idea of a Brave Space*. In a brave space, we challenge ourselves to lean in to the discomfort that happens at the edge of our comfort zone and embrace the learning that occurs in these moments. We show strength in our vulnerability by peeling back the layers of armor we’ve had to develop over the years just to make it through. And we show bravery when we do these things knowing full well that our sense of safety may be at risk.
But if it means helping others understand, helping them to be more aware, and if there is even the slightest possibility of creating positive change,
we know it’ll all be worth it.
*Shout out to GOODTalk, Becky, & Kate for first introducing me to this.