Rae’s Rules to Remember #53: Why safe spaces are important

So, I got into a debate with someone this week about safe spaces because someone posted a video about how they need to be gotten rid off.

In the video, this guys is congratulating the University of Chicago on taking a stanceagainst safe spaces.

The video is hosted by J.D. Durkin. Don’t know who he is and don’t really care to learn anything more about him. One of the first things that the says is “Oh poor baby. You don’t want to be challenged by somebody who thinks differently than you do? Shut the fuck up and grow a pair”

Already off to a bad start.

The quote from the university stated:

“Our commitment to academic freedom means…we do not cancel invited speakers because their topic might prove controversial and we do not condone the creation of “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own”

I have nothing against controversy for the most part. However, if a university is funding something racist/sexist/homophobic/xenophobic/Islamaphobic or something else along those lines with a purpose that is not to educate students, then it is inappropriate. Also, as far as when it’s okay to retreat (and yes, sometimes it is okay) it depends on the who and the why. For example, if an LGBTQIA+ or Asian student is having slurs and other offensive things yelled at them (both of with have happened at my university) then theydeserve to have a place to go and someone to talk to about it.

Some of the other things said in the video include:

Something about “bullshit” safe spaces being created for “people who are overly sensitive”

  • Oh! Because I’m supposed to not feel anything when someone directs a racial slur at me and my friends, let alone react.

Then he makes fun of another school who offered counseling to students who felt uncomfortable because of the Republican National Convention being held near the campus

  • Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone needed counseling when the Republican presidential nominee is sexist, racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic. He’s a fucking bigot. He makes fun of people with disabilities, showers hatred and ridiculous stereotypes on Latinos and Hispanics and his followers have been videotaped yelling horrible things at minorities

“If you are a college student, or anyone for that matter, life ain’t about making your pansy ass comfortable. Higher education should be about encouraging freedom of thought, speech, and expression.

  • Tell that to the majority. At the end of the day, they are the ones that make minoritiesneed safe spaces

“To all new students…..suck it up….learn how to toughen up and stop running way with your microaggression nonsense”

  • Maybe since you’re a straight white man, Mr. J.D. whatever, you may not have ever been microaggressed against, experienced systematic oppression or felt uncomfortable on a campus full of bigots because many of them look like you, but microaggressions are real. Your denial of that only proves that you are a part of the problem.

So someone posted that video and I commented and of course then some random person jumped in and tried to tell me that I was wrong. Here’s how that conversation went (I’m blue, the other girl is purple):

I disagree with this. Safe spaces aren’t about being afraid of people who think differently from you it’s for underrepresented and minoritized students to have a space that, literally, feels safes when the rest of campus is unwelcoming and full of bigots. The people that don’t need safe spaces are in the majority (as per usual)

Good. Welcome to the real world kids…. Safe spaces only allow for more separation and resentment of another group and their ideals which further isolates their own beliefs, the people, and rewards that space in between rather than face a challenge head on and see eye to eye….Coddling ADULTS that are being given resources to bring themselves into the real world and shape that as they may is dangerous and a false concept of how society functions. A person strong enough in their convictions does not need a literal space to retreat to but the humility to understand another person and resolve the difference…

I get what you’re saying but being strong in your convictions doesn’t mean that when a classmate or a professor says something racist/sexist/xenophobic etc that they won’t get upset by it. Sometimes you need a resource who isn’t going to dismiss the situation like it’s not a big deal because in most cases that’s what happens and it actually is a big deal. The problem isn’t that safe spaces exist it’s that the campus climate isn’t welcoming to minority students. And regardless of the space itself, everyone is welcome including majority students

Again that is literally creating a divide. A space does not solve what is within ones own self. Definitely issues can arise that are directed and presented inappropriately whatever the topic but such is life and that is a reflection of the individual, the work is then to take how one is feeling about that issue and channeling it into their work and purpose. Having safe spaces also sets one up to believe they are underrepresented to begin with and they act as such so a bias is present on both ends. Society could not be more divided today so for that to trickle down into schools only allows people to move forward in their lives with that anger and assumption of being different and ‘other’. It negates any hope for solution and mending

So when students are attacked by their professors ans classmates they are just supposed to accept it cause its “the real world?” Spaces aren’t causing the divide. Its already there which is why people create those places. Its not up to minorities to have to constantly educate everyone else. Even if they do people choose not to listen because they don’t care about experiences that they’ve never had or think “don’t apply” to them. Its not a belief that a group is underrepresented, it’s a fact. Something that is felt and seen when walking across campus and sitting in a classroom.

What I do know about life and people across the board is you are solely responsible for yourself in terms of what you think/feel/and do. If you feel strongly about something then pursue that passion, if it is ARGUED that is not DEMEANING that is fuel to channel and strengthen what you may or may not believe. A safe space gives the false hope and resentment of anyone opposing another’s way of thinking. That’s not to say there are not people who cross a line but the true victory is overcoming whatever that bias may be and moving forward with ones education and support of their own beliefs. A professor or any one person does not speak for how a mass of people feel despite what is being spread today- so to have a space and assume incorrectly what that person is dispelling is fueling hatred and disdain and a place to attack back rather than have clarity

I have so many issues with this conversation and the way that she dismissed this issue. Firstly, as a white woman you DO NOT have a right to tell me that I can’t have or don’t need a safe space on campus. As a member of the majority you do not get to tell the minority what they do or do not need. If you are white, you do not get to tell people of color what they do and do not need. If you are cis and straight you do not get to dictate to the LGBTQIA+ community what they do and do not need. If you are a man you don’t get to tell women what they do and do not need. And so on and so forth. You don’t get to decide whether or not my feelings and experiences are valid. Flip the script and the same rules apply.

I spent four years at a predominately white institution. If I hadn’t gotten so involved in the Office of Multicultural Life (OML)  and had a resource to help me through my experience I would have transferred. Not because I was “sensitive” or afraid of people with different opinions (if you know me at all then you know that I welcome different opinions) but because the campus climate is not welcoming to minority students of any kind. The fact that the campus – from the administration to the students – was so closed minded and shut down to diversity is the reason that the OML became a safe space, the reason that weneeded it. As I said before, the safe space was a result of the campus climate, not the cause.

What most people fail to realize is that safe spaces, regardless of the designated group, are open to anyone. The problem is, the majority are afraid to step out of their “comfort zone” and be surround by black people or gay people, and the possibility that they may be the minority in the room for a short amount of time despite the fact that we deal with this every single day.

And how exactly do you think safe spaces work? That we just go there and talk about how much we hate people in the majority for being closed minded? NO. We figure how to break down the barriers, plan campus wide events for the education of others, we let people know that this safe space exists and that members of the majority are more than welcome. The problem is that nine times out of ten they don’t fucking care. They don’t want to get involved because they’re too stuck in their own ways and beliefs to even consider listening to something different.

So if you think that safe spaces aren’t needed, get your head out of your ass and look around. Watch the news. You can see the way that minorities are horribly treated every fucking day. This is the world we live in, but heaven forbid we have a place where we can actually talk about our problems and worries without being dismissed by people who “can’t relate.”

I am not speaking on behalf of everyone and sure some minorities may not feel this way, but I can definitely say that if the campus was anything like mine, most of them do.

8 thoughts on “Rae’s Rules to Remember #53: Why safe spaces are important

  1. “However, if a university is funding something racist/sexist/homophobic/xenophobic/Islamophobic or something else along those lines with a purpose that is not to educate students, then it is inappropriate.”- well, yes, definitely. One presumes those things aren’t acceptable in civilized society, right? And civilized society should be safe for all of us.
    What concerns me about safe spaces, is they seem to be (in my view) a form of segregation. In the end it’s like making a minority self-segregate so the majority can continue to oppress. It reminds me of the days when gay men could only seem gay in our private (safe) circles but had to pretend we weren’t the rest of the time. I want much more than a safe corner.


    1. But (as someone who has used a safe space and really needed it) that’s not at all how it works. Surely, some people could form and use them for the wrong reasons but it’s less likely.
      It’s not a form of segregation because it’s optional and is actually open to everyone (in my experience, majority members CHOOSE to stay away) but at my university we were constantly bringing in other students to let them know that it was there space too and that allies were not only needed but more than welcome. And I strongly disagree with the self-segregate thing because people will say “why do minorities sit together in the cafeteria? Ir’s self-segregation” while white people do the same thing and it isn’t questioned.
      Being a minority in my safe space doesn’t change the fact that I am still a minority outside of that space and I’m not going to pretend that I’m not. The problem wasn’t that I had a safe space it was that I needed it because I had multiple professors who were racists and sexists and there were only 4 administrators on campus that gave a damn and were willing to do something about changing the campus climate.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ve never been to a safe space- so could you give me sort of a tutorial on what your vision of it is and how it works? I think that improve the discussion. At the moment I’ve got images in my head of a room where lots of words are off limits or where I can’t ask someone where they’re from?


      2. That’s not at all what a safe space is. The example that I used (the OML) is a functioning office within the university. The physical office itself consists of the director’s office, the work study office and a conference room/lounge where students studied and watched tv or had meetings. The office houses a ton of resources for students. A pre-collegiate program for incoming freshmen for students that are first generation, racial minorities, low income or have a general interest in diversity and inclusion. Seven student run organizations including the Asian Student Association, Black Student Union, Bridging the Gap (focuses on diversity in general, bringing people together, and educating that diversity is not only on the outside), Caribbean Student Association, International Student Association, SJU Naturals (natural hair, organic food, etc) and Latino Student Association. Despite the names, you don’t have to “fit the mold” to join it’s just about educating and sharing experiences. All of them have members that are not included in the title. A diversity lecture series – we’ve had Judy Smith (the inspiration behind the show Scandal), Gina Rocero (transgender Pilipino model and trans advocate) and John Quinones (from What Would You Do?) plus a ton of others. And there’s a bunch of other campus wide events: A Kwanzaa Celebration in December, a retreat to the mountains in October and a True Story series where students and staff share their experiences (being non Catholic at a Catholic university, being in an interracial relationship, losing a parent, etc.)
        Nothing is off limits. It’s a place where you can ask questions and have a serious conversation and then also joke about it five minutes later because everyone is that comfortable with each other. We definitely encourage people to ask questions if they do think that something is offensive (which asking someone where they are from is not. I mean, it could be in certain contexts but that’s a different conversation for a different time). Sometimes we watch CNN sometimes we watch Say Yes to the Dress. It really depends on the mood that day.
        Now, the director of the office (Natalie) is the advisor for all of the organizations, work study boss, handles the budget and is also certified in counseling. I would go to Natalie if I wanted to talk about things going on in the world, a professor who made a sexist comment, financial aid, if I’m just having a bad day, or got some really great news. She also does Diversity Training for RAs, Orientation leaders and a lot of RAs work with her to fulfill programming requirements. People who aren’t minorities even come to talk to her when they need to.
        Even though her focus is diversity she does a lot more. You can’t have inclusion by excluding people and literally everyone is welcome in her office.
        I know that’s a really long answer but you asked and I wouldn’t do it justice if I didn’t give as full a description as possible

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Yes. A lot of people think it’s “oh someone disagrees with me and I can’t handle so I’m going to go hide” but really it’s “there are certain problems in the world and on this campus that make the campus climate uncomfortable so how can we break down barriers, bring people together, and raise awareness in a way that makes people WANT to come together” Surely some people use safe spaces for the wrong purposes but nine times out of ten it’s as I described

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I’m already doing that. Part of the reason that our university now has an Office of Inclusion and Diversity with an Assistant Provost is because of me and the people that I worked with in the office and the organization that I ran. I was the one who initiated a meeting with the president of the university to talk about the needs of underrepresented students on campus and how the administration needs to start giving a damn, and that saying that diversity is important doesn’t mean anything if he doesn’t show up for it by addressing issues on campus and saying that he is personally behind it. That is why I’m seeking a career in Multicultural Affairs at universities so that other students don’t have the same shitty experiences that I had.

        Liked by 2 people

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