Erosion of free speech and tolerance toward hatred – as long as it is out of sight and mind.
While not as prominent as they have been in recent years, safe spaces, or designated areas deemed free of hate speech, “triggers”, and conflict have swept the nation. Ground zero for these zones has been and will likely remain to be college campuses – once bastions of free speech, you’re now expected to tread carefully.
The idea is sound in theory, and an understandable approach the rampant inequality and hate many are faced with in their day to day lives, but the execution is lacking. Safe spaces do not stop the flow of hatred, they aim to divert it, often weakening those who seek shelter there in the process. Safe spaces which often host events such as coloring parties and hangouts with puppies in carefully decorated rooms, are the night light or training wheels of modern young adults. If we never turn off the light, take those wheels off and face our fear, we will never grow. Meanwhile, while we are coddled in our conflict free zones, the enemy – those who spread messages of inequality and hate – continue to grow stronger, unchecked, their adversaries cozied up with a comforting book.
Additionally, safe spaces make the implication that everywhere else is unsafe. This is both a tactic used by safe space endorsers to make other places safer, as well as something that can be used by malicious individuals to justify their actions. After all, if we have a designated area to exist as we wish in, why can’t they? The likely possibility of finding a “Resist” bumper sticker in the parking lot of a college campus that labels itself a safe space is humorous, as to resist you need to be actively contending with your opponent, not squirreling yourself away, waiting for the injustice to blow over, hoping you don’t get too hurt in the slow arduous process that is social change. I am not an advocate for hate, but every trigger warning makes me cringe. Are we so weak that we need to be made aware of the possibility that our feelings will be hurt? How can we ever expect to overcome our weakness, if before encountering it we are warned and encouraged to turn back and pursue safer ventures?
Campus activities such as petting puppies and baking are fine, there is nothing inherently wrong with them, and I believe they are effective stress relievers. The problem begins when we pretend that these things are making strides against the problems of the world, and become deluded into thinking that such menial things are great acts of social change. If you’re still unconvinced in the ineffectiveness of safe spaces – or as I’ve come to see them – complacency corners, then heed the words of political theorist Edmund Burke, who famously said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Choose your side of history. Kill your local safe space.
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