At a recent conference, a group of young leaders were talking about the need for "safe spaces." Can a young person of wealth, for example, feel safe in a room full of people that might be looking for something from them? Can a person of color, for another example, feel safe in a room full of people that don't look like them? We young people wanted to discuss wealth, poverty, philanthropy, race, class, gender, the whole lot, but these aren't easy conversations for many people. Where were the "safe spaces" for these delicate discussions?
I found it all very unfortunate.
I thought to myself, "'Safe space?' I don't need 'safe space.' I have plenty of 'safe space.' I call it 'daily life.'"
As a straight, white male, I have safe space to spare. It's what being privileged is all about. I'm safe everywhere. I don't get a double-take or a repulsed gasp when I tell people about my wife because people expect my spouse to be female. I've never been denied a loan, a job, a friendship, or a hello because of the color of my skin because that doesn't happen to people that look like me. I don't have to worry about whether people take me seriously at work because I'm a card-carrying member of the boys' club. Safe space? It's my home address.
So I can spare an hour or four at 3 AM to listen without judging because I can talk pretty much whenever I want. And I can take a conversation or a convening that makes me a little uneasy because, at the end of the day, I could tear down a wall or four and still be safe in my own skin. The way I figure it, a difficult conversation now and then is a small price to pay to make somebody else feel safe. Some people don't have safe spaces to return to. I might even learn something.
So if you need safe space, people, please don't expend time and energy creating it. Just borrow mine.