Safe spaces aren’t the solution to injustice

We need to lead the dialogue to end injustice, rather than ignore tough conversations.

Only through direct confrontation and solidarity will society overcome injustice.

Rowland Scherman, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Only through direct confrontation and solidarity will society overcome injustice.

Safe spaces–a place intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or threatening ideas–are not bulletproof walls. They are a bubble. It might seem protective and secure from the inside but in reality, it’s a fragile shelter. Today, individuals threatened by intolerable political rhetoric are seeking asylum through silence; especially on school campuses, students are isolating themselves from the aggression of Free Speech hate groups. The alt-right organizations undoubtedly convey flawed ideologies; they are belligerent and aggressive to minority groups. As a minority myself, it is sickening to watch the needless barriers divide us as humans. However, safe spaces cannot be the solution to injustice. Without a direct confrontation, defective values cannot be fixed.

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Instead of shying away from the conversation, we should seek ways to lead the dialogue. Richard Spencer is a White nationalist known to trigger the “soft liberals”. He often delivers radical speeches across university campuses to preach his ideal society: a white ethno-centric nation, disintegration of race and religion, and opposition to liberal values such as same sex marriage. His rhetoric is false and derogatory as proven by his speeches. In response, students have organized to demonstrate his appearance on campuses; in Florida in October and Auburn in April, many expressed their discontent. However, many of their efforts were concentrated to silence the alt-right rather than to engage in a conversation. It is difficult. But gradually we will be able to break the barriers. Most importantly though, we all have to remember that bubbles can’t break through the obstacles.

Accidental Courtesy,” a movie directed by Matthew Ornstein, tells a story of Daryl Davis who converts Ku Klux Klan members. Daryl Davis is a black man. It seems dangerous and ridiculous for him to engage in a conversation with radical racists. During interactions between Davis and Klan members, there are numerous moments where Davis could easily be insulted. However, Davis knows that he can’t shy away from the conversation; it’s a debate over an ideology that needs to be corrected. Davis says, “Give them a platform. You challenge them. But you don’t challenge them rudely or violently. You do it politely and intelligently. And when you do things that way chances are they will reciprocate and give you a platform.”  The documentary emphasizes the magnitude of moments where ideas exchange; Roger Kelly, the former Imperial Wizard, and 12 other men forfeited their membership and surrendered their suits to Davis.

Justice has not yet been perfected; humans still suffer from the wounds of war, the ashes of terror, and the scars of discrimination. But like the history of justice, we have to fight them with our solid beliefs.”

— Alex Kang

Solidarity is powerful. When we stand our ground, we achieve. Mahatma Gandhi sat still to show that “in a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Martin Luther King marched to Montgomery to voice that “we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Thomas Jefferson stormed towards the British army to prove that “everyone who asks justice should do justice.” Justice was established with confrontation and dialogues. From the Civil War to the protest in the Southern states, millions of people devoted their lives and years to redefine justice. There were far too many sacrifices on the way but with that cost, we could do the unthinkable. Black people who were considered properties became voting citizens and the 13 colonies under British control became an independent country.

Now, it’s our turn. Justice has not yet been perfected; humans still suffer from the wounds of war, the ashes of terror, and the scars of discrimination. But like the history of justice, we have to fight them with our solid beliefs. As much as we feel uncomfortable or attacked, for the future generation, progress has to be maintained through the generation we live in today. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong, but in finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong.” Engage in conversations but never lose your ground. Be understanding but never compromise. Be outspoken. Be strong. Get out of your safe space.