Wednesday, November 18, 2015

‘Safe spaces’?

I really thought we were making serious progress on racial reconciliation on college campuses. People were talking to each other and building intimate relationships across racial lines, the only way I’ve ever understood positive things to happen.

Learning recently of demands for “safe spaces” where black students didn’t have to deal with racism at all has really deflated me — it seems that they’re cutting off their nose to spite their face.

For openers, where will they find them? And when? What’s their goal? And what will they prove in the process? That they aren’t strong enough to live in the real world, where not everyone will like them.

And then, what will they do for allies? You need them to bridge the gap between people, so that they understand and can convey at least a little bit the indignation that black students may feel.

On top of that, what about the black students who are already comfortable in their own skin and willing to relate outside the parameters of what’s “acceptable” without being referred to as an “Uncle Tom?” Solidarity for its own sake isn’t a virtue, you know, and making unreasonable demands simply doesn’t work.

I will admit that conservative activism among students, many of whom are quite insensitive and some of whom are clearly racist, likely has raised hackles. I saw it at Pitt in the 1990s when a conservative student newspaper regularly insulted Pitt’s Black Action Society for reasons I don’t quite understand except for the purposes of resentment.

But getting “loud” doesn’t help the cause. In the least. Because it demonstrates weakness and thus sabotages the opportunity to gain true respect

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