Today I read Tempest Bradford’s post alerting her readers that Wiscon will have a room named The Safer Space which is set aside for people of color to meet and have discussions which are pertinent to them. The logic behind the decision to have the space is outlined in her post. I’m not going to be attending Wiscon this year, but I found myself pondering this choice in a cascade of thoughts. I particularly pondered it because I am considering attending Wiscon sometime in the future.
First I felt alienated knowing that there is a place at Wiscon where I would be unwelcome.
Then I pondered that the alienated feeling is rare for me, but that there are people who feel that every single day. I thought that this mild feeling of alienation was probably good for me as a reminder of how privileged I am in so many areas of my life.
Then I wondered if increasing the quantity of alienated feelings in the world is a good thing for anyone.
I re-read the post and completely agreed with Ms. Bradford’s statements that communities need private spaces which are free from judgment by those outside the community.
Yet I still felt alienated and a little sad, because The Safer Space would probably be host to dozens of conversations from which I could learn. I know that I am ignorant on many racial issues. Hearing those conversations would teach me much, but I would be excluded from them.
I thought about posting my thoughts on the issue, then pondered whether as a middle-class white woman I have any business posting opinions about an issue which is not mine.
But shouldn’t the issue of inclusion and exclusion belong to everyone?
I pondered whether my thought processes might be interesting/valuable insight for the people who suffer at the hands of racism to explain why so many people stay silent. Not because they don’t care, but because they’re afraid to offend. Unfortunately silence sounds like support of the status quo. Speaking up is scary, particularly on the internet. There is the chance of saying something ignorant or offensive without meaning to. Speaking up risks exposing my prejudiced or racist thoughts. We all have them because the human brain is wired to categorize. It takes conscious effort to see the people in front of us rather than categories.
In the end I decided to be brave because silence does not increase understanding. Only conversation does.
Some people think that The Safer Space is important and necessary. Others feel that it is an additional barrier to understanding. I’m not sure which position I hold. I’m still learning the issues and afraid I’ll get it wrong. But I know that having a conversation about the existence of The Safer Space is a step in the right direction.
I welcome commentary, please disagree politely. I’ll use my moderatorial powers to make disrespectful comments disappear.