I’m sure that we have all come across some sort of Safe Space sticker, or sign on a professor’s door stating that “this office is a safe space. And discrimination will not be tolerated.” Or something along those lines, right? Some of the signs go beyond the blanket statement of discrimination and list out specific actions that will not be tolerated, “hateful speech,” “hatred,” “racism,” “homophobia,” “xenophobia,” “misogyny” etc. And none of those things should be tolerated.
In class last night we talked in groups about how we would address discrimination and inclusivity in higher education as new faculty members. Many of the groups talked about how we should be a model for anti-discrimination and inclusivity, and how we should lead by example to create a more inclusive environment. I agree that we should lead by example, and that’s why I won’t have a safe space sticker on my door.
The rhetoric that’s been thrown around social media, and popular news sources for the past year or so, especially around the election, has labeled conservatives as hateful, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic racists. Some of the allegations against Trump supporters get even nastier. And it didn’t stop there, the anti-Trump and anti-Trump-supporter sentiment, in more than a few cases, devolved into a polemic against the white people, and more specifically the white males who elected Trump. While the post election outrage against the conservative electorate has calmed down a bit, it hasn’t completely gone away.
Safe spaces predate the 2016 election, but they are exclusionary, by design, against everything the election-era rhetoric has labeled conservative students as. To be a model of inclusivity we have to recognize that not all conservative students, or Trump supporters, are hateful, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic racists. Not all conservative students are even one of those things. And further than that, we have to acknowledge that conservative students are not inherently all, or any, of those things, nor are they more likely to be than anyone else.
There is a whole student body who identify as conservatives, and I will not make them feel unwelcome by placing a sticker on my door.