I’ll be honest. I have had ENOUGH of this microagression, safe space, thoughtcrimes, nonsense. This is not to say that I’m pro-harassment, discrimination, racism, etc. I’m not. At all. I’m actually very liberal on social issues, generally speaking. But I’ve read two articles about colleges adopting this victim-mentality mindset in the last week (here and here), and I’m disappointed, and concerned at what the future looks like if this trend continues. My opinions here are purely my own, and not reflective of any particular scientific research or data, but I HAVE spent the last 12+ years managing people and feel like I have a pretty good read on social trends and a relatively accurate long view (historically speaking, in my life thusfar). So, without further ado…the reasons why I’m concerned:
1) First and foremost, the world (and, I daresay, universe) doesn’t care if your feelings are hurt. It keeps on moving forward with or without you. And your kicking, flailing tantrum on the sidewalk of your life does nothing but set you further behind on your journey. On a slightly less macro-level, what are you going to do if something ACTUALLY terrible happens (think a divorce, a serious injury, the death of a loved one, etc.), if you can’t even handle someone saying “you guys” without being emotionally wounded?
2) Dovetailing on that is this inability to let anyone feel uncomfortable these days. Feeling uncomfortable is a fact of life. If you’re never uncomfortable, you’re doing it wrong. Whether it’s because you’re trying something new, hearing ideas that are different from your own, failing spectacularly at a class or a job or a relationship…or a multitude of other things… it’s normal! And being exposed to those uncomfortable feelings and learning that they’re not the end of the world (especially early in life) is critical. Otherwise, you don’t come across those uncomfortable moments until adulthood and don’t have the emotional fortitude to handle them (enter college kids protesting against free speech and requesting dorms segregated by race or sexual orientation, all in the name of a safe space).
3) Somewhere in the world of social media, far too many people have based their self-worth on external feedback. While I understand that the internet is 24/7 and that has an irrevocable impact on social norms, we’re ignoring an important factor in the fight against bullies and bigots…self-esteem. We’re spending a lot of time these days building a wall of ego instead of a foundation of self-esteem. When you learn early in life that your self-worth is based on what other people think of you, when the tides turn, your whole world is turned upside down and you’re left feeling defensive and resentful. When you learn early in life that someone else’s opinion of you isn’t the end-all, be-all of your worth, a change in tides (while still a hardship) is a time to get back to your foundation, re-center, and push forward, because you know that what you have to offer the world is worth something. We need to spend less time handing out external reminders of our worth (read: participation trophies), and more time celebrating who we are and what makes us different and how our little piece of the puzzle fits into the world around us.
4) Censorship is not what we’ve fought so hard for the last couple hundred years. Seriously. This country was founded on freedom of speech, expression, religion, commerce, etc. It was NOT founded on freedom of expression with an ‘as long as your expression isn’t unpopular and doesn’t make anyone uncomfortable’ caveat. As a recent example… you have a right to not stand for the National Anthem…others have a right to tell you why they’re pissed about it. We fought to have a country where we can agree to disagree…not one where we threaten and shame others into keeping their mouths shut. And if we’re going to get down to the level of expressing surprise at an inopportune time as a ‘thought crime,’ what’s left? I mean, really. If even our thoughts and facial expressions are going to be subject to regulation and vilification, what’s the point of living in the United States to begin with? Might as well just sign up under a tyrant somewhere else in the world…at least you know what you’re getting at that point…no waiting for the tide of public opinion to come crashing down on you.
5) The hypocrisy is absurd. Throwing actual aggression at a complaint of microaggression makes absolutely no sense. Meeting what is perceived to be an unjustified shooting with another unjustified shooting is insane. Rioting and looting over the lack of safe spaces is ridiculous. Being offended that people of a particular gender, race, or orientation are lumped together with unfavorable stereotypes, and subsequently lumping together people with a particular amount of money, political stance, family background, etc. is a case of pot meeting kettle. It’s all silly and counterproductive, and we’re better than that.
Vote for the people who you believe will change things for the better. Be a positive part of your community. Give each other a little grace…we can have differing opinions without being enemies and without accusing one another of being morally reprehensible. Take the time to develop yourself. Learn who you are without looking through the lens of others’ opinions. Know that that’s enough. Help people who are struggling with that concept see that it’s enough. Stop tearing everyone down so you don’t have to step outside your comfort zone. We can do better than this. And it starts with acceptance of diversity of OPINION and BELIEFS. Not just acceptance of diversity of physical characteristics and sexual preferences.