How Tact Can Make "Safe Spaces" Unncessary
Safe spaces have been criticized from all sides of the political spectrum because of the threat they pose to free speech. However, they pose another more insidious threat that is not discussed as frequently. The “Safe Space Culture” that has developed at many universities not only restricts free expression but also destroys students’ ability to engage in respectful conversations by eliminating opportunities to do so. This will render Americans incapable of engaging in reasonable political discourse we do not work against this trend.
Proponents of safe spaces and trigger warnings claim that they are necessary to protect people from comments that would elicit a negative emotional response. Although this argument is easy to mock, it has some validity. It seems perfectly natural that an immigrant might be upset by incidents like this. Most people would agree that there are situations where it is better not to discuss certain topics. Determining when and where conversations are appropriate is a skill that requires good judgement that must be developed over time.
The problem with safe spaces, therefore is that they cripple young people’s ability to learn how to determine when it is an appropriate time to bring up a controversial topic and when it is not. By institutionalizing courtesy, safe spaces train students to think that they are incapable of determining when it is appropriate to have political discussions. This results in a culture full of people who do not know how to exercise tact in their daily lives.
This causes many people to decide that it is never appropriate to discuss controversial topics and lose their ability to understand those who disagree with them. Since they are unable to understand why people disagree with them, they will begin to assume that anyone who does is doing so for dishonest reasons. For example, some who support gay marriage claim that anyone who doesn’t must be a bigot. This kind of thinking is caused by a failure to hold productive dialogue on the topic and is not productive for either side in any debate.
Others react to safe space culture differently. Some Americans are already begin to despair of being able to say anything without offending someone, which causes them to abandon tact altogether and spew their opinions out recklessly, thinking that they are fighting back against PC culture by doing so. People such as Milo Yiannopoulos actively try to offend liberals to protest against political correctness. As conservatives who value free speech, however, it is important to show that we are better than that. Mr. Yiannopoulos might think that he is helping the conservative cause by his speeches but he is inadvertently strengthening the argument for safe spaces. That argument rests on the premise that people with conflicting opinions are not capable of engaging in respectful dialogue. Outbursts like this, in which Yiannopoulos tells an Evan McMullin voter that “I hope you never vote again” are counterproductive because it shows that Yiannopoulos is not interested in having a discussion with someone who holds a contrary opinion on Donald Trump.
The best way to fight political correctness is by showing that it is unnecessary. This means that we cannot retreat from political debate for fear of being offensive, but we also must remember that it is equally important not to be needlessly belligerent. We must show that courtesy and tact are not dead in America and reveal safe spaces for the absurdity they are.