Some individuals believe that a “safe space” is one in which people can talk about a sensitive topic without being criticized. When the topic is race, some white individuals expect that a “safe” anti-racist space is one that is safe for whites to talk about race. However, a safe space for whites is one that is unsafe for people of colour.
When discussing race, the greatest fear for whites is being “attacked” by being accused of racism. The greatest fear for people of colour is being attacked by racism itself. If people should be able to discuss issues of race without being criticized, in practice, the result is the silencing of people of colour, while leaving whites beyond reproach.
In a safe space for whites, people of colour are not allowed to call out the racism of white individuals; however, whites are allowed to make statements about people of colour and people of colour cannot respond.
The notion of facilitating a safe space for whites to discuss race assumes that the white person’s learning and enlightenment is the goal of anti-racism. According to this framework, if the white person does not have a non-threatening environment, then he will reject anti-racism, so we must make sure that anti-racism activities revolve around his needs and progress at the pace he desires. However, this setup reproduces white supremacy, as it gives the utmost importance to white comfort, white opinion, and white perspective. It reinforces the white person’s sense of white entitlement.
The white person’s learning and enlightenment is important only insofar as white allies may be useful in the eradication of racism; it should not be given priority over the dismantling of white supremacy, as this would defeat the purpose of anti-racism.