As much as we like to believe that people exist in environments that are open and accepting, unfortunately this is not true for many communities, especially for those in marginalized communities. All individuals seek to be comfortable within their surroundings, being able to fully express their thoughts and feelings without fear of being ridiculed and with knowledge that they will be heard. In some spaces, many within marginalized groups do not feel that, and this is where safe spaces come in.
Safe space is a term used to describe areas in which groups have created an environment for themselves, where there is complete inclusivity and comfort for the individuals. The concept of safe spaces originated in the LGBT community in the mid-1960s, for gay and lesbian bars. The bars were a “safe place where people could find practical resistance to political and social repression.” The term then goes on to be ever-present in the women’s movement. “A safe space in the women’s movement, was a means rather than an end and not only a physical space but a space created by the coming together of women searching for community.”
Primarily, safe spaces are now seen on college campuses. Organizations created physical spaces established for the use of groups such as LGBT, female, and black students. These environments provide that inclusivity that may not be felt by students regularly.
Safe spaces, in addition to trigger warnings which serve to warn individuals of disturbing content so that they are not shocked, have come under scrutiny specifically on college campuses. With critics saying that they impede freedom of speech and the ability for university students to learn what it means to be confronted by conflict, that they are being coddled. The Chicago Tribune reported on how the University of Chicago, in August 2016, had even sent a letter to incoming students that they did not support trigger warnings nor spaces.
When speaking with those who are in these safe spaces, they speak on the inclusivity and the freedom these spaces affords them. A comfortability to truly speak their mind without fear of discrimination and violence. The openness, strength and confidences is what occurs with safe spaces and why they are essential for marginalized communities. This is seen in the words of people who spoke with the Washington Post:
“Roquel Crutcher: When I wake up, I think about the fact that I’m black, I have to think about my hair, I have to think about my edges, I have to think about how I look … whether or not I look too this or too that, and that’s something that I get tired of doing sometimes. And so it makes me feel good to know if I can go somewhere and just be me without having to worry about changing who I am — that’s a safe space.”
“Zanib Cheema: You’re trying to create an environment which promotes people to feel comfortable enough to talk about things that typically won’t be spoken about … where people can speak up, where they feel like nothing that’s going to be said is going to be taken out and used against them.”
 Harris, Malcolm, “What’s a ‘safe space’? A look at the phrase’s 50-year history,” Fusion, November 11, 2015, http://fusion.kinja.com/what-s-a-safe-space-a-look-at-the-phrases-50-year-hi-1793852786/amp.