Oh have I missed writing for this blog! It’s been too long. Why I haven’t been posting anything new here for a month is because I’ve been busy with family and following this run-amok Election 2016. But I’m back today, and writing about a topic near and dear to me, and that is safe spaces.
Three years ago a friend spoke to me about people from a local community center creating a Third Space. They felt they were being outcasted for having different opinions, and felt unsafe opening up to the women in that community center. But because they had no money they could not create a hall or establish a building or rent a room where they could meet regularly to talk about things important to them. Maybe it was a divorce they were going though, a spiritual crisis, or a sexual transformation, or a taboo career change.
In my career I’ve come across kids, my own students or kids at my school, going through a family or personal struggle and could not talk to anyone about it — including me, because it was a conservative school, where you just didn’t talk about those things. They were silenced, afraid, and emotionally unstable. They lashed out in class, were rebellious or disobedient, or extremely shy and reserved because they could open up to on one. Not their parents, not their friends, not their teachers. There was no safe space for them to speak – not at home, not at school, nowhere in the community. I think keeping emotions bottled up inside is not healthy. Because I had no where to go as a teenager, I found a nice place for myself. For me, my safe space was books. Some of my favorites became Clifford the Big Red Dog, Magic School Bus, and Berenstain bears. My favorite teen books became The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky and The Chosen by Chiam Potok, but my favorite was and is the Harry Potter series.
These are books where I could find relatable characters, magic, jokes and humor, and mentors like Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall. I could enwrap myself in a world where almost anything was possible. And although there were evil people like the Death Eaters, the good guys had magic and their wands to save them from the forces of darkness. They would control earth, fire, wind, and water. They were in control of their environment, and when I read those books, I was right there with them, fighting through it all with my Cedar, unicorn hair, 10 inch wand in hand.
The Harry Potter books are indeed a safe space for me. It bothers me that some Native Americans feel hurt in the way J. K. Rowling depicted their cultures in her recent writing “Magic in North America” on Pottermore. More so, that Harry Potter has no longer become a safe space for them. Maybe because I am not Native American I don’t feel hurt, but Rowling has also not painted South Asians in a brilliant light, either. I hope that Harry Potter continues to be a safe space, and if it isn’t feel free to express your opinions because if it matters to you, it matters.
We need safe spaces. Without a place to talk out our feelings and thoughts with open-minded people, we will become shells of ourselves. And we can’t afford that. We live in an increasingly complex world at the intersection of races, places, and faces. We need strong, informed people to create the future for us and our kids. So, if you have a safe space, thank your club president and go out there and create safe spaces for everyone like for me, many authors, especially J. K. Rowling has.