To this thread,
I've noticed lately it's become fashionable to mock the idea of safe spaces, and I'm disheartened to see the same thing South Park mined for one of their patented single-joke episodes is being lauded here by a community of spiritual disciples who should be stressing understanding and compassion. I'd like to point out that African-American student unions and LGBT and women's student centers are, themselves, safe spaces, are have been, for example, all African-American universities. Their purpose is and has always been this: these are groups of people who get harassed on a regular basis. Additionally, their harassment has and in many ways still is perpetuated by certain ideas that enjoy a privileged hegemony in society, having emerged, in the past, as justifications for the most brutal violence and now being used to intellectualize daily bigotry. These safe spaces were created so that these students could have a safe space in which to learn, free from having to constantly justify and defend their own existence against a society stacking the deck against them.
When I was growing up, I learned math and how to read and write in programs designed in such a way that I could be trained gradually in these things, that I wouldn't be thrust out into a world that demanded my very survival be dependent on these skills. Now my life does depend on these skills, but, to learn them and to hone them, I was given space in which I was safe to practice and fail and try again and learn from mistakes. Likewise, even as an adult, I am provided with space in which I am safe to be trained in order to properly do my job for my employer, even if I am already coming in with skills I learned and hone elsewhere (and yes, in spaces that were safe for it). And I see parallels between this and the paths we take as Buddhists. People who oppose safe spaces say that they are "infantilizing," but we wouldn't demand that those who are ordained become engaged in worldly affairs simply because they should be "able to handle" the world beyond the temple or the retreat. Among the rules our ordained are expected to observe are rules against going to see shows and handling currency. Now, I understand the latter of my two examples is given some leeway in this day and age, but my point stands that these rules exist to provide the ordained with a space in which they are safe to focus on their training. So perhaps they "should" be able to "handle" the worldly things you and I encounter every day, but do we not honor them for renouncing the world and retreating into a life of pure spiritual focus?
Students should be challenged and exposed to new ideas, but there are some who think that among the valid ideas by which these students should be challenged are questions as to their very right to exist, as to the validity of their own experiences. Yes, it would be quite noble, downright heroic for students to meet all such challenges courageously, but how can we, as Buddhists, demand this of students with no compassion, with no regard to how utterly exhausting meeting such challenges can be because, even once those hateful "ideas" are met and overcome and discredited, those who advance those ideas will never stop advancing them? Even now, decades after the end of segregation, there are groups of people pushing for black to be separated from white. When is a Black student entitled to a learning environment wherein he doesn't have to keep disproving racism? In what world is prejudice and bigotry even worthy of open debate? In what fantasy utopia do racists and fascists and misogynists and homophobes and transphobes ever admit to being wrong and then respectfully concede to the opposing point of view? If all such groups really did approach society in good faith toward other groups, these debates would be valid, but that's not what happens in real life.
Students deserve safe spaces because they deserve to be safe while learning. These mockeries of the idea of safe spaces are disgusting caricatures that, while perhaps not being advanced by anyone intending to be bigoted, are drawing from ideological language developed by people who absolutely do intend to be bigoted. We are not animals; we do not throw our cubs off the side of the mountain and raise only those strong enough to climb back up to the den. We are not Spartans or eugenicists or social-Darwinists, either. The truth can be difficult to hear, but safe spaces have never been about escaping the truth. Rather, the very fact that they implicitly assert the truth of the validity of the experiences of marginalized groups is why they're being challenged concurrently with the rise of an emboldened quasi-fascist constituency in the West.
P.S. - Also, the "triggered" joke refers to triggering panic attacks as a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. So every time we ridicule triggers (which is something I think is more suited to the pedigreed intellects of 4chan than to Buddhists), we're essentially ridiculing survivors of abuse and of war. I live in a town with a lot of veterans, and I happen to know they don't appreciate the popular characterization of "Triggered!" at all.
natthi me saraṇaṃ aññaṃ
buddho me saraṇaṃ varaṃ
hotu me jayamaṅgalaṃ
A socialist is just someone who is unable to get over his or her astonishment that most people who have lived and died have spent lives of wretched, fruitless, unremitting toil. Terry Eagleton, Ideology: An Introduction.
When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist. Hélder Câmara, Essential Writings.