Yesterday a great friend of mine and I were talking about some of the challenges of diversity and inclusion work. Specifically we got into how to facilitate engagement with well-meaning but under educated privileged groups and their marginalized peers. How can voices and perspectives be brought to the table in not an equal, but an equitable way. Often these containers are labeled 'Safe Spaces' but I take issue with that term, because sometimes we need to move outside of safety, outside of comfort to grow. Furthermore, safe spaces often have limited access points for marginalized folks and as a result they risk catering to the comfort or safety of privileged folks and not confronting the subtle and guilt-laden aspect of implicit bias.
This is when she introduced to me the concept of BRAVE SPACES.
WOW, I immediately felt the power of this phrase. Courage and bravery are topics that often come up in my mindfulness work as attributes that help guide us through difficulty and ultimately allow for us to transcend our oppressive habits or mental patterns. Brave Spaces has very much the same connotation. Spaces where we are encouraged to engage with the uncomfortable.
This format allows for privileged groups to use the wrong terminology or voice prejudiced opinions, but are equipped with the tools or the courage to then be corrected and informed on why their perspective may be flawed or ill-informed. We should not be ashamed of our ignorance because that disempowers us to confront it openly. Simultaneously marginalized groups aren't burdened with the need to 'console' their peers and can voice their objections freely.
I myself deal with this issue constantly. For years I struggled to even know how to define my identity in terms of race. Was I black, was I colored, was I mulatto? Is mulatto a racial slur? Is colored inappropriate? I've now found comfort in identifying as a person of color but was floundered in confusion for most of my adolescent life due to being too shy or too embarrassed to ask. By continuing to stay silent, I stayed ignorant. I stayed confused. Even now I see myself susceptible to this when interacting with LGBTQ or other communities I'm not familiar with. Am I using the right terminology? Was that statement assumptive or inappropriate? Now, with this simple phrase of brave space, I feel empowered to enter into these conversations better equipped to take on criticism or correction and effectively become a better peer, advocate and ally in any situation.
Please feel free to comment and join the dialogue. I also found this document on the topic HERE
Kendra is the founder of 4Love+Science and works as a Science and Community Consultant