One Person’s Safe Space is Another Person’s Landmine
University campuses across the country have had to reckon with a growing demand for “safe spaces.” Ana (Francia Raisa) describes them in this episode as “a place where minorities can go to just be themselves,” but not everyone agrees with her, both on the concept of “safe spaces” and on her politics, which in this episode are revealed to be right-leaning.
At Hawkins, the minority students have created their own “space space,” but the university is now threatening to dismantle the historically black dorm. The group is preparing to protest, with Aaron (Trevor Jackson) getting permits and thinking up unfortunate hashtags, the twins making signs, and even Nomi making protest-themed drinks — including Rose Parks, 40 Acres and a Moscow Mule, and I Am Not Your Negroni. Zoey is relishing her new protest-chic style. “Not to brag, but I’m basically Michelle Obama,” Zoey (Yara Shahidi) unironically says to camera, moments after bragging about her extensive”protest” background — basically just changing her Facebook profile photo filter, a dig at the often-criticize digital activism that is a hallmark of young Millennials and the newly-dubbed “iGeneration (people born from the mid-nineties to the early 2000’s). “Picking the right filter at the right time can be a very powerful political tool,” Zoey fires back.
In the Grown-ish universe and the real world, colleges have struggled to meet their students’ needs while still providing a quality education. In 2016, the University of Chicago welcome letter to incoming freshman warned that the college would not use trigger warnings or condone the use of intellectual “safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own. Luca (Luka Sabbat) is on the side of the institution. He believes that “people need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.” If he’s right, then Aaron and Ana have done some serious aging in this episode, because their divergent politics cause a significant rift in their friendship. The group’s reflexive revulsion at the revelation of Ana’s conservatism prevent them from learning the “why” behind her ideology. Her hatred of big government is borderline Libertarian because her grandfather has been in a Cuban prison for years for speaking out against the government. While the group still disagrees about fundamental issues, understanding the background that shaped Ana’s political leanings eventually help them exercise empathy towards their friend despite their differences.
Aaron points out that black population at Cal U is 75% of Zoey’s friend group but only 4% of the actual student body. When Ana argues that as a conservative woman, she too deserves a safe space, Nomi tells her “Your safe space is Congress.” The question of which oppressed group has it worst dominates this episode, and by the episode’s conclusion, the school’s solution is to shut down all the minority dorms to prevent further discomfort. “Unless all of us have a voice, none of us have a voice,” Zoey pleads, first to her friend group, then to the Dean. He agrees to reinstate the original dorms, after seeing Zoey’s friend group lined up on the lawn outside his office wearing tee-shirts promoting equality and acceptance.
Grown-ish, a Black-ish spinoff continues its 13 episode season Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC Freeform.
In case you missed it, read the previous episode review here.