I don’t believe in safety. I wish I did. I am not brave. I simply know what to be scared of; I know to be scared of everything. There is freedom in that. That freedom makes it easier to appear fearless—to say and do what I want. I have been broken, so I am prepared should that happen again. I have, at times, put myself in dangerous situations. I have thought, you have no idea what I can take. This idea of unknown depths of endurance is a refrain in most of my writing. Human endurance fascinates me, probably too much.
Intellectually, I understand why trigger warnings are necessary for some people. I understand that painful experiences are all too often threatening to break the skin. Seeing or feeling yourself come apart is terrifying.
This is the truth of my trouble with trigger warnings: there is nothing words on the screen can do that has not already been done. A visceral reaction to a trigger is nothing compared to the actual experience that created the trigger.
I don’t know how to see beyond this belief to truly get why trigger warnings are necessary. When I see trigger warnings, I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel protected. Instead, I am surprised there are still people who believe in safety and protection despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
This is my failing.
I do recognize that in some spaces, we have to err on the side of safety or the illusion thereof. Trigger warnings aren’t meant for those of us who don’t believe in them just like the Bible wasn’t written for atheists. Trigger warnings are designed for the people who need them, who need that safety.
Those of us who do not believe should have little say in the matter. We can neither presume nor judge what others might feel the need to be protected from.
THE ILLUSION OF SAFETY/THE SAFETY OF ILLUSION
BY ROXANE GAY