“Grown-ish” Recap Episode 11: Safe Spaces Matter

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What went down on the latest episode of grown-ish? Get all the tea with Sesi‘s weekly recaps.

By Tina Liu

Why is Zoey delivering her first monologue of the night decked out head to toe in revolutionary chic? Because they tried it, y’all. Hawkins dorm — the #safespace for Black students at Cal U — has been threatened with a shutdown for the second time in less than a month. Apparently, some non-Black students felt a party they recently attended there was a bit too unapologetically Black for them. Not the type to sit idly by and be silent (because why should they?), the students who support Hawkins and all that it stands for gear up for a protest.

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At the resistance’s prep rally, everyone has a role: Ana’s designing fliers, Jazz and Sky are making buttons, Nomi’s crafting bevvies with names like Rosé Parks and Ale Sharpton, Zoey’s on signage duty, and Aaron is pretty much just overseeing everything. “I just wish they realized how important this place was to us, you know?” he says. Ana agrees adding, “Yeah, I totally get it. Minorities need a place where you can go to just be yourself. I wish my people had a place like this to go.” Always ready to help out with a movement, Aaron drops gems on how she can go about making that a reality, and Ana gives him props for doing way more than just “adding some dumb filter to [his] profile picture” (which makes Zo feel some type of way because, as we already saw in her flashback, that’s typically her protest modus operandi). Aaron’s like, “It’s all good” — he’s always down to help out the Latinx cause, too.

That’s when things go all the way left.

“Oh, no,” Ana says. “I’m talking about my other people: women on the right.” As in right-wing politics. Aaron is oh-so-shooketh (tbh, so are we), and basically says, “hard pass” to a safe space for conservatives, especially since, as he says, their “safe space” is all of Congress. And the White House. And every Reddit thread, AM radio station, and pretty much all the Cracker Barrels, chimes in everyone else. The back and forth continues with Aaron asking how she can possibly be a Republican and a Latina and Ana saying she’s not “alt right,” but she believes in a lot of Republican ideologies, and it only escalates from there. In between their word volleys, Zoey tries to bring everyone back to the task at hand — keeping Hawkins open — but no one is trying to hear her right now. Feeling attacked, Ana dips.

The next day, Zoey soothes her soul with a little dose of fashion, getting to class early to steam some dresses. When Luca arrives and asks her what’s up, she tells him how everyone is losing their mind over the whole “safe spaces” thing. And in the true Luca mood we’ve all come to love (and sometimes side-eye), he straight up says, “Your generation is softer than Drake.” (To be clear, Luca is also a part of Gen Z, but he does not always claim them. LOL.) He goes on to say that, in his mind, safe spaces are just places where a bunch of people sit around and agree with each other. He says people need to start getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, and proceeds to stare Zoey down for a good few seconds to give her a head start of sorts on that uncomfortable feeling.

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After class, Zoey stumbles upon a face-off: Aaron’s protest group vs Ana’s. Dean Parker tries to calm things down by sharing a story of his own childhood safe space, a treehouse his mom’s boyfriend built for him. His attempt is short-lived, though, when someone in the crowd throws a diaper at his face. Then, Zoey steps in to try and talk to the two sides. It doesn’t go well — Aaron calls Ana stupid (again), and then a full-on brawl breaks out between the two groups.

Later, Aaron and Ana are called into Dean Parker’s office. “I’ve fielded 142 complaints of feelings getting hurt, including my own,” he laments. And to avoid any other issues, he decides to shut down every “safe space” on campus — Hawkins, the LGBT dorm, the international dorm, and even the athletic dorm. Ana explains to Zoey that she didn’t mean for any of this to happen — all she wanted was her right to free speech and a safe space. She goes on to explain that her grandpa has been jailed in Cuba for years just for speaking out against the government. Zoey tells her she had no idea and agrees to hear Ana out. Then, Ana opens up about her political views. “The more I listened to Ana and how passionate she was about her beliefs, the more I realized things weren’t always black and white. She’s a Republican who believes in gay rights and climate change,” she says.

Over at Aaron’s dorm, Zoey tries to convince him to talk to Ana, too, so he can see where she’s coming from. “Do you understand where I’m coming from?” he asks her in response and proceeds to remind her that Black people need an actual safe space on campus because there are so few of them — 4 percent, in fact. A safe space would give them somewhere to link up, get to know each other, and support each other. “This was the only place on campus I could go and be around Black people and celebrate our culture,” he says of Hawkins. “You know, it wasn’t just a place to voice my opinion; it was more than that. And now, the whole thing is wrecked.”

Ever the peacemaker, Zoey tries to claim that Ana’s in the same position, but Aaron gives her the real: No, she’s not. You can’t look at Ana and tell she’s a conservative, he says. But he’s Black all day, every day — and so is Zoey. He just doesn’t get why Zo isn’t just as angry about the situation as he is. To this, Zoey says she is angry, but this whole “safe spaces” argument isn’t so cut and dry. Yes, it is, actually, Aaron says and leaves the room.

Later, in Titanium with the crew, Zoey sees Ana sitting at a different table and invites her to join them. Aaron’s not feelin’ that idea. “Why?” he asks Zoey. “So you can just put up another fence to sit on?” (Ouch.) Jazz and Sky are here for the drama.

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Zoey calls Aaron and Ana out for their roles in everything that went down: Aaron should have let Ana voice her opinions, and Ana shouldn’t have taken things so far that it caused Hawkins, et al to be closed. “Unless everyone has a voice, none of us have a voice,” Zoey says, asking them all to just agree to listen to each other from now on. That’s great and all for the future, but as Aaron, reiterates, he still has to deal with the effects of the safe space shut down and move to a new dorm next semester.

As the episode draws to a close, Zoey decides to take a stand herself and approach Dean Parker about reconsidering the shutdown. At first, he says no, but  when Zoey pulls up the shades in his office, revealing Aaron, Ana, Sky, Jazz, and Nomi linking arms and wearing T-shirts reppin’ each other’s hashtags, he changes his mind.

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All’s well that ends well.

Catch up on the episodes you’ve missed here.

 

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Quarterly print teen magazine for Black girls ages 13 to 19. Covering The Black Girl's Mainstream™
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