What Is The Difference Between Being Safe And Feeling Safe?

black and white letter titles that spell out stay safe
Zain Murdock
May 1, 2024

What do you need to feel safe? When you tell someone, “Be safe,” what do you mean? Do cops make you feel safe? Have you ever thought you’d be safe, but weren’t? Or in danger, but weren’t? These questions matter. Because, as quiet as the system keeps it, feeling safe and being safe aren’t the same.

Based on cultural biases, psychology, and personal experience, our fears and comforts make up what we uniquely desire to feel safe. The desires of those in power build the foundation for policing. Police then target those who “disrupt” the status quo, making the white and wealthy feel unsafe.

Being safe isn’t a feeling; it's a condition. Will you experience violence or not? How likely are you to starve? Have access to healthcare? Live in poverty? Have housing? The feeling of safety can help us navigate dangerous situations, but it isn’t foolproof. You might feel unsafe walking down a dark and unfamiliar road, but you could also be hurt by someone you know and feel safe with.

Just like you might feel unsafe around an unfamiliar place, person, or activity, this also happens on a larger scale. For instance, we’re used to prisons and policing. Abolition is the unknown, condemned as “unsafe.”

But, in a time when fears surrounding safety are rising, we can interrogate, redefine, and rebuild what safety can feel and look like.