I wrote the letter below as a response to a close friend of mine after we had a heated exchange of messages regarding police brutality. These messages were in part caused by an Instagram story I had posted that day questioning the idea that the police is a state sanctioned killing squad. This idea that the government is allowing or encouraging the killing of its black citizens is increasingly being accepted by normal liberals as a fact. In an attempt to add a more factual perspective on the situation I cited, on my story, that the chances of anyone, black or white, dying from a police shooting was extremely low (roughly 2*10^-5 chance). I came across this argument through Coleman Hughes’s article which is cited in the note below.
Because we had a heated exchange, in which we both cited our own facts, I thought I would try to combat our mutual angst and annoyance through compassion and patience. I hope this came across as genuinely as possible below. We have more than enough issues, social or otherwise, to tackle in one of our measly lifetimes. While I strongly believe that solutions to these issues will not come from looking at each other’s genuine beliefs with disdain and contempt, I also strongly believe that we must have an iron conviction to stand against beliefs, in whatever form they take, that do not stand for our mutual values of equality, truth, and freedom.
“One must have the nerve to assert that, while people are entitled to their illusions, they are not entitled to a limitless enjoyment of them and they are not entitled to impose them upon others.”
-Christopher Hitchens, Letters To A Young Contrarian
I want you to know that I do not hold any negative feelings toward you and I actually appreciate your serious input. Sorry if my texts seem a bit heated, I care about the topic much the same way you do. I do not think you are stubborn, or because you are a woman you do not ‘value the statistics.` I truly do not see being a woman/man as a valid way to support any argument.
I am actually somewhat surprised you would think that I would say those things. Think about who I was when I lived with you. Did I ever act like an aggressive idiot, or say racist or sexist things? did I ever do anything on purpose to make anyone around me uncomfortable in any way? (If I did let me know and I will apologize)
I agree with you that the police do hurt people, period. That is a fact, plain and simple. It is an innately violent job. Whether it is justified or not, it revolves around detaining and arresting people. However, I think that solutions to police brutality are more complex than simply ‘defund the police’. I wont say anymore on this because I think we have both spewed facts at each other and made our case. I’ll just cite this article by Coleman Hughes which explains the relevant points in a much better way than I can.
I think there is a weightier conversation here underneath the topic of police brutality. I feel like you have no interest at all to ‘let your guard down’ and actually listen and think about my perspective on this subject. Maybe this is because I have given you the same impression, if so, my mistake. But I also have a feeling that you consider my perspective outright racist because it differs from the common social justice narrative on social media. I understand why you might think this, after all if I am not ‘anti-racist’, then what exactly do I stand for? It seems like racism is the only other option. Reality is far from what social media portrays it to be. There is in fact a solid ‘liberal middle ground’ that contains people of all colors. People like Sam Harris, Caitlin Flanagan, Coleman Hughes, Jason Riley, and Johnathan Haidt prove that just because you do not fall into the strict social media narrative of anti-racism it does not mean that you deny real social problems exist. Ultimately, I can only defend myself by reaffirming my hopefully good memories in your conscience and refer you to the great journalists and thinkers above.
I wrote this long response because I think these conversations are supremely important. The Civil Rights movement and feminist movements based themselves on challenging wrong perspectives(racism and sexism) in the world and proving that these perspectives were objectively wrong. Noone has the ‘right’ perspective until they prove it to another, no matter how just it may seem. You might think this is a negative way to approach these conversations, especially when there are human lives at stake, but I think history shows us that this approach will lead to the most good in the long run.
I strongly believe you have the total right and freedom to your own perspective of the world. If anyone was telling you not to voice your perspective I would be on your side 10 out of 10 times. Whatever your perspective may be, you are totally free to believe it. But no one, under any circumstances, has the right not to have their perspective challenged. Of course, these same conditions extend to me as well. We can deny the criticisms of our perspectives but this does not mean they are self-evident or stand on their own. I’ll cite two different sources here that have influenced my ideas in the last two paragraphs. First, John Stuart Mill’s work on freedom of expression, page 18-chapter 2, explains much better than I can the need for open discussion of different perspectives and the benefits of this on society as a whole. Second, Jonathan Haidt’s article on the increasing college culture of stifling open discussion.
I hope that with this long response I have been able to show you that I am here for a peaceful conversation about what we believe and why. I am not here to ‘one-up’ you or ‘destroy’ your ideas. I am actually quite sure I will learn something new from you given the chance. Let’s talk about these things like friends, I always remain open to listening, without judgment on your take, and I am totally open to looking at this through your eyes. All I ask is that you extend the same courtesy to me. Trust me, I know first hand that these conversations can be exhausting and tedious, I have stirred up enough trouble for myself on social media. I hope that with trust, patience, and common values we can come out of these conversations with newfound mutual respect for one another.
P.S. Sorry for the long ass response.