A Georgetown University student recently wrote an op-ed in The Hoya about his experience getting robbed at gunpoint and how it was all because of his “privilege.” He said that he understood why the robbers did what they did, and that if we could only solve our income inequality problems, there would be no more robberies.
He and a housemate were robbed at gunpoint while they were on their way home one night. They were forced to the ground while the robbers patted them down for valuables. Oliver Friedfeld continued with his op-ed:
And yet, when a reporter asked whether I was surprised that this happened in Georgetown, I immediately answered: “Not at all.” It was so clear to me that we live in the most privileged neighborhood within a city that has historically been, and continues to be, harshly unequal. While we aren’t often confronted by this stark reality west of Rock Creek Park, the economic inequality is very real.
Year after year, Washington, D.C., is ranked among the most unequal cities in the country, with the wealthiest 5 percent earning an estimated 54 times more than the poorest 20 percent. According to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, just under 20 percent of D.C. residents live below the poverty line.
What has been most startling to me, even more so than the incident itself, have been the reactions I’ve gotten. I kept hearing “thugs,” “criminals” and “bad people.” While I understand why one might jump to that conclusion, I don’t think this is fair.
Not once did I consider our attackers to be “bad people.” I trust that they weren’t trying to hurt me. In fact, if they knew me, I bet they’d think I was okay. They wanted my stuff, not me. While I don’t know what exactly they needed the money for, I do know that I’ve never once had to think about going out on a Saturday night to mug people. I had never before seen a gun, let alone known where to get one. The fact that these two kids, who appeared younger than I, have even had to entertain these questions suggests their universes are light years away from mine.
Who am I to stand from my perch of privilege, surrounded by million-dollar homes and paying for a $60,000 education, to condemn these young men as “thugs?” It’s precisely this kind of “otherization” that fuels the problem.
As young people, we need to devote real energy to solving what are collective challenges. Until we do so, we should get comfortable with sporadic muggings and break-ins. I can hardly blame them. The cards are all in our hands, and we’re not playing them.
I guess this is what they’re teaching over at Georgetown University. If you’re white, and if you come from a higher-than-low-income family, you’re obviously privileged, and it’s not fair. You’re basically begging others to come and rob you. If you get mugged at gunpoint, it’s your own fault. If you don’t want it to happen, then maybe you shouldn’t be so “rich” and white next time.
So what’s his solution? (Besides not being so white and “rich.”) To tax the rich harshly and throw welfare at the poor. What he advocates is essentially what happened to him, where the government robs the productive citizens at gunpoint and gives part of their loot to the unproductive as a way to earn and keep their vote. If he thinks that’s going to eradicate crime, he’s paying way too much for his “education.”