YOUNG VOICES

Student Oliver Friedfeld Was Mugged At Gunpoint. And Then Wrote This Incredible Letter

26/11/2014 12:25 GMT | Updated 26/11/2014 12:59 GMT
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Student Oliver Friedfeld was mugged at gunpoint and forced to hand over his phone - yet far from condemning his attackers, he has said he doesn't blame them - and they shouldn't be called "bad people".

In an incredible opinion piece for his university's newspaper The Hoya, he says he can't be surprised the attack took place in the privileged Georgetown, Washington, area - and instead blames the "harshly unequal" economic climate.

"What has been most startling to me, even more so than the incident itself, have been the reactions I’ve gotten," the Georgetown University student writes. "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."

Oliver explains his background; he's from a "solidly" middle-class family, but, with relatives in Mexico City, hasn't entirely been shielded from poverty.

"And yet I’d venture to guess that our attackers have had to experience things I’ve never dreamed of. When I struggled in school, I had parents who willingly sat down with me and helped me work through it. When I have a problem, I have countless people who I can turn to for solid advice.

"When I walk around at 2 a.m., nobody looks at me suspiciously, and police don’t ask me any questions. I wonder if our attackers could say the same.

"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."

Oliver then urges us "look at ourselves first" if we ever want opportunist crime to end - and says

"When we play along with a system that fuels this kind of desperation, we can’t be surprised when we’re touched by it.

"The millennial generation is taking over the reins of the world, and thus we are presented with a wonderful opportunity to right some of the wrongs of the past.

"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."

Read the full letter here.