To the Editor,

When I first published my article, “I Was Mugged And I Understand Why,” I could never have predicted the response it would receive. I hope this letter clarifies some of the points that have been wildly misread.

To be perfectly clear, I do not condone violence against anyone, and I certainly did not deserve to be mugged. Understanding why someone might steal from me does not suggest that I deserved it.

Everyone is responsible for his or her own behavior, and my attackers made a bad choice, for which they ought to be punished. But the conversation should not end there.

Innocent individuals never deserve to be attacked. But in an unequal society, we can’t be shocked by crime. I’m not suggesting it’s OK, or that we should accept it. I’m saying wake up: the futures for some are bleak. Until we do something to understand and address the root causes of crime, it will continue. Acknowledging that there is more to crime than pure evil does not equate to condoning it.

As for me, I’ve chosen empathy. I’ve chosen to write an article that deepens the conversation about privilege. And I will continue to address issues of structural injustice as I see them. I invite others to do the same.

Oliver Friedfeld (SFS ’15)


  1. Lynn Amarante MD says:

    You’re digging a deeper hole. If you feel guilty about living a life of privilege then go sleep on the streets.

  2. I spend a lot of time in Cuba. When I go out before light in the morning (photography ) my Cuban friends carry stun guns. Cuba I’m sure would be considered by the original author a nirvana. There isn’t a more “egalitarian” place, yet people get mugged. The author is just wrong and like the prior comment said is just digging a deeper hole.

  3. Anonymous Hoya says:

    I don’t remember him saying he feels guilty about leading a life of privilege, only that he understands others do not and have to make choices we can’t imagine. I don’t think “I understand why I was mugged,” means “I agree with the decision these people made.” Only that he understands what factors led up to that moment. The people who made that decision were still wrong to do so, but Mr. Friedfeld also understands why. Understands, not condones or agrees.

  4. This letter is well-articulated and intelligent. Lynn and Patricia suggest that the only type of equality we can achieve is by all being miserable (suggesting that the author go live in the streets or perhaps Cuba). The author, and I would hope any other person committed to social justice, dreams of an equality where we raise up people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    Quite frankly, you are a fool if you look at the crime that comes from any poor inner city and you suggest that the criminals’ disadvantaged backgrounds did not play any role in the crimes. As the author writes, this does NOT condone crime or excuse the criminals. Rather, it is a pragmatic view that we can reduce crime (and make communities better in a number of ways) if we improve the inequality in society by raising people up.

    • Reduce crime and improve inequality — by returning to a cultural (and sub-cultural) norm where a two-parent family is the standard. People do NOT commit crime because they are poor. Violent crime is overwhelmingly committed by boys who grow up without fathers in the home.

  5. North Korea is waiting for you, please feel free to take a close look at their egalitarian society.

  6. Michael Ejercito says:

    So, in your opinion, what is the root cause of rape? Which inequalities create or magnify incentives to commit rape?

    • Read the letter carefully. He does not condone violence of any kind. That isn’t part of his discussion. But that has, apparently, been wasted on you.

      • Michael Ejercito says:

        I never claimed that he condoned rape; I merely asked “nequalities create or magnify incentives to commit rape”.

  7. Wow. What a complete goofball. Why go to school and bust your ass and strive to do and have amazing things with an attitude like that? You might as well just sit on the porch and collect welfare.

  8. You’re not showing empathy, you’re showing a lack of understanding for what the real problem is; but if your parents, twelve years of compulsory education, and four years at an elite higher institution haven’t taught you what’s going on in the real world and how it works, then my little paragraph won’t do much either. Just know that you’re not the first one to think this way, not at all. Money and effort had been thrown at “social injustice,” without any positive results. So maybe a few more muggings… or a real job, a spouse, kids, and real problems of your own will finally teach you how the real world works and you’ll finally choose to live in it.

  9. Oliver, this is very well-reasoned and reasonable. The commenters saying otherwise are disgustingly spiteful (and I’m surprised the Hoya has allowed such hateful and racist comments – mainly on your original Op-Ed).

  10. Shannon Scott says:

    Any Rand once said that there’s a hatred of the good for being good. I have been mugged at gunpoint twice, one of the instances involved my abduction so am no stranger to the subject at hand. Although the author’s defense letter contradicts some of his original article’s views, in fairness, he does seem like a sympathetic soul who does make good points or shall we say, is trying to learn something from the experience. But what I would offer is that his concern for his attackers, who in theory, could have ended his life or done him severe harm, is bizarre in some respects. Yet ever symptomatic of our culture today that seems plagued by a kind of socialistic guilt for “having” vs “not having.” In the same way he is no more responsible for the life he was born into, or given certain cards, his assailants are no more responsible for their’s. Yet all individuals are responsible for their actions beyond. and their lives. These cards? The given factors of our lives? Yes, they shape us, and yes, there is a human code shall we say, a moral code that we take good care of our fellow man, but this author is certainly not responsible for the cards or path chosen by his assailants like its some duty. This writer is strangely willing to hand over his better, non-criminal nature, to those who would be criminals. I have no issue with “love your fellow man,” but this author’s logic is horribly flawed if he thinks lowering yourself to their level is somehow the direction to fix society and it’s ills. Many factors constitute crime, and many of those do fall back on the system we live in and horrible people who seek to perpetuate it and advance a system of chaos. And yes, there will be those lost in the cracks for a whole host of reasons. Just as much as “good people” like himself will also be negatively affected as they do slip. For as much concern as this writer has for society and those who do go lost, you cannot change the meaning of someone if they choose to do bad things. They have done something bad after all. Even so, let us look to the self serving system like private prisons who demand 90% capacity from officials in cities where they build, or how own government on record, imports over half of the illegal drugs to perpetuate its “War.” Or how taxation itself is a fraud to advance foreign wars, thus weaking our sovereign nation and its economy. These are all factors that supply crime. And who’s to say his attackers just didn’t plain enjoy being criminals. We see that time and time again too. That said, for good people who have good lives? This isn’t anything to feel guilty about.

  11. you’re still assuming that your attackers had a legit. reason to mug you. You need to let go of your white guilt, and show some backbone. Most people who are hungry don’t steal, they collect public assistance or go to soup kitchens. Maybe after you are mugged 5 more times you will start to get a clue.

  12. Your assumptions about your attackers are abstract and worthless – you mean well, that is obvious, but you’re coming at this from an academic navel gazing PoV.

    People learn that they can take – it’s been that way since caveman Ug saw that caveman Grunt had more than he.

    You’re applying a “Social Justice” construct, but long before there was a U.S., there were muggings, purse snatchers, cut purses, alley way muggers, and bushwackers.

    People who do evil will ALWAYS engage their self-justification muscle – and you’re aiding them.
    “I hit Joe because ….”
    “I stole from Jane because …”
    “She teased me, and led me on …. ”
    “His family has always had more than me so I ….”

    If tomorrow, magically, and without realistic inflation, everyone on the planet were to magically have their standard of living raised ten fold – 10 times their bank account, 10 times their pay, 10 times their benefits, etc – you would see that everyone would be happy …. for a VERY short period of time.

    Then, quicker than you’d believe, ENVY would take over. “Yea, I got 10 times what I had, but *HE* now has an obscene amount of money and possessions.”

    So, even making everyone wealthy or comfortable does not change that some will want to take what another has.

    Get your head out of the Social Justice Warrior mode and realize that the indoctrination you’ve been spoon fed is based on class warfare, does not hold up to reality, and while it may make you FEEL morally superior and enlightened, that what you get from it, the ideas, the solutions, and the empathy, are based on false assumptions, don’t solve the problem, and will enable and excuse bad people and their actions.

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