Dear Professor J.,
I’m sure you recall the day that you handed out an article from a very left-wing news source, barely two double-spaced pages long, which talked about a recent shooting or, as you called it, an act of “police brutality”. I tried to keep a poker face, but I felt my stomach sink in dread of the imminent discussion. After our previous class, I came to class terrified you would somehow bring anti-police commentary into the conversation yet again… and my worst fears had come true.
I am writing now because I need my voice to be heard. This was not an isolated incident: in a class on Asian-American history, you repeatedly spend a portion of class time encouraging opinionated and hostile views of law enforcement, which are often barely related to the hundreds of pages of readings assigned to us. You will say, “What do you think?” and wait for the hands of my anti-police peers to shoot up. But I know you don’t actually care what I think.
I tried, you know. I tried to sit there calmly, even though I was shaking with anger, as you encouraged other students to say horrible things about police. I even attempted to participate and validate a few points.
Do you remember when I questioned you about a fact that was skimmed over in the article? The reporter did not specify the relevance of this statement and gave no further information. I was the only one who asked about it. Valencia, your favorite student, jumped down my throat before I could even finish my sentence. Like so many others, she was instantly defensive of the purported victim of “police brutality”, and interpreted the simple question as victim-blaming—even though she had no answer either.
You paused after my query, glanced down at your “news source”, and then admitted, “That’s a good question. I don’t know.”
What baffled me is that you seemed not to see the issue with this concession, and neither did any of my classmates. Professor, you didn’t even have the basic facts. You brought in an article with very little substance, clearly biased to antagonize police, and wanted to get us all fired up. I would understand if you were a TA, but you have a PhD in sociology; you must have been taught to read and think critically, especially when it comes to news articles. Somewhere along the line, your prestigious education has failed you.
Do you want to know how long it took me to find the full details of the case? About 30 seconds. One does not need a PhD to do a Google search, weed out the biased articles, and uncover the facts of the issue. I understood then why your left-wing news source opted to skim over a lot of facts: because those facts didn’t work in their favor. Actually, those facts may have even justified the actions you were trying to call murder.
You and my classmates spent half an hour discussing how police are on a power trip, how they are brutal, how they escalate every situation. I walked to the bathroom seeing red, and called my boyfriend, who is an officer. After 10 years on the job, he has learned to ignore people calling him a racist pig and making death threats, because their opinions don’t matter to him. He has accepted the hatred and ignorance. But I have not.
You are the face of what could at this point be considered blatant liberal indoctrination in college (this coming from a self-professed liberal, except when it comes to law enforcement). You stand before the class and allow/encourage us, without even having full information, to denounce an entire profession. You insult my boyfriend—although you may claim that this is a societal issue, when you talk about police officers being racist brutes, that includes my boyfriend, and I have every right to take it personally – tear him to shreds, and view him through a lens of uneducated and unfounded disgust.
I learned quickly that the mere suggestion that not all police are horrible, inherently racist beings is enough to get everyone to dogpile on me, so I don’t speak up now other than to try to divert the conversation from anti-police issues. Still, you have seen my face when you start discussing “police brutality”. I sit in the front row in a 15-person class, and I know you hurriedly look away when you see the death glare I’m giving you. I am not subtle anymore in my body language. Yet you continue talking, knowing that it makes me uncomfortable. You might claim that I have the option of raising my hand and talking, but I really don’t.
I went from BLM supporter to pro-police when I began thinking critically. I started paying attention to small details. You know what I’ve found? There’s a pattern. You hope nobody catches or challenges you, and most people don’t. But time and time again, I do.
One of the first classes began with you complaining about an allegedly rude police officer you encountered over the weekend. You asked us what we would have done in your situation and questioned whether, had you confronted him, you would be “exercising your racial privilege”. If you recall, I was the only one who probed further. When I asked what the cop specifically said that was rude, your response was, “I don’t remember. I could just hear the underlying contempt in his voice.”
My classmates joined in your fury and indignation at this injustice, with one student suggesting you demand the cop’s badge number, while I looked around in confusion: A police officer who was probably sick of people asking for directions to a place two blocks down, or tired from working 70 hours a week, or just not in a good mood, was maybe a little short with you. You couldn’t offer any proof of his rudeness and nobody else seemed to see the gaping holes in your story.
This pattern is the same reason I was shot down when I dared to question a biased article. I think that’s beginning to be representative of all too many members of our society, too. I am caught between wanting to stand up for my beliefs and call you out, and not wanting to be attacked by everyone who disagrees.
That is how your world works now. Emotion trumps facts. Those who have the wherewithal to question the claims made by the “opposing” side are shut down. You may not have directly insulted or verbally discouraged me, but you allowed others in the class to do the dirty work for you. Your stance on policing is more than obvious and you have emotionally charged an issue to the point where facts are irrelevant and anyone who doesn’t join the angry mob or say what you want to hear gets shouted out of the room.
The fact remains that I joined this course to learn about Asian-Americans as listed in the course title and description. But if you are going to dedicate that much time in class to any news story, sparking a biased politically-charged discussion on the basis of an equally biased article is not the way to do so.
You could have presented the comprehensive facts (keyword: facts) of the case and turned it into a discussion of the vicious socially-constructed cycle at the root of these issues. “Racist” policing should not be conflated with mediating and moderating factors in society. Perhaps those factors and a broader view less targeted at a certain group would be something we could discuss in a sociology class. Instead, you wanted to hate police and promote your anti-law enforcement agenda.
Suppressing the voices of students such as myself and failing to encourage dissenting opinions is not the way to achieve a more positive society. Every time I have wanted to speak up, I knew I would be met with extreme hostility for doing so. I cannot even rightfully file any sort of complaint, even though the syllabus says nothing about discussing current events, because at best I would be rejected and at worst the entire student body would get yet another passive-aggressive “hate has no home here” and (selective) “free speech” (as long as it’s anti-law enforcement) email.
Call me crazy or over-sensitive but that, to me, is not an acceptable experience to have in a college course intended to further my knowledge of Asian-Americans—especially one offered at a university that prides itself on inclusion, fairness, and integrity.