Were conservatives right about facts over feelings?

The divide over facts versus feelings can be politically polarizing. Photo courtesy of Diablo Magazine

SADIA KHATRI | OPINION COLUMNIST | sskhatri@butler.edu 

“Facts don’t care about your feelings” is a familiar phrase that has become increasingly popular in conservative spaces in the past few years. The facts-over-feelings phenomenon is based on the idea that feelings should not be included when considering factual information, especially about racism, homophobia, misogyny and any and all other forms of bigotry. 

Sophomore health sciences major Kamarie Fuller-McDade noted that people often resort to a facts-over-feelings sentiment when they are not doing well in an argument. 

“I just look at it as a way for [people to comment] when someone’s losing an argument,” Fuller-McDade said. “They just deflect.” 

Though many find this phrase to be questionable, I would like to raise the argument that it is unequivocally true; we need to start implementing this ideology within our lives. Facts simply do not care about our feelings, and it is time to recognize that. 

Critical race theory 

Conservative politicians have thrown many a fit about critical race theory (CRT) being taught in schools. I think it is time for conservatives to stop letting their feelings get in the way of this crucial topic. 

“[Conservatives] were butthurt that America is still oppressing people and had 400 years of slavery,” Fuller-McDade said. “You’re upset about that. That’s just you not wanting to not think of the guilt. A lot of conservatives, mostly white conservatives, have white guilt.” 

The United States has a brutally violent history of systemic racism that continues to permeate American society today. CRT rejects simplified and shallow notions of race and racism, and instead, examines how racism is something that has deep roots. 

Ali Mohamed, a junior biology and Spanish double major, echoed the sentiment that many conservatives do not want to think about systemic racism or critical race theory because of white guilt and fragility. 

“I think [CRT is] a perfect example of them not wanting to hear the facts because it makes them feel bad,” Mohamed said. “Learning about systemic racism or learning that no matter what we do America has a history of racism, [that is uncomfortable and] that makes them feel bad, and they don’t want to hear that.” 

Racism is a structure and a system, and this is not a mere opinion or personal feeling held by some individuals; it is proven that racism goes beyond a person’s individual biases and prejudices. Racism is systemic and this fact needs to be accepted. 

Police brutality 

The facts show that police brutality is racialized in America. It is statistically true that the American police system disproportionately targets Black Americans. At traffic stops, Black and Hispanic people are far more likely to be searched or arrested; Black Americans experience police misconduct at a rate that is 12 times that of white Americans

Fuller-McDade brought up the fact that many conservatives will deflect from the conversation about racialized police brutality and bring up other numbers. 

“They’ll make it only a color thing,” Fuller-McDade said. “[They’ll say] ‘Well, not just Black people are getting shot.’ Yeah, we know not just Black people are getting shot! Disabled people are getting shot. People of different other ethnicities are getting shot by the police. It’s an issue. We’re not only talking about us being Black and …  getting shot. We’re talking about getting rid of police brutality in general.” 

These statistics are only the tip of a very large and very racist iceberg. These facts — regardless of anyone’s feelings — are representative of the legacy of slavery. Policing in America is not at all far removed from our history of enslaving Black people. The facts plainly demonstrate this. 

Do not let your racist feelings prevent you from understanding the insidious nature of police brutality. 

Affirmative action 

The overturning of the affirmative action bill this past summer brought in a new wave of facts-over-feelings rhetoric from people across the country. Critics of affirmative action claim that race-conscious admission standards are unfair and give preferential treatment to people of color. 

This claim is invalid, since it is important to take larger social contexts into consideration. Students of color, particularly Black students, have historically been underrepresented and marginalized; they have not been given the same resources as their white peers. There are barriers in place that prohibit many students of color from succeeding in higher education and affirmative action aims to remedy that. Studies have shown that Black students that attend universities and benefited from affirmative action go on to do better professionally than students that did not benefit from affirmative action. 

Zohal Atmar, a junior biology and Spanish double major, emphasized that it is easy to ignore other perspectives and pick and choose niche statistics to prove a certain point, and this is certainly true for opponents of affirmative action. 

“You can always remove information altogether and completely discount an entire context,” Atmar said. “You can always go cherry-picking statistics and say it fits your ultimate agenda. But in the end, it’s still biased.” 

Race-conscious admissions provided students with an opportunity to access higher education despite structural obstacles that were in the way. Racial inequity is deeply systemic and it impacts education. The history and the facts illustrate that racism is a system that hinders the success of students of color. These are not niche opinions some of us hold; these are historical facts. 

Should we stick to facts over feelings? 

Facts are undeniably important. Statistics and history provides us with information that puts everything into context. When it comes to race in particular, looking at historical facts is beyond important. We are only able to understand American society’s perspective on race today if we understand the United States’ historical crimes against Black, indigenous and other people of color. 

Though facts matter, we all still have feelings. It is simply not possible to look past every feeling we have. 

“There’s no such thing as ‘facts over feelings’ because in the end, everything has emotion conveyed [in it],” Atmar said. “Any statistic you use, you found from a source that has some sort of undertone or some sort of bias.” 

We all have biases, and it is important to acknowledge them and work towards actively dismantling them. 

“I think everyone has some type of bias,” Mohamed said. “And if you say that — if you say that you’re only using facts over feelings — I’m gonna trust you less because I know that you’re biased. I’d rather you admit your bias.” 

Discomfort is okay — it allows us to grow and learn about new perspectives that we may have never considered before. When faced with history and factual information that makes you feel uncomfortable — especially if you feel uncomfortable because of your privilege — take a moment to reflect and learn more about that topic. 

It is time to reject the notion that we should ignore facts that make us feel uncomfortable.


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