America’s polarization is increasingly dire, and with national focus perpetually on divisive issues, both liberals and conservatives often see the other as genuine enemies with whom cooperation’s impossible. There’s a severe lack of sincere dialogue between the left and the right, but that fact makes honest, humanizing conversations with the opposition more precious now than ever. To that end, and to prove that common ground could be found, I, quite liberal, messaged a friend who’s quite conservative for a discussion. Though we began firing off opposing views on divisive topics, with a little thought we found much unexpected agreement and eventually reached a reasonably shared view of pressing problems. Here’s an outline of everything we agreed on, a map of some oft-undiscussed common ground most arguing liberals and conservatives might not realize they both stand on. My hope’s that it might serve as a blueprint for others’ conversations.

  • Police brutality is wrong and should be punished
  • Racism exists in 2020 and is a problem
  • From Hollywood to academia to boardrooms, there are many sectors of society in which whiteness is implicitly the default, and even in 2020 this often leads to minorities feeling like outsiders due to their race
  • There are many policies from redlining to the War on Drugs to school funding mechanisms that disproportionately hurt poor communities, which are often largely black or hispanic
  • Peaceful protesting is commendable and should never be met with violence
  • The word ‘racist’ has extreme connotations, and it’s usually more productive to call someone’s implicit racism ‘ignorance’ or ‘insensitivity’
  • Police obviously do some good, and we shouldn’t rush to abolish all police
  • The slogan ‘fuck the police’ is unproductive
  • Issues often get politicized when they don’t need to be
  • Be careful not to share fake news
  • Donating to groups like Equal Opportunity Schools, Children of Promise, and Wings for Kids is a clear, apolitical way to make a difference

  • Police brutality isn’t the doing of a small fraction of ‘bad cops’ among the ‘good cops’; what’re the odds four for four of George Floyd’s attackers happened to be ‘bad’? They’re questions of group psychology and police culture. Real solutions should involve changing training, increasing police accountability and oversight, reversing unnecessary police militarization, and resolving the noted problem of using police to address too wide a variety of needs. The four-for-four probability argument is one I feel liberals could make more clearly against the ‘few bad cops’ statement.

  • Media severely biases people’s perceptions of police and protester violence. I’d seen a headline about a pregnant woman hit in the stomach by a rubber bullet, while she’d seen a story about protesters who’d refused to let a car with a sick child through. Given that there were protests in every major city in the US, it’s no shock things like these happened, but because they’re emotionally potent, it’s easy to get riled up when a news outlet or FB algorithm shows you one. It’s more important to focus on broad trends and statistics when possible.

  • Much of racial inequality is due to racist history and cycles of poverty as opposed to current racism. She thought the national focus should be on investing in poor black communities to fix problems at their roots instead of pinning guilt on police and current racism. While plenty of studies have shown proof of current racism and that fact should be broadly understood, and police abuse of power is prevalent and merits reform, I basically agree; police reform alone won’t fix racial inequality. The question of police blame has become divisive, with conservatives largely defending the police; how’d that happen when there are clearly problems with law enforcement? Maybe it’s because police brutality is more glaring and simpler to address than broad socioeconomic issues, so it’s an easy target for both reform efforts and anger, making it look like the dominant liberal view is that police are the main problem.

  • Rioting and looting shouldn’t be excused. Our society considers crimes less severe if they’re done in the heat of passion, but they’re still crimes, and though the recent riots are perhaps more understandable because of their motivation and the emotion they’ve brought to the nation’s attention, they’re still highly damaging and often selfish. Excusing these completely is a minority view among liberals but still seems to cause a lot of understandable frustration among conservatives who see it as a mainstream view, which detracts from discussion of more important issues.

  • Liberals can be very intolerant of conservatives. I’d noticed this but was shocked at the extent my friend described; in her words, “if I shared a [BLM] post but shared the portions I disagree with I’d be called out for not agreeing wholeheartedly, but if I’m silent I’m called out for being silent.” “I fear that putting a conservative sticker will almost definitely lead to vandalism on my car in Richmond.” “I know conservatives who have to put up with liberal rants all day at work and can’t say a thing or else they’ll lose their work relationships and promotion opportunities or even their job.” That sort of thing’s much less obvious from a liberal perspective, so I, for one, believe her. There’s definitely a perception among some liberals that some ideas are so clearly right that anyone with an objection or caveat is automatically morally inferior, with no need for further investigation, and though I agree with most of said ideas, that attitude’s a problem and being aware of it might help give liberals some understanding of conservatives’ perspectives.

  • When a prominent leader makes a comment that’s widely interpreted as racist, if it wasn’t meant that way, that leader should be clear in explaining the intended meaning and disavowing the racist interpretation.

  • It’s worth listening to each other.

When factions face off, spears bristling, perhaps the boldest, most important place to stand is in the middle with hands extended to either side. Polarization in the US is as real a crisis as the coronavirus, but unlike the virus, you have significant power to fight it directly.