Princeton University Refuses to ‘Check His Privilege’

PIC: Invisible Knapsack

PIC: Invisible Knapsack

I always check my privilege. Far easier than trying to cram it in the overhead bins.

via BBC News – Tal Fortgang not sorry for being white and privileged.

Princeton University freshman Tal Fortgang has been told repeatedly to “check his privilege” – to be aware of how his socio-economic and cultural background shapes his views – and he’s not happy about it.

“The phrase,” he writes, “handed down by my moral superiors, descends recklessly, like an Obama-sanctioned drone, and aims laser-like at my pinkish-peach complexion, my maleness and the nerve I displayed in offering an opinion rooted in a personal Weltanschauung.”

In an opinion piece originally carried last month by a conservative Princeton student publication and reprinted on Friday in Time magazine, the 20-year-old condemns those who paint him with the “privileged” label for “diminishing everything I have personally accomplished, all the hard work I have done in my life, and for ascribing all the fruit I reap not to the seeds I sow but to some invisible patron saint of white maleness who places it out for me before I even arrive”.

To answer his critics, Fortgang recounts his ancestry, which includes a grandfather who fled Poland after the German invasion in World War Two and a grandmother who was sent to a Nazi concentration camp.

“That’s the problem with calling someone out for the ‘privilege’ which you assume has defined their narrative,” he writes. “You don’t know what their struggles have been, what they may have gone through to be where they are.”

He says he is privileged, but not in the way the liberals think:

28 Comments on "Princeton University Refuses to ‘Check His Privilege’"

  1. My understanding is that privilege, being completely unearned, is not something to feel guilty about or apologize for, but rather to recognize and perhaps even use for the benefit of those not so privileged. I didn’t do anything to be a white male, and I’m not sorry I am one. I maintain that the problem with privileges is not that some people have such opportunities, but that others don’t.

  2. BuzzCoastin | May 7, 2014 at 9:08 pm |

    anyone alive is privileged
    all privilege is founded on a good deal of luck coupled with savvy
    savvy without luck is Tesla
    luck without savvy is enbodied in the heirs of the lucky savvy
    butt it’s that way with aMerkins too
    who regard their privilege of unbridled consumption with disdainful indifference

  3. Ted Heistman | May 7, 2014 at 9:24 pm |

    I think this “check you privilege” phenomenon is just the same old “slave morality” Nietzsche and Hegel talked about. The weak and unlucky looking and the fortunate and strong with a jaundiced eye.

    Nearly everybody does it though, even millionaires.

    • Ted Heistman | May 7, 2014 at 9:43 pm |

      The unibomber I think understoon an underlying dynamic of it as well:

      “13. Many leftists have an intense identification with the problems of
      groups that have an image of being weak (women), defeated (American
      Indians), repellent (homosexuals), or otherwise inferior. The leftists
      themselves feel that these groups are inferior. They would never admit
      it to themselves that they have such feelings, but it is precisely
      because they do see these groups as inferior that they identify with
      their problems. (We do not suggest that women, Indians, etc., ARE
      inferior; we are only making a point about leftist psychology).

      Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong, good
      and successful. They hate America, they hate Western civilization, they
      hate white males, they hate rationality. The reasons that leftists give
      for hating the West, etc. clearly do not correspond with their real
      motives. They SAY they hate the West because it is warlike,
      imperialistic, sexist, ethnocentric and so forth, but where these same
      faults appear in socialist countries or in primitive cultures, the
      leftist finds excuses for them, or at best he GRUDGINGLY admits that
      they exist; whereas he ENTHUSIASTICALLY points out (and often greatly
      exaggerates) these faults where they appear in Western civilization.
      Thus it is clear that these faults are not the leftist’s real motive for
      hating America and the West. He hates America and the West because they
      are strong and successful.”

      • kowalityjesus | May 7, 2014 at 11:03 pm |

        hot damn that is so spot on

      • Mr Willow | May 8, 2014 at 3:05 am |

        I can only speak for myself (and most people would describe me as a “leftist”), but that’s complete malarkey.

        I don’t deny the groups he identifies as inferior are inferior from a socio-economic standpoint, but I refuse to acknowledge they should be inferior, or, indeed, that there is any reason for them to be inferior in that or any other respect.

        Besides which, he’s describing “leftists” in the same way the TParty does: “All these squatters, moochers, bums (and whatever else) are just jealous of the rich!”

        It’s a meaningless slander against people who can’t find jobs in an economic environment where the wealthiest people on the planet demand tax decreases, the ability to store their money in a foreign bank to avoid what taxes they do have, and subsidisation, and still refuse to hire people because the one’s they’ve already hired have “burdensome” regulatory requirements like a minimum wage, a five day work week, workplace safety, and healthcare (which is now made worse if they hire women, since they have to provide *gasp* contraception), all so they can hoard the obscene amount of wealth they made on the backs of all their underlings working in the franchised restaurants, car dealerships, gas stations, and retail stores, or are stitching, sewing, bolting, screwing, welding, soldering, and/or otherwise fabricating or preparing the various nick-knacks, food-stuffs, and other products sold at the aforementioned storefronts, while giving the bare minimum back to the people who actually do the work—provided the prospective jobs those deadbeats could have weren’t filled by a robot of some sort, which doesn’t have the various concerns cited above.

        *that was my main point, and the following trails off into a rant of sorts, so read only if you’re in the mood for some (semi-relevant) ramblings*

        Typical “leftist” ideology is egalitarian and democratic; as in, the further “left” on the political spectrum one goes, the more advocacy there is for horizontal power structures, equal rights, free association, mutual aid.

        (all generally speaking) Center-left is social democracy, highly regulated capitalism, progressive taxation, and a heavy emphasis on public works (transportation, transportation, healthcare).

        Actual Left is anti-capitalist.

        Socialism is worker-ownership of business, where every “employee” is partial owner of the business (be it a grocery store, factory, farm, etc.) and as such has a vote in the operation of it. There’s also less emphasis (if any) on profit, and more on making something that actually benefits society. This is most evident in things like co-ops.

        Communism is a step further, being common ownership of land and manufacturing, and an abolition of money, with focus being totally on providing for the needs of society, through free association of every individual within society with every other individual or group within society, and the cooperation thereof.

        Both could be centrally planned, controlled, and operated, but I personally feel like that is completely unnecessary and detrimental, which brings us to:

        Anarchism is the above, but without any central apparatus (usually designated the State), where every individual, business, factory, and farm are commonly owned, and operated through democratic means, free association, and mutual aid. Anarchist Spain is probably the best example of this.

        Of course, such terms have been all rolled together and mischaracterized to serve the political agenda of whoever is speaking (usually opponents of “leftists”) so many times that even the “left” label has become meaningless (or nearly so).

        • Ted Heistman | May 8, 2014 at 9:16 am |

          All I can say is it sounds like Kaczinski’s characterization hit home. Plus, you seemed to have not read it too carefully.

          He is not arguing that these groups are actually inferior, only that Left Wingers think they are.

          It rings true to me. For example, I have always detected a visceral hatred of Arnold Schwarzenegger, among liberal whites. Minorities don’t hate him. He is actually a social moderate.

          But being a Strong white dude, who is a self made millionaire, he just HAS to be a bad guy.

          • Ted Heistman | May 8, 2014 at 9:48 am |

            This perception that most people on welfare are black, that Cliven Bundy espoused, is not that different from a lot of left wingers perceptions. Its just that the proposed solutions are different.

            The reality is that most people on welfare are white. But nobody feels sorry for them. They are characterized as “white trash” and simply lazy and shooting themselves in the foot.

            White left wingers prefer to champion blacks and other minorities.

          • Ted Heistman | May 8, 2014 at 10:26 am |

            Often, on the internet, you get people from “red states” arguing with people from “blue states” but that’s not me. I grew up with liberals and conservatives in my family. I have two sisters who were so left wing in college, and then they marry rich guys and now they are into mostly food and fashion, fitness, literature, things like that. I have one that actually stayed a serious activist.

            So I am talking about my own people. I know what comfortable, white, left wing people are like and what their attitudes and perceptions are.

          • Mr Willow | May 8, 2014 at 1:04 pm |

            I said they were inferior from a socio-economic perspective. Historically, that has been the case, One of the groups named (American Indians) was nearly wiped out of existence via Manifest Destiny, women have been regarded as submissive to a male-dominated culture (hell, they had to actually argue that they were competent enough to vote), and homosexuals have been completely shunned or outright persecuted. That should not ever be, or should have ever been the case, but it was, and is; though things have improved through the years.

            Denial that there is inequality in regard to these groups belies severe ignorance on his part (to say the least).

            White left wingers prefer to champion blacks and other minorities.

            That’s for a couple of reasons.

            Again, historically, they’ve been treated as second class citizens. Slavery, the Three-Fifths Compromise, segregation, the KKK, bombings, lynchings, etc. Even today, police departments are at least more wary or cautious of black communities, if they don’t outright target them, and “urban” communities are almost always portrayed in the media as violent and chaotic, centers of crime, murder, and rape, street-gangs, robberies, etc. etc.

            The other is that poor white people generally shun any government assistance (or improvements or expansions to existing assistance) proposed because it might somehow benefit the “filthy moochers” the Republicans and TParty have told them so much about.

            All the people screaming about how “the government better keep it’s hands off my healthcare!” while they themselves are on Medicare or Medicaid, opposition to government spending of any kind, even if it would be spent on essential things like infrastructure, suspicion of unionisation, even though it seeks to empower them, and public anything is decried as “socialist” so is immediately removed from conversation. Or it’s a “well, a Democrat (or otherwise designated leftist, liberal, progressive, etc.) said it, so it must be bad” sort of mentality.

            They slap away any helping hands that are extended.

          • Ted Heistman | May 8, 2014 at 1:16 pm |

            Well, poor white people get all kinds of benefits, food stamps, disability etc. I am not so sure how often they vote against it. I know most people don’t vote.

            I think working class whites have more conservative attitudes very often. I see the antipathy rich white liberals have against working class whites as being caste based.

            I think professionals, government bureaucrats, Academics, other upper middle class, college educated whites, just don’t like “rednecks.” They don’t like them because they perceive them as uneducated and ignorant and they see working with ones hands as less dignified, then white collar paper pushing type jobs.

            They like to say they hate rednecks and poor white people because they are prejudiced against blacks and other minorities , but really I think they just look down on them.

            out on the street among the poorest of the poor, I don’t really see a lot of racism. You may not see polished politically correct speech, but I don’t see a lot of racism.

            I’ve gotten together to hear talks in Left Wing book stores and its Its a sea of white people. White college students talking about racism non stop.

          • Mr Willow | May 8, 2014 at 1:27 pm |

            That sounds like a lot of conjecture…

          • Ted Heistman | May 8, 2014 at 1:53 pm |

            well, that’s how I see it. I’ve lived in 10 states and known a lot of people, rich poor, black, white, brown. This “white privilege” strikes me as self righteous posturing.

          • Mr Willow | May 8, 2014 at 3:23 pm |

            Are you suggesting such privilege doesn’t exist?

          • Ted Heistman | May 9, 2014 at 11:44 am |

            I think there are privileges associated with being an educated white person, yes. If you are a fat redneck, with bad teeth and improper grammar and shabby clothes, I think the privileges don’t exist. I think in that case a well educated Brown or black person would have the advantage, so no, white skin itself, lends no privileges, its only when its associated with other class indicators, that is does.

  4. VaudeVillain | May 7, 2014 at 9:56 pm |

    It is a great tragedy of modern philosophy, specifically of social justice theory, that the concept of “privilege” made it’s way into the imagination of those individuals both lacking enough privilege to understand what it really means and possessing enough privilege to abuse and distort it into utter meaninglessness.

    Never, to my knowledge, has a person written or uttered the words “check your privilege” who has themselves done anything of the sort.

  5. Good for him. Telling someone to “check your privilege” is a bullying tactic.

  6. Adam's Shadow | May 7, 2014 at 11:52 pm |

    You know what’s strange? I’m a straight white male from a middle-class background and I’ve never been told to “check my privilege” by anyone. I feel like I’m missing out on something here, like Tal Fortgang is suffering for my sins. Am I just a tool of liberal brainwashing? Is that it? Am I being oppressed by militant black lesbians without my knowledge?

  7. Tuna Ghost | May 8, 2014 at 2:26 am |

    Shit, I won’t apologize for being white and privileged, but I can recognize what that means and what it means that others aren’t as fortunate.

  8. emperorreagan | May 8, 2014 at 9:47 am |

    This kid swings and misses on the entire discussion of privilege.

    This is a much more interesting article that was published in response:

  9. Woobniggurath | May 9, 2014 at 10:10 am |

    Admittedly this precious donzel is a mere 20, but I certainly hope he is enrolling in a “Check your sophmoric prating” seminar. I want my hereditary overlords to at least have a degree of self awareness before they assume their mantel of heedless power.

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