Checking My Privilege: Character as the Basis of Privilege

east pyne

There is a phrase that floats around college campuses, Princeton being no exception, that threatens to strike down opinions without regard for their merits, but rather solely on the basis of the person that voiced them. “Check your privilege,” the saying goes, and I have been reprimanded by it several times this year. The phrase, 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. “Check your privilege,” they tell me in a command that teeters between an imposition to actually explore how I got where I am, and a reminder that I ought to feel personally apologetic because white males seem to pull most of the strings in the world.

I do not accuse those who “check” me and my perspective of overt racism, although the phrase, which assumes that simply because I belong to a certain ethnic group I should be judged collectively with it, toes that line. But I do condemn them 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. Furthermore, I condemn them for casting the equal protection clause, indeed the very idea of a meritocracy, as a myth, and for declaring that we are all governed by invisible forces (some would call them “stigmas” or “societal norms”), that our nation runs on racist and sexist conspiracies. Forget “you didn’t build that;” check your privilege and realize that nothing you have accomplished is real.

But they can’t be telling me that everything I’ve done with my life can be credited to the racist patriarchy holding my hand throughout my years of education and eventually guiding me into Princeton. Even that is too extreme. So to find out what they are saying, I decided to take their advice. I actually went and checked the origins of my privileged existence, to empathize with those whose underdog stories I can’t possibly comprehend. I have unearthed some examples of the privilege with which my family was blessed, and now I think I better understand those who assure me that skin color allowed my family and I to flourish today.

Perhaps it’s the privilege my grandfather and his brother had to flee their home as teenagers when the Nazis invaded Poland, leaving their mother and five younger siblings behind, running and running until they reached a Displaced Persons camp in Siberia, where they would do years of hard labor in the bitter cold until World War II ended. Maybe it was the privilege my grandfather had of taking on the local Rabbi’s work in that DP camp, telling him that the spiritual leader shouldn’t do hard work, but should save his energy to pass Jewish tradition along to those who might survive. Perhaps it was the privilege my great-grandmother and those five great-aunts and uncles I never knew had of being shot into an open grave outside their hometown. Maybe that’s my privilege.

Or maybe it’s the privilege my grandmother had of spending weeks upon weeks on a death march through Polish forests in subzero temperatures, one of just a handful to survive, only to be put in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she would have died but for the Allied forces who liberated her and helped her regain her health when her weight dwindled to barely 80 pounds.

Perhaps my privilege is that those two resilient individuals came to America with no money and no English, obtained citizenship, learned the language and met each other; that my grandfather started a humble wicker basket business with nothing but long hours, an idea, and an iron will—to paraphrase the man I never met: “I escaped Hitler. Some business troubles are going to ruin me?” Maybe my privilege is that they worked hard enough to raise four children, and to send them to Jewish day school and eventually City College.

Perhaps it was my privilege that my own father worked hard enough in City College to earn a spot at a top graduate school, got a good job, and for 25 years got up well before the crack of dawn, sacrificing precious time he wanted to spend with those he valued most—his wife and kids—to earn that living. I can say with certainty there was no legacy involved in any of his accomplishments. The wicker business just isn’t that influential.Now would you say that we’ve been really privileged? That our success has been gift-wrapped?

That’s the problem with calling someone out for the “privilege” which you assume has defined their narrative. You don’t know what their struggles have been, what they may have gone through to be where they are. Assuming they’ve benefitted from “power systems” or other conspiratorial imaginary institutions denies them credit for all they’ve done, things of which you may not even conceive. You don’t know whose father died defending your freedom. You don’t know whose mother escaped oppression. You don’t know who conquered their demons, or may still conquering them now.

The truth is, though, that I have been exceptionally privileged in my life, albeit not in the way any detractors would have it.
It has been my distinct privilege that my grandparents came to America. First, that there was a place at all that would take them from the ruins of Europe. And second, that such a place was one where they could legally enter, learn the language, and acclimate to a society that ultimately allowed them to flourish.

It was their privilege to come to a country that grants equal protection under the law to its citizens, that cares not about religion or race, but the content of your character.

It was my privilege that my grandfather was blessed with resolve and an entrepreneurial spirit, and that he was lucky enough to come to the place where he could realize the dream of giving his children a better life than he had.

But far more important for me than his attributes was the legacy he sought to pass along, which forms the basis of what detractors call my “privilege,” but which actually should be praised as one of altruism and self-sacrifice. Those who came before us suffered for the sake of giving us a better life. When we similarly sacrifice for our descendents by caring for the planet, it’s called “environmentalism,” and is applauded. But when we do it by passing along property and a set of values, it’s called “privilege.” (And when we do it by raising questions about our crippling national debt, we’re called Tea Party radicals.) Such sacrifice of any form shouldn’t be scorned, but admired.

My exploration did yield some results. I recognize that it was my parents’ privilege and now my own that there is such a thing as an American dream which is attainable even for a penniless Jewish immigrant.

I am privileged that values like faith and education were passed along to me. My grandparents played an active role in my parents’ education, and some of my earliest memories included learning the Hebrew alphabet with my Dad. It’s been made clear to me that education begins in the home, and the importance of parents’ involvement with their kids’ education—from mathematics to morality—cannot be overstated. It’s not a matter of white or black, male or female or any other division which we seek, but a matter of the values we pass along, the legacy we leave, that perpetuates “privilege.” And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Behind every success, large or small, there is a story, and it isn’t always told by sex or skin color. My appearance certainly doesn’t tell the whole story, and to assume that it does and that I should apologize for it is insulting. While I haven’t done everything for myself up to this point in my life, someone sacrificed themselves so that I can lead a better life. But that is a legacy I am proud of.

I have checked my privilege. And I apologize for nothing.

Tal Fortgang is a freshman from New Rochelle, NY. He plans to major in either History or Politics. He can be reached at talf@princeton.edu.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

460 thoughts on “Checking My Privilege: Character as the Basis of Privilege

  • May 3, 2014 at 5:20 pm
    Permalink

    Shaniqua,

    You my dear exemplify precisely what young Fortgang wrote about: you are so enamoured of your ‘victim’ status, that you can get past yourself: you DEMAND that someone hand you all you want, when you want it, and how you want, and you never have to foot the bill for all of it.

    Your river of tears demanded is a cop out, yet another crutch that you provide yourself so that you needn’t take responsibility for your thoughts, your words, or your actions. You make excuses for how you think, what you say, and for the severely bigoted positions which you reflect so clearly in the racist terms you directed toward young Fortgang:

    “..poor Mayo boy…”, “…white boy..”

    Let’s change it around shall we, but for you this time?:

    :.poor Choco girl…”, “…black girl..”

    Do YOU like the sound of those phrases? No?

    You shouldn’t like the sound of them, because the prime focus is skin color, rather that the character of the person at whom they are being directed. Get the drift?

    I would add that your implied anti-European (white) bigotry when it comes to just who killed whom, and for how long all of that went on, illustrates a SEVERE ignorance of history, HUMAN history, and the foundations of why things happen. The proof of it is in the vacuous manner in which you give African history a pass on the ‘standard’ you seem to use against white Europeans.

    News flash oh proud ‘victim’: Africans sold Africans into slavery in West Africa, because when the slave trade began, and for the next approximately 300 years, the white Europeans could not and did not venture too far inland, because of the ‘bad air’ (Bing search the Spanish word ‘mal aria’).

    Yoruba peoples conquered Ibo/Igbo peoples and many others along the coastal and near-inland areas, while the Fulani Muslims raided other black African peoples and sold them to the Yoruba for the slave trade.

    The tens of thousands of black slaves who were forced onto those ships, were sold into that situation by OTHER black Africans.

    Oh yes, the names of the fine fellows for the first, roughly, two hundred years of the slave trade?

    Hispanic names, because for those first nearly two hundred years, the Spanish and Portuguese ran nearly all of the slave trade, THEN came slaver merchants with Dutch, French, and English names, but only AFTER the Spaniards and Portuguese nations diminished in power.

    Here’s another News Flash Shaniqua: the Slave Trade is STILL ongoing: it is engaged in by BLACK Muslim Africans, as the latest act to go public in Nigeria proves all to well; Muslims acting according to what the Muslim prophet Muhammad commanded, and his successors commanded: that enslaving non-Muslims is a profitable and ‘allah’ supported positive act, NOT a sin.

    Arabs by black African slaves, they’ve been doing that at least since 600 AD in Kenya and southwards in East Africa, and for longer than that in North Africa.

    Slavery was not a ‘white’ invention: it was a human invention, practiced in nearly every culture, in every land, for nearly all of human history.

    I know none of these FACTS will sway you from your deeply held bigoted points of view; that would take a supreme effort to confront yourself, your severely ignorant misconceptions, and the very clear hatred which you so carefully nourish in your heart, towards white people.

    Check your victim privilege Shaniquah.

    Reply
    • May 21, 2014 at 2:28 am
      Permalink

      Shes just your typical poor me nigger who hates the white man. Well you know what, i dont like blacks either. I hate all races, including white. But at least white people have class, morals, a rich history and PRIDE! You are just a bunch of handouts, who dont deserve half of what you get.

      Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 5:26 pm
    Permalink

    Is whining about “check your privilege” really just a form of “persecuted victim-hood”? Poor baby…

    Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm
    Permalink

    The white privilege argument doesn’t really apply to somebody who got into a school like Princeton for two reasons. Firstly, white students are roughly proportional to their numbers in the general population because Asians, who make up 20-25% of Ivy League undergrads, are so overrepresented.

    Secondly, saying that somebody got into Princeton because of white privilege is a silly argument, because you’re talking about something that 95% of white high school graduates couldn’t do. There may still be a few rich kids who get in because of connections, but that isn’t white privilege so much as wealth privilege. I’ll give Tal the benefit of the doubt and assume his high school grades and SATs were at the very high level of the average Princetonian. Maybe that argument would apply to some average but expensive college that a mediocre student could get into, but not the Ivy League, which only takes the best and brightest.

    Tal may have had a very privileged upbringing and more breaks than you did, but so what? His getting into Princeton shows that he isn’t wasting it. It’s not how much privilege you have, since you have no choice in the matter, it’s what you do with it. If you want privileged people to feel ashamed of themselves, how about focusing on the rich kids who had everything handed to them and threw it away and still managed to screw up their lives? Why do you have to take something away from someone whose head is on straight and wants to make something of himself?

    Reply
    • May 20, 2014 at 12:36 pm
      Permalink

      Asians are actually underrepresented in terms of their performance (see http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy/). From Ron Unz’s excellent article, the very fact that you are white gives you an advantage over someone who is Asian. That is privilege.

      I criticize your viewpoint because it inappropriately downsizes the observation that racial discrimination (and conversely, racial privilege) play a tremendous role in areas such as college admissions.

      Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 5:57 pm
    Permalink

    prej·u·dice
    ?prej?d?s/
    noun
    noun: prejudice; plural noun: prejudices

    1.
    preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
    “English prejudice against foreigners”
    synonyms: preconceived idea, preconception, prejudgment More

    The prejudice which your moral superiors claim to be fighting, is exactly what they have foisted upon you. The irony is delicious. Excellent article.

    Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 6:28 pm
    Permalink

    This is sad. Read the article “Unpacking the Invisible Backpack.” White privilege exists even though those benefiting from it did not cause it. IT exists even if the majority of white people have to work very hard to climb the ladder. It never says that a person does not have to work hard because they have privilege . It just says that some are handed out a pass when a person makes a mistakes while others are systematically passed some kind of obstacle.

    Reply
    • May 12, 2014 at 8:18 pm
      Permalink

      It just says that some are handed out a pass when a person makes a mistakes…

      Bill Clinton
      Barack Obama
      Hillary Clinton
      Ted Kennedy
      Every democrat politician.

      Reply
      • May 31, 2014 at 11:25 am
        Permalink

        And you as well when you butcher the English language by using a noun as an adjective!

        Reply
    • May 25, 2014 at 11:59 am
      Permalink

      Can you recommend another article, Kirsten? In her essay, “Unpacking the Invisible Backpack,” Ms. McIntosh encourages some healthy reflections and presents a useful metaphor. Does she or someone else have a perspective from 2014, rather than 1989? I ask this with a sincere interest in finding a current expression of “white privilege.” I am seeking divergent viewpoints in articles for my students regarding race, and particularly one that may respond to Mr. Fortgang’s ideas. Since women and various cultures have made great strides within the past 25 years to gain equality, I’m hoping that there is a more current perspective that still strikes a nerve and illuminates “white privilege.” Sincerely, August D’Angelo

      Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 6:54 pm
    Permalink

    I admire your reflections that brought you to your successes today, and their validity to the person you are is unquestionable. Let me share an experience of mine that I hope you find valuable.

    When I started college, I thought myself as consciously aware of systems of privilege. After all, I am Jewish, a woman, and a lesbian-all of which are minorities, groups that experience prejudice and subjugation in society. I did not see myself as a contributor to the dominating white, male privileged oppressive society we live in. I was the exact opposite…I was also not racist, not ageist, not sexist. I didn’t discriminate against people of faith or color.

    The point you are missing here, which took me a number of courses to see, is that privilege is a covert SYSTEM that involves far more than race or religion and we ALL participate in it. It involves all conditions that make up our identities such as income, race, sexual orientation, gender/gender expression, religion, age…. It is all over our world, overt (banning gay marriage) and in ways we cannot see until they are pointed out to us. Examples:Binary gendered bathrooms. The phrase “you guys.” identifying a person as “that asian/black guy over there in the white hat.” (which we don’t do for white people) the visualizations we have in our mind when we think of a profession (cop, firefighter, park ranger…what gender did you think of?)

    Privilege ebbs and flows with context. Depending on the situation, I as a woman may have privilege over you, or a person with a disability even though I have epilepsy. We as Jewish people can hold privilege over others. The issue is not about YOU having privilege. The issue is about awareness, opening your eyes to circumstances of power and privilege, identifying the oppressive, overt and covert biases that may be taking place and TALKING about it. Realizing my own privilege did not equate to guilt. I never once felt guilty. Being aware of the conditions of privilege I have, such as an education, a part time job, being a white person, coming from an upper middle class family-these are simply just real, despite conditions that also knock me down a couple pegs. Understanding social problems through this lens has empowered me to watch what I say, what I joke about, how I address others…it’s taught me to “check my privilege” for the better. I am able to be an informed advocate because I know when I need to listen instead of giving my white-ass two cents, and I am learning when and how to speak up as inclusively as possible.

    My advice to you is to back up for a second and stop taking this phrase as a personal attack. Nobody is undermining you and your accomplishments. By assuming this, you are misunderstanding what the phrase means.

    Learn how to listen instead of defending your honor, and you might just get the hang of this. Also, read the “Invisible Knapsack.”

    Reply
    • May 20, 2014 at 8:58 pm
      Permalink

      “Jewish, a woman, and a lesbian-all of which are minorities,”
      (1) Women are not a minority group, approximately half the human population consists of women. (2) Homosexuals are a minority – for they do not reproduce very much. The human race would go out of existence if a majority were homosexual.

      Reply
    • May 31, 2014 at 12:49 pm
      Permalink

      So eloquent–yes, yes, yes! I would like to copy this to share with others. Thank you!

      Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 6:54 pm
    Permalink

    How about, freshman totally misses the point? No one diminishes his family’s tragic story of persecution by the Nazis. Heck, African Americans were oppressed for over 300 years in these United States of America. Native Indian populations were exterminated all throughout North, Central, and South America by European conquistadors. My own family was run out of El Salvador because of a civil war that was the proxy “hotspot” of the Cold War between the U.S. and USSR. BOO the FUCK who. Do you see me complaining because I’ve been told in one form or another to check my heterosexual, male, middle class privilege? Do you see me saying, well, you know, your “check your privilege” comment doesn’t apply to me because I’m a minority, whose parents grew up dirt poor, and had to toil and struggle up every single god damn inch out of El Salvador, for years, to build up the amazing opportunities that come with the middle class American Dream? NO. That’s NOT THE POINT, you obnoxious kid. Even if, at the end of “checking your privilege” you conclude you’ve got nothing to “apologize” about, due to your family’s hardships (which apparently, hardship seems to be hereditary to you; they went through it, and through story-telling time, so did you??), then I find the most probable cause to be that your head was lodged in so far up your ass that all you could fart out was: I’m not sorry. No one asked you to be sorry, stupid. Totally missed the point. And now your idiot-ness, especially because you go to Princeton, justifies it for a bunch of others who perhaps thought held your view but never had the courage to express or articulate just how stupid they were in public. Congratulations.

    Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 6:58 pm
    Permalink

    Two runners of exactly equal speed and ability compete in a medium distance race. Runner A is permitted to start the race 100 yards in front of Runner B and goes on to win the race by a 105 yard margin. After the race, Runner A, proudly wearing his gold medal, congratulates his opponent on an admirable effort, but proudly points out his substantial margin of victory. Runner B responds by telling Runner A to check his privilege.

    Seems pretty straightforward. If Runner A implies that merit alone is responsible for the result, it seems reasonable for Runner B to point out the obvious. It is a bit twisted to say that Runner B has somehow abused Runner A. (And if the guilt is too much to bear, Runner A can always choose to level the playing field.)

    Underneath all the noise is a simple truth. Privilege is a factor in success. You don’t have to be a student at an elite university to see that. And it seems reasonable to ask a bright, capable student to reflect on that fact and use it to illuminate his life and inform his decisions and actions. Even as he continues to enjoy the advantages of privilege.

    Reply
    • May 13, 2014 at 10:51 am
      Permalink

      From my perspective, there are three issues with the whole “privilege” movement and I’ll put them in terms of your metaphor.

      1. It seems the advocates for the privilege movement aren’t asking for the runners to use the same starting line, they’re asking for Runner B to be given a medal too because it is assumed he would’ve or should’ve won the race had the starting lines been the same. Of course this will be true in many cases — but it won’t be true in every case. Progressives seem to advocate redistribution of outcomes as a just reaction to an unequal playing field. That is absolutely unjust and inconsistent with a meritocracy. I don’t see how imposing a second injustice (taking medals from some and giving them to others) is any less immoral than the first injustice (different starting lines).

      I would argue we need cultural and educational reform in this country that will level the playing field. Let’s stop letting teacher’s unions run the educational system. We’ve TRIPLED spending on education in the past 40 years without changing anything. We need an educational system that provides access to high-quality education, holds teachers and administrators accountable, promotes innovation (because that’s how things improve), and gives parents choices.

      Let’s promote two-parent households that dramatically reduce the likelihood of living in poverty. Let’s encourage all communities and all families to promote education and then provide the best educational options to parents and children. These are the things that will narrow the gap between the starting lines.

      2. There seems to be an assumption that the distance in the starting lines is not something that is controllable by the runners. If the Runner B’s of the world would stop voting for politicians who do absolutely nothing to reduce the starting line gap and instead just want to take medals from some people and give them to others, the gap will always remain. Those politicians KNOW their policies don’t reduce the gap. They KNOW it. They don’t care. They just want to remain in office and if giving people medals keeps them in office, that’s what they’ll do. It is immoral and disgusting.

      3. The greatest disservice that the redistribution of medals has is that it deprives people of earned success — and earned success is the key predictor of happiness. So let’s do the hard work of reducing the gaps between in the starting lines but stop taking people’s medals away and giving them to people who didn’t win. The truth is, there are plenty of medals to be won — we don’t need to take them from some to give them to others. We just need to give people a fair start and then let the fastest runners reap their benefits. Forcibly taking medals from some and giving them to others assumes that the person doing the taking and giving KNOWS who is faster. Or, it assumes that no one is any faster than anyone else. The first assumption is impossible to make accurately and the second assumption is demonstrably false. Therefore, it is immoral to take medals from some and give them to others.

      Now, I’ve made some assumptions in this post. I’ve assumed that as a “privilege” promoter, you are a leftist. I may be entirely wrong. My point is simply that I don’t deny that some people have an easier time of it and more advantageous circumstances than others — but I do take issue with the reaction that many people have to that. Their reactions is to take from some (through force of law) and give to others based upon their own (inevitably flawed) perception of the situation.

      I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want ALL people to be given a fair shake and given a fair opportunity to rise or to fall based upon their own merits and their own performance — well, except for redistributionists.

      Let’s fix the starting line issue — then the medal issue takes care of itself.

      Reply
      • May 20, 2014 at 2:44 am
        Permalink

        On the tripled cost of education over the last 40 years: It may be useful to remember that for generations the U.S. educational system was subsidised by denial of professional opportunities for women outside nursing or education. We had the brightest and best educated women of each generation teaching our kids for next to nothing because their professional options were severely restricted.

        Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 6:58 pm
    Permalink

    Typical black response. Boo hoo, you owe me. I don’t owe shit. Get over your “victim syndrome” too funny , because I’m a white male I’m priveleged. Bullcrap. I grew up in a single parent home. I didn’t get involved in drugs problems with the police, rob people, father children out of wedlock and I certainly didn’t sit around for the blessed Government to rescue me. To make this short. I graduated high school, I served my country I was wounded, I worked a job for 26 years and retired because my wounds caught up to me.

    Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 7:24 pm
    Permalink

    What a great story of a family overcoming the incredible to provide their children opportunities and dreams beyond their reach.

    Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 7:35 pm
    Permalink

    Only the losers in life tell other people to “check their privileges”.

    Reply
    • May 11, 2014 at 7:27 pm
      Permalink

      …and only REAL losers take it seriously enough to actually write nonsense like this. I’ve been reading ABOUT this for a while, but this is the first time I’ve read the actual piece…all I can say is O…M…G. This may be the most cluless piece of claptrap I have EVER seen. No wonder so many politicians hail from the Ivies…if you can convince the great unwashed to buy this cr-p, you might just be president one day. I suppose this would fall under the department “Embarrassingly First World Problems” at Princeton. I know the administration has been wincing for weeks.

      Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 7:45 pm
    Permalink

    And that, Shaniqua, is why you will be stuck in the past. It’s the only place you look. FYI the first African Americans were owned by African Americans. Try making something of yourself instead of using your heritage as a crutch to whine about life. Trouble getting into college? Earn better grades, look into improving yourself. I am an African American. To me, the only people I see holding back the African Americans is themselves. Don’t like the U.S. find somewhere else to live.

    Reply
    • May 11, 2014 at 11:01 am
      Permalink

      Thank You M. Williams. I 100% agree with you. Why should I be punished by affirimation action just because I was born white.

      Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 8:19 pm
    Permalink

    I appreciated your story, shared in your sorrow and applaud your victory. Whether it’s “Judge not lest ye be judged”. or “Never judge a book by it’s cover”, you are so right. You cannot determine the content of one’s character based on physical appearance alone.

    Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 8:34 pm
    Permalink

    Tal, you clearly don’t understand what “privilege” means. Your arrogance is really astonishing. Though your ancestors had difficult lives, they were your ancestors – they’re not you. Honestly, Tal, they have nothing to do with you. This false narrative of suffering is completely irrelevant to your life now, as a rich white male in 2014, and the fact that you don’t get that really speaks to your limited imagination. And now you have yet one more privilege, in addition to being white, straight, wealthy, male, and cisgendered – you get to brag about other people’s suffering as if it’s somehow your own.

    Take a look at this wonderful list written by Peggy McIntosh. Just by the luck of the draw, look at all the wonderful things your skin color has afforded you – and that’s just for being white. You’re lucky in countless other ways. You won the genetic lottery. Wow. Congratulations.

    This is what we mean when we talk about privilege. How lucky are you that you can take all this for granted and STILL somehow claim you’ve been short-changed, still claim that you don’t have any advantage. When we say “check your privilege” (god only knows the shit that came out of your face that prompted people to tell you that) all we mean is, “Just be aware of this reality – be aware that there’s lots of stuff you can do, by virtue of luck.”

    1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

    2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.

    3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

    4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

    5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

    6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

    7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

    8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

    9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

    10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.

    11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.

    12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

    13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

    14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

    15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.

    16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.

    17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.

    18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.

    19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

    20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

    21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

    22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

    23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

    24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.

    25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.

    26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

    27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.

    28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.

    29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.

    30. If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of color will have.

    31. I can choose to ignore developments in minority writing and minority activist programs, or disparage them, or learn from them, but in any case, I can find ways to be more or less protected from negative consequences of any of these choices.

    32. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.

    33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.

    34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.

    35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.

    36. If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones.

    37. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.

    38. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person of my race would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.

    39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.

    40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.

    41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.

    42. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.

    43. If I have low credibility as a leader I can be sure that my race is not the problem.

    44. I can easily find academic courses and institutions which give attention only to people of my race.

    45. I can expect figurative language and imagery in all of the arts to testify to experiences of my race.

    46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.

    47. I can travel alone or with my spouse without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.

    48. I have no difficulty finding neighborhoods where people approve of our household.

    49. My children are given texts and classes which implicitly support our kind of family unit and do not turn them against my choice of domestic partnership.

    50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

    Yes, you worked hard, but you started way ahead of most other people. You’re really not that special. In fact your pigheaded self-righteousness leads me to believe you’re worse than mediocre. Try living as anything else, or better yet, just imagining what it might be like to not be you, and then maybe we’ll have a real conversation.

    Until then, enjoy feeling superior to everyone just because – well, because of what? Because of nothing. God, I can’t wait till the day you’re busted for all kinds of heinous white collar extortions I know you’ll be part of one day and you blame it on…oh, I don’t know, you’ll find anyone other than yourself.

    Reply
    • May 11, 2014 at 5:12 pm
      Permalink

      This could not sum up the conclusions of the state of mind, of the tal. I only wish I had said it. Thank you.

      Reply
    • May 11, 2014 at 7:21 pm
      Permalink

      “Tal, you clearly don’t understand what “privilege” means. Your arrogance is really astonishing. Though your ancestors had difficult lives, they were your ancestors – they’re not you. Honestly, Tal, they have nothing to do with you.”

      That’s exactly the point he was trying to make, Mike. One should not be judged based on their ancestors. Since, as you said, our ancestors have nothing to do with us, then this “privilege” should not exist (therefore, your elegant, 50 point list, means nothing). Yet, in our society, it still does. Even though, as you said, “They have nothing to do with you,” anything anyone accomplishes or does not accomplish in our society (regardless of race) is simply due to our “privilege” passed down from our ancestors. If they have nothing to do with us, our accomplishments or lack thereof are ours and ours only. So thanks for the insight, Mike, I’m sure Tal got a good laugh out of your post, too, especially since you proved that his “feeling superior to everyone” is not because of nothing but instead because of his own decision to work harder than others in our society to get what he wants instead of wasting time complaining about how others who work harder than you only get what they want because of something that (to quote you, again) “has nothing to do with [them]”.

      Your arrogance, Mike, is what is truly astonishing here.

      Reply
      • May 16, 2014 at 5:41 pm
        Permalink

        Except that every single one of those things are examples that affect people of minorities (and women) in the present day. Noticeably absent from that list is anything regarding slavery, torture, and mass murder, which I can guaran damn tee you would be present if that list was about the past. Could you have possibly missed the point any more spectacularly? You’re filling in with the narrative you know instead of reading the argument.

        Privilege isn’t “passed down.” It’s a reality that exists in our society today, which is structured in a racist, sexist, kyriarchal manner. Here’s how I generally explain this: in America today, black skin is heavily correlated with a host of negatives. Much higher incarceration rates, lower test scores, higher poverty, and the list goes on forever. If you’re interested there’s a plethora of literature and tons of statistics out there backing it up. You can only explain this in one of two ways. The first is accepting that African-Americans are discriminated against in virtually every sphere in ways that measurably, massively harm them. The second is to declare that black people are worse, less intelligent, and less capable. [Spoiler alert: the second would make you a giant racist.]

        Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 9:35 pm
    Permalink

    “Check Your Privilege” is really just a call for sensitivity. Tal, you recieve privilege from being white, and from New Rochelle (7th wealthiest district in New York, 67% White) whether you like that privilege or not. Things you probably take for granted, like both of your parents, the safety of your home are privileges to some people.
    And yes, going back to your “overt racism” sometimes reverse-discrimination occurs and people belittle your accomplishments with the phrase, but more often it is a call to show a little perspective. Your family has struggled obviously, but you don’t wear that struggle everyday in the color of your skin. Without knowing you, just seeing you walk down the hallway,say, there are very few derogatory things people could say to you. You are part of the majority. So check your privilege.

    Reply
    • May 20, 2014 at 11:13 am
      Permalink

      If you truly believe that “check your privilege” is “just a call for sensitivity” you obviously haven’t heard or seen someone use the phrase. My guess is that you’re probably living a sheltered life, so feel free to ask any minority what it means. On second thought, let me save you a trip. It is an extremely racist comment aimed solely at a white (or light-skinned) individual that has quite the opposite (intended) effect of calling for sensitivity. It’s one of those phrases people cringe at for a reason. So, even if you don’t agree with everything in this opinion piece, please don’t fool yourself into thinking that “check your privilege” is a simple phrase that has no negative connotation. Recall that the N-word is just a pronunciation for a southern dialect of the originally used word meaning black. And yet, I’m confident virtually all would agree that it’s racist despite it technically not starting out that way.

      If you happen to be one of the few people that still uses this phrase, please stop. It’s insensitive, hurtful, and very racist, and automatically “labels” you as such. More importantly, it’s incompatible with being accepting of all individuals. Please think before you speak, or in this case, write.

      Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 9:38 pm
    Permalink

    You are wise beyond your years, my friend…….

    Now, go forth after you graduate and make a difference in the world. Keep that spirit alive by living your life the same way and continue to pass on your “privilege” to your children and grandchildren.

    Thank you for standing up for what you believe in and welcome to the brotherhood.

    Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 9:38 pm
    Permalink

    I admire you and your family. I read your article, and realize being at such a liberal school as Princeton is you must be having a difficult time, but it seems with the background that you have, you certainly can more than handle anything they can dish out. God bless you and your family.
    You should hold your head up high and be very proud of what your family came through. Although I am not Jewish, I am a born again Christian and have deep respect for God’s Chosen People, and support them in anyway that I can unlike our present president and secretary of state.
    Debbie

    Reply
    • May 12, 2014 at 12:52 am
      Permalink

      some born again Christian the way to Jews treat the Palestinians is worthy of God’s wrath. So keep blindly supporting them and may you wind up in hell with them.

      Reply
      • May 27, 2014 at 8:54 am
        Permalink

        Why are you singling out one side of a two-sided conflict?

        Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 10:05 pm
    Permalink

    I’ve checked mine too. It’s in excellent working order.

    Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 10:30 pm
    Permalink

    The world’s smallest violin plays for rich, Princeton-educated white guys everywhere. Sorry Those People hurt your feelings. After all, being told to “check your privilege” is just SO OUTRAGEOUS… lol

    Reply
  • May 3, 2014 at 11:23 pm
    Permalink

    Wow, you should probably also check your grammar. Learn to use “and I” and “and me” correctly, please.
    (Also, your argument is awful and I don’t think you understand what people mean by white/male privilege.)

    Reply
    • May 18, 2014 at 12:34 pm
      Permalink

      Oh look it’s a grammar Nazi.

      Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 12:27 am
    Permalink

    I don’t think it would be possible for Tal to misunderstand what it means to check your privilege more thoroughly if he tried. He is either purposefully misunderstanding the phrase, or he’s so blinded by partisanship that he’s intellectually useless. Given his age and actions, my money is on him being a closed-minded ideologue who has become wholly disconnected from reality.

    He’ll probably grow up someday. Most of us do. Most of us are embarrassed by the naiveté we had when we were Tal’s age. But most of us weren’t short-sighted and arrogant enough to publish our ignorant screeds as widely as possible.

    Tal: I’m a successful white male, born to a successful white male. I worked hard to get everything I have. But the women and minorities who are alongside me had to work even harder than I did. This is the essential reality that you’ve missed to this date.

    I hope you wake up to this reality someday.

    Reply
    • May 12, 2014 at 6:51 pm
      Permalink

      “He’ll probably grow up someday.” I think that’s probably a 50/50 at best given what I see here.

      Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 12:39 am
    Permalink

    It’s embarrassing that people can’t accept his privilege and persist to be included within a group of the marginalized. It’s as if there’s one big oppression party and he doesn’t have an invitation. Boo hoo, white tears. How tragic.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 2:13 am
    Permalink

    Just when I’m thinking I went to the wrong school, I read something like this, learn about this “check your privilege” nonsense, and rejoice in having gone to a school that quashed that kind of ideology before it could garner any power.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 2:54 am
    Permalink

    Maybe you need to have an immigrant mentality and work ethic to actually capitalize on the opportunities this nation affords us. Is it possible our culture enables US born citizens to live without fervor, zeal and determination. Without the expectation of personal accountability to increase one’s quality of life… Perhaps silver spoon generations reside comfortably on the fact that even our woes, by global comparison, are cushy? The plight, it seems, is to help native born citizens take advantage, not take for granted, the privileges they’ve been bestowed.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 5:34 am
    Permalink

    The irony is that the author is not considered white by those who actually believe in “white privilege”, and universities such as Princeton in the past spent considerable effort to keep “his kind” out. So of us will always get the short end of the stick. But the only reason to recall such things it to keep them from recurring, not to judge people by the “groups”. People as thoroughly racist and historically ignorant as Shaniqua should be expelled.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 6:47 am
    Permalink

    Your entitled identity-politics racism has done more to illustrate the author’s points than any of the comments here praising his article.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 8:05 am
    Permalink

    While the whole notion of checking your privilige is is class baiting (?), the author has no right to appropriate the struggles of his parents, grandparents and great grandparents as his own. Their struggles and successes are on fact the source of his privilege.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 8:33 am
    Permalink

    I’m an immigrant and am grateful for the opportunities this country has given me. But I wonder if the author really believes in this sentence that he wrote: “It was their privilege to come to a country that grants equal protection under the law to its citizens, that cares not about religion or race, but the content of your character.”

    Yes, the USA is a land of opportunity and better than most countries in offering protection to its citizens under its laws. That is not to say that abuses don’t happen here on a daily basis or that people are judged by the content of their character. Hardly. I wonder if the author, a New Yorker, missed all those news stories about “stop and frisk” incidents in New York City which routinely targeted minorities, or this story (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/08/12/130812fa_fact_stillman) in The New Yorker about money and property being taken from minorities under the civil forfeiture laws?

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 9:10 am
    Permalink

    I think we need people like you to be leading our country.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 9:43 am
    Permalink

    First, a piece of advice. Even for an opinion piece, do your research. You have misunderstood the phrase “check your privilege” and how it is used in the social justice community. And you have misunderstood the experiences of people of color and other “minorities” in America. Privilege isn’t about the individual. It is about the system and who the system rewards, and who the system discriminates against.

    Second, think about the ethics of what you write. You are using your ability to write and the platform that has been given to you in order to reinforce existent power dynamics and offer moral support and weight to other white cisgender males from middle-class backgrounds. Why? Because you have been put into a position where you feel uncomfortable, because your pride is not flattered by others pointing out the fact that your “success” in society thus far has been due in part to the privileges you accrued simply by being born to the parents you were born to? Now imagine a life where you are discriminated against, inflicted violence against, threatened and feel unsafe, because of who you are. Isn’t that a greater social wrong than your feeling of discomfort, your hurt pride? Please take some classes on racial, gender, and sexual politics in the United States, learn to listen before you speak, and learn to research before you write.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 10:00 am
    Permalink

    Dear Tal,

    I do think you should “check your privelege” in that you should go and check what the actual definition of privelege is. This article only betrays that you have no idea what the term means or what people are trying to tell you when they say check your privelege.

    They mean, take a moment to think about how the relative comfort of your current life (not you grandfather’s) has had relative to a person of color. Like the fact that even though you study at Princeton, you don’t feel the need to do any academic research on the concept of privelege in order to feel justified denouncing it as a term. And because you are a white man and the world is mostly controlled by white men who also don’t feel the need to look up the actual definition of privilege (they just know it makes them feel hurt when someone says it), this article can be relatively successful, in spite of the fact that it’s underlying premised is based on arguing a point based on the ignorance of the definition of an academic term.

    So congrats on writing an article trying to denounce white privelege, thereby proving it’s very existence with said article.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 11:28 am
    Permalink

    Maybe when you hear this dreaded phrase ‘check your privilege’ you should simply remind yourself to stay humble. I would also recommend that you get involved in charity work and then get back to us when you’re a senior. You do not and can not deeply understand the experiences of your parents and grandparents because of the life they made for you. You have only heard the stories. Live a life that would make your grandparents proud.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 11:34 am
    Permalink

    “It was their privilege to come to a country that grants equal protection under the law to its citizens, that cares not about religion or race, but the content of your character.” You should check the reality of your second clause. Otherwise, a succinctly written article. Your privilege is acquired by the sacrifices and hard work of your fore-bearers. And, obviously you have not squandered your “privilege”. Your last thought defining your willingness to “learn” is the hallmark of your essay.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 11:46 am
    Permalink

    “It was their privilege to come to a country that grants equal protection under the law to its citizens, that cares not about religion or race, but the content of your character”

    You can ignore history if you want to, but it seems silly to ignore history that is so very very recent. I learned during the course of my education at Princeton that all that does is leave big holes in your argument. The civil rights movement was in the 1960s, long after your grandparents arrived in this country I’m sure. You know, that time when African-Americans fought for the right to be educated and have the ability to purchase property to pass down to their kids in the same manner as their fellow citizens.

    So what was that about equal protection under the law?

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 12:16 pm
    Permalink

    Some affluent white males REALLY need to be put in their place when they are too ignorant. Some other white males, however, are unfairly stamped as “probably a racist jerk” before actually proving to be one. From how this author wrote his piece, I can’t be sure which camp he falls into. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

    I believe that there definitely is an issue with “white privilege” in our country. I see that white males definitely have more power, and this is not fair. Also, there are many young people who are unaware of how lucky they have been to have an affluent, educated family. Some young affluent people are woefully ignorant of the lower 50% of the income ladder.

    That being said, a lot of people are too harsh on white people, affluent people, and males. Sometimes a person will look at a white frat boy and assume, “He’s for sure an asshole who doesn’t know anything about a lower-income minority person…What a loser…” These types of judgements against white males are sometimes made before the white person even opens their mouth. I, a white female, admit to having a slight version of that prejudice against white males sometimes. And it’s not fair to them.

    I think that there is not enough information for anyone to judge this too harshly. I personally don’t know the author and I don’t know what types of arguments he gets into, or his other views.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 12:19 pm
    Permalink

    At the southern end of the campus there used to exist Pardee Field. I remember the pain it cost to pass it every day for four years. You see, the Pardees owned the mines where my ancestors (Great grandparents and grandparents) worked. Safety equipment was too expensive for the coal miners, and my great grandfather was impaled by a rock drill and died.

    My grandfather worked from the time he was eleven as the support of his family (of 8, including his mother). He eventually went to night school and earned his papers as a miner, even though he had the “wrong kind of name” – (i.e., Slavic).

    When he was in his teens, there was a collapse in the shaft in which he was working as a mule driver.
    He bundled two bleeding men onto the back of the car, and slowly made his way up the slope.
    When he finally made the surface, the superintendent of works came up to him and looking over the bodies of the men still bleeding, asked my grandfather a question: “How many mules died?” The Poles, and Hungarians, and Irish dying below were replaceable for nothing. Mules cost money. Was it “slavery”? Perhaps not legally. But the arrogance and cruelty were there in abundance. The fundamental inhumanity of exploiting the “other” was there.

    My father made it to be a mechanic and worked his way up to rebuilding cars and eventually selling the restorations for profit, after serving his time in the Army in World War II, where his privilege got him awarded a Purple Heart. (For those who haven’t read politically incorrect history, it means he got shot in the service of his country.)

    Yes, I am privileged, because my father died when I was ten and my mother worked all she could to support our family, and made sure I had guidance from my grandfather. She never earned enough to be “lower class” but she scraped change to make sure I had the fees for my admissions packages.

    I am privileged because even though were were considered “from poverty” and unworthy of the Ivy League, I was encouraged to take a chance. At Princeton, I found much that seared my soul, but even more that spurred me to learn, to better myself, and to rejoice in the friends I made, and the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds available.

    I am privileged that I was not poisoned by anger and solipsism. I learned that “progress” could cost blood, and to earn some of my tuition I lost part of my left hand working in a steel mill during a summer break.

    I am privileged, because I learned that nothing in life is handed to you. I am privileged because I was taught that we are all children of God, (including my “enemies”) and therefore equal but not identical – we are all born different (my education teaches me to say “exempting identical twins”) for a reason – and in my view, that diversity is our strength when used as a gift, not a cudgel. I believe in my bones in giving the “other – the downtrodden, the oppressed – a chance, but what one does with that chance is the true reflection of character.

    I cannot judge souls, but I cannot help judge actions.

    I too, have checked my privilege, and mirable dictu, it seems ok to me..

    Class of 1979

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 1:54 pm
    Permalink

    The thing about privilege is you can be a college-educated, white, straight, male with tooooons of privilege and be 100% incorrect in your logic and your conclusion and folks will still give you a platform to be an idiot. ‘Murica.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 2:05 pm
    Permalink

    What the author and most of the contributors to this feed fail to realize is that White privilege derives from america, throughout this entire article this kid talks about the struggles of the past generations outside of the united states; however, he doesn’t mention any struggles he faced. Overall I’m pretty disappointed by the article. I feel as though some heterosexual upper/middle class white Christian men can be very obvious to the invisible knapsack that they carry. Id suggest that the author and any who directly agree with him read “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh, its a great article which she describes the daily effects of white privilege and men who are unwilling to acknowledge that they are in fact over-privileged.

    Heres the article, http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 3:19 pm
    Permalink

    It is exceedingly clear you have not done your homework as to what white privilege actually is. Your fancy Princeton education is falling you if “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh has not been required reading.

    White privilege is NOT about denying the hard work that you personally do. It is NOT about saying that things are handed to you because you’re white. It’s saying that because you are white, you have certain advantages given to you by the structure of the world. You’ve likely never been accused of a crime you didn’t commit, or followed in department stores, or randomly stopped on the street. You see people who look like you every day, both in the news and in media representations, without having to go to a network/magazine/website that is dedicated to you. You may have personally had to work hard to find a job, but studies have shown (and been replicated countless times) that when two identical resumes are sent it to a job, they are much more likely to call back the candidate with a ‘white’ sounding name versus a ‘black’ sounding name. See here: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/black-names-a-resume-burden/ or here: http://wiseli.engr.wisc.edu/docs/BiasBrochure_2ndEd.pdf

    No one is saying you don’t have to work hard to achieve things because you’re a white male. You are also a part of other kinds of minorities that have perhaps disadvantaged you: your Jewish faith, your immigrant family. Everyone has a mix of privileges and disadvantages. Some people have greater privilege than others.

    Reply
    • May 19, 2014 at 8:02 am
      Permalink

      Fitz puts it the clearest and most accurately I’ve seen yet. Just sayin’.

      I’m a 51 yr old “white” male, and I’ve been trying to get my head around white privilege, and I agree with Fitz. It’s about the structure of our society, the false prejudices we develop about people of color and whites alike, and the “privileges” we white guys are erroneously given by default when we walk through the same door as my colored brothers.

      For me, it’s about just being aware of it and not necessarily apologizing. For what? I didn’t create it, but I can help mitigate it.

      “Checking it,” for me, is letting a fellow honky know when he is blind to either having privilege or allowing lack of privilege to go unchecked before him. Like, the check-out-stand example:

      A white person goes through check-out and pays by check. The clerk takes the check without question. The next (black) person in line also pays by check but same clerk (pick a color) asks for two (2) pieces if ID. Why? Maybe ask the clerk if you see it happen!!

      You: Excuse me, is that store policy to ask for ID?
      Clerk: Yes.
      You: Why didn’t you ask me for ID?

      I don’t know for sure, but the answer may be only skin deep.

      Someone’s got to do it if we are to live in a better world…lol!!

      On the other hand, the phrase “Check your privilege” can be overused sometimes, and the young author has a small point: that one should (maybe) be able to complain about whatever (Obama’s liberal/socialist whatever the Tea Party is complaining about today…) without someone yelling “check it.” The little tyke misses the point of white privilege anyway, so… It’s not about some loudmouth right-winger’s rights.

      And yes, my gosh, one would think Privilege would be covered more correctly at Princeton! or would one? Maybe Princeton is where privilege grows.

      TalF definitely misses the point by bring in his family’s “struggles” as having earned his status or whatever…misses it completely. BUT he IS young and immature. Maybe after he goes out into the real world, he will learn about what it really is,

      or ignore it.

      He has the privilege to do either.

      Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 3:38 pm
    Permalink

    Meta-victims: Victims of people who feel victimized by people who feel victimized.

    I don’t think we should use our parents’ struggles to claim anything. I had it 1000x easier than my parents did. My kids will have it 1000x easier than I did. If my kids ever use any of my parents’ struggles (or mine, though I’ve had zero thanks to my parents) my response will be: don’t whine and get back to work creating value.

    There’s a thing called empathy and if you can’t practice it: I don’t care where you go to school, you’re failing at life. So don’t apologize for anything–no one asked you to. But if you truly think there’s a story to everyone’s success, maybe you should listen to others before you opine lest your opinions be struck down as ignorant and lacking empathy.

    Reply
  • May 4, 2014 at 3:58 pm
    Permalink

    What about the generations of his people enslaved by Africans? If you’ve read the bible, or a history book you’ll see where Jews where enslaved in Egypt. You know a country in Africa.

    Reply
  • May 10, 2014 at 8:33 pm
    Permalink

    I cannot speak to every comment that Tal Fortgang has ever made that was followed by “check your privilege.” I do not know every nuance of every one of his personal political views. But I do know that as he points out, no family history is perfectly ‘privileged’. The fact he misses, however, is the fact of the individual. Mr. Fortgang writes “While I haven’t done everything for myself up to this point in my life, someone sacrificed themselves so that I can lead a better life.” That is privilege. Someone sacrificed themselves in order to provide a better life for Mr. Fortgang. Millions of people do not have anyone sacrificing anything for them. They do not have that privilege. Whether or not your predecessors where privileged, the privilege is in having ancestors who worked hard themselves to rise higher, and to allow you to begin higher. Being privileged does not mean that your voice doesn’t count, or that you cannot have worthwhile ideas on certain issues, but it means that you did not have to personally experience life on the bottom, where no one before you gave you any leg up. It means that such an experience is not an ingrained part of you, but rather one that you do, occasionally, have to ‘check’. So congratulations on checking your privilege, but what they really mean when they tell you to ‘check your privilege’, is to check the privilege of others, and to realize that yours is not the only one that matters.

    Reply
  • May 11, 2014 at 12:47 am
    Permalink

    Your ancestor’s suffering is not your own. Your grandfather was indeed lucky to be spared hard labor as a rabbi, though it’s wrong to call luck in extreme misery “privilege.” His intellectual ethic was transmitted generationally–though something was clearly lost–but his suffering was not. Sounds like you had an upper middle-class up-bringing (the most common form of real privilege) that was no less marked by manichaean narratives of victimization that those of other minorities. Exactly the sort of bullshit sob-story that resonates so well with a political culture that’s a whore for sentimental substitutes for thought. The country to which your grandfather escaped was a country in which MLK Jr. had not yet spoken his most eloquent line–which you anachronistically quote–that we ought to judge people by “the content of their character.” And yours, with its shameless denial of structural inequality and structures of inequality, is clearly deficient.

    Reply
  • May 11, 2014 at 5:16 am
    Permalink

    All this editorial proves is that this kid just doesn’t get it. He can’t get out of his own way when it comes to understanding the way the world works. I don’t think his professors are discounting any of his hard work when they say check your privilege. They are saying , however, that being a white male in America comes with perks. Perks that only a fool would ignore. By claiming that these societal inequities have not impacted his thinking and will not be a potential advantage in life proves just how privileged he is. He can’t even be bothered to acknowledge in his article the the truths that stare him in the face on a daily basis. Sorry buddy you have convinced no one.

    Reply
  • May 11, 2014 at 11:02 pm
    Permalink

    I can’t understand half the people here and see how the other half people miss the point of post. I do not think that Talf disagreed with the facts that racism, ageism, and all other isms exist. His post does not equate his family’s path with that of Hispanic or African Americans. His point is that saying check your privilege should not be applied to all people od any spesific color, race etc. Being privleged does not mean one can not empathize with someone else’s struggle

    Reply
  • May 12, 2014 at 5:02 am
    Permalink

    Love the fact that the whiners here demands you read Invisible Knapsack. Pretty obvious case of freshmen who had a single thought dropped in their empty uncritical heads when they can’t come up with more than “you wrong, read approved PC view”.

    Reply
  • May 12, 2014 at 9:19 am
    Permalink

    @Fitz ‘[White privilege] is saying that because you are white, you have certain advantages given to you by the structure of the world.’

    Well, if we’re in the business of group identity, OK, I accept the world has given me some privilege.

    But then I have given the world: antibiotics, the Theory of Relativity, the steam engine and then the internal combustion engine, steel, aluminium, Scotch whisky, almost every sport apart from kabadi, the MRI, electricity, jet aircraft, space travel, the computer and the internet, the bikini, the telephone, the camera, the television, radio, the printing press, bubblegum, the iPod, Mozart, Turner, Monet, Shakespeare, Marshall amps, the Spinning Jenny, Princeton University (and every other half-decent university in the entire world), and the language in which you idiots type or speak your inanity.

    So it sounds like a pretty fair deal to me.

    Reply
  • May 12, 2014 at 9:24 am
    Permalink

    It’s a nice essay but clearly they do not realize you are not white – you should make that clear to them. You are a tribal person, just like they are.

    Reply
  • May 12, 2014 at 6:46 pm
    Permalink

    This is a student publication of Princeton University? And this poorly conceived, poorly written tripe was approved for publication?? Fortgang (and the editors) would have done well to actually research the meaning of “privilege” before spewing forth such an embarrassing example of just how real is the phenomenon he feebly attempts to debunk.

    Fortgang’s bio reads “He plans to major in either History or Politics.” I’m predicting Politics, as he’s already mastered the political art of false correlation.

    Reply
  • May 12, 2014 at 7:46 pm
    Permalink

    Guilty. We live in a society of white male privilege. It is a society largely created by white males. They created the whole concept of universities, founded Princeton. White males invented most of the computers we type on. They composed the laws that allow us the free speech we observe to vent our frustrations against “their” privilege. Heck, they even created the language rules we use to vent.

    Over the course of several centuries, white males have built the freest, most tolerant, and wealthiest societies humankind has ever seen. It wasn’t easy, but they did better than all other societies on earth in that sense. The barbarism on display in much of the world stands in stark contrast to the relative ease modern Westerners enjoy thanks to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of white males.

    Another idea invented by the white males of Western thought is that the individual is responsible for themselves. We have individual rights “endowed by our Creator”. As individuals, we are free to pursue our own happiness. Failing in that, we can individually file bankruptcy and start afresh.

    As Westerners, the idea of collective guilt is kind of silly when contrasted to our view of individual responsibility. White American males of today are no more responsible for New World slavery than Nigerian males.

    #whitemaleprivilege is therefore synonymous with #firstworldproblems. Sorry to all the repressed “others” having to live in the best place on earth at the best time in human existence. If you want, go thank a white male. He’ll probably look at you pretty strange because he won’t take credit of feel guilt for the actions of his forebears. He’s probably to busy creating a better tomorrow anyway.

    Reply

Leave a Reply