Checking My Privilege: Character as the Basis of Privilege

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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.

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

  1. Excellent article!

    The three responses I just read mostly take the form of elaborate excuse making and demonstrate the power of External Locus of Control as a self fulfilling. It really do strafe how many self-appointed victims are mainly concerned with shedding responsibility.

    More people are made unsuccessful as a result of their own conceptions than any external limits…..CHECK YOUR EXCUSES!

    • Naive much? Try traveling a little bit around the world and still be able to say there are people shedding responsibility because of some misguided interpretations of external forces. Facts are facts and you don’t seem to know them, yet you have a strong opinion of them. Check the mirror!

    • Yeah,great. Then author of this excellent article is complaining about being victimized, too. But it’s all good, he’s a white male, so he’s allowed to – everyone else, quit whining!

    • It’s obvious that a subject that is the “Locus” of privilege can’t see it even if it’s right in front of him. I don’t think his opinions were formed in the Nazi Death camps, and the fact of his family’s suffering there are therefore no more a basis for his antipathy for the common man than his lack of experience of them. In fact, his reference of them could be viewed as an unseemly attempt to besmirch them by using them as an excuse for his positions. The really weird part is that he reflects the Nazi position on white power better than his family’s plight, for which I am truly dismayed for his ancestors, who must be turning over in their graves.

    • In America the unequal social relations of class are deliberately covered over by real but not fundamental relations of sex and race-thus the never ending focus on the latter two categories while the ism of class is under constant erasure. The occupy movement pointed this out however lacking any identification of structural determinates-very real objective structural determinations or programs of actions that would actually address these structures other than to try to somehow ignore or situate oneself outside of these determinates as if one could somehow situation oneself outside of the forces of gravity…..Hopefully the next mass mobilization will include these identifications and actions to eliminate them.

  2. Tal,
    Consider the idea that a person who loses an argument is the only one who gains something from the exercise. That will turn you into a person with the ability to grow and not just someone others perceive to be an entitled asshole.

    • Hey Whiplash

      It’s really an insult to paste your jacka$$ comment — one of those moronic made-up “ironies” liberals are known for offering in place of anything substantive.

      you are the one who lost the argument, because you lack the basic intelligence to understand when an argument was never the issue.

      People like you make your asinine comments in the misbegotten belief that you are entitled to speak even though you have nothing to say, nothing to contribute.

    • Mr. Whiplash: How many people who have differing opinions from yours do you consider to be assholes? This label might befit the writer depending on the answer. Old Lady in Brooklyn, NY

    • Poor Tal, he’s just being judged by the color of his skin, and not the content of his character.

    • You haven’t responded to any of his points, and what you did write is rude (can you discourse civilly and restrain yourself from using words like asshole when referring to another human being?), and actually doesn’t make much sense. Perhaps you could explain why ‘a person who loses and argument is the only one who gains from the exercise.’ This implies that the person who ‘wins’ the exercise has a closed mind. Perhaps you meant isn’t. However, that statement still does not address his points.

    • So, Johnny . . . did you win here, or did Tal? How about you instead grapple with his actual points and whether or not they’re valid?

    • “…a person who loses an argument is the only one who gaines something from the exercise.” Where did you get that bull…?

  3. From what I’ve read in the comments above, just because he’s a white male, he automatically has whatever you mean by “privilege”. No one is denying that people of color endured cruel treatment and lack of opportunities for hundred of years in this country. The issue I see, however, is that blame is still continually pointed to white people that had nothing to do with the issues minorities faced in the past. I would think the younger generations would be past racism, but I see it is going in reverse. Just because white people owned black slaves in the past does not give today’s population the right to exact retribution on current white people. If its wrong for one side, it has to be wrong for all sides. Period.

    • White privilege is not about blaming white people for things that happened in the past. White privilege is the collection of privileges that white people benefit from due to the way our society favors those of lighter skin tones. Telling someone to check their privilege is not telling them to feel guilty for events of the past, or to feel guilty at all for that matter. It is a way of asking people to be aware of how certain actions of theirs might be taking for granted the privilege that they benefit from, and might be offensive towards or marginalize certain groups.

    • would be nice if it was that simple, but unfortunately the reality of things is so far from it. If you come from a world where black folk are the minority then you will never understand racism. you said “Just because white people owned black slaves in the past does not give today’s population the right to exact retribution on current white people”. but my question is when did racism die? i’m sorry that you still have to take on the brunt of what your parents and your parents, parents did. but honestly you nor your generation are far removed from their actions. trust me, because i’m part of your generation.

    • Yes, indeed. That is the definition of privilege, those things that are different and advantageous only because other people perceive you in a certain way. It is not a matter of blame, it is a matter of measurable facts. The “blame”, if there were any, would be on the people perceiving him as a white male and treating him differently, not on himself for having been treated that way. What is on him is how he handles that. Does he admit its existance and work himself not to participate in those social institutions? Or does he deny reality and protect his ego at the expense of those around him?

      No one is extracting anything from white people. People are pointing out what white people, on net, are currently and continually extracting at the expense others. There’s a huge difference between those two. Racism is not a thing of the past: it is an ongoing exercise made possible by defensive protestations of ignorance such as yours.

    • And this “no special white male privilege” afforded to all white males by virtue of birth is the issue that the writer wants to convey. It is crystal clear to those of us who were born into families of substandard earnings know firsthand the so called privileges that a marginal or sub-marginal living standard affords white folks, male/female alike. We learn fast that this notion is a fiction. Clearly for those of common means or less, “no special privilege comes with being white male or female; and this is ONLY untrue when you one is born into a family which is economically privileged,” PERIOD. And this argument in no way suggests or is meant to suggest that racism or any form is acceptable; it is not. But do not loose sight of the fact that it also racism to suggest that the color white of one’s skin affords one some sort per se, social privilege that others do not possess; this is simply untrue and it is racist to hold such a view.

    • >No one is denying that people of color endured cruel treatment and lack of opportunities for hundred of years in this country.

      But the person who wrote this is denying that *not* having that history is a privilege. The author and you both miss out what hat historical repression means.

    • What retribution are you talking about exactly? Do you mean the above average incarceration rate for black males for drug use compared to whites, adjusted for actual use? Do you mean the overwhelming evidence of bias against blacks in all areas of life? Or do you mean the retribution when white males complaining about how hard they have it compared to other societal groups are reminded that they are ignorant whiners?

    • In the past? Are you so ignorant that you aren’t aware that the overwhelming majority of American blacks work for the government because White corporate America is still so highly racist? Learn the facts.

    • Sir, research the facts regards “slavery”. For example, only approximately 05% of the South could afford to own a slave. Further, some of the slave owners were black. In fact several of the top 10 owners were black and owned hundreds of slaves. Most slavery today is practiced largely in countries considered “black” dominated/controlled/populated. The white race certainly has never had any title to “top rated slave owners”. From the research I have reviewed the South needed labor and such was not readily available much as is the case today whereby the Mexicans are able, willing & ready to work but others are not. Add that to the fact the blacks of Africa needed money and marketed their people away like cattle was a match made in Heaven. I also read research proving the North had most of the ammunition/arms production means, better food production, more man-power and arms than did our Southern cousins all of which made it difficult to believe the South went to war over 05% of it’s population not wanting to give up their slaves. I also believe the research established that within 5 years or so mechanized machinery would have reduced the necessity for continued slave labor. Research further established most slaves were well cared for, and, being the investment they were dictated such. In fact, when Nathan Bedford Forest, a known slave dealer, left for the war he freed all of his slaves. As luck had it several hundred voluntarily joined his regiment and fought beside him throughout the Civil War. Later on many of them journeyed to Washington DC to speak on his behalf to Congress.

    • I think you misunderstand “Check your privilege” does not translate to “your responible for all of your races crimes” or “you and your ethnic background has not experienced hardships.” His “research” wasn’t research at all. What he shou’ve been looking at is the odds that are against others as well as himself. How likely is he to get into Princeton over an African American?

      Chances of being admitted into a university are 78% more likely if your white as opposed to just 22% if you’re black even with the same grades. That’s the privelge.

      Accourding to us department of education percentage of bachelor’s degrees are 71% for whites just 29% for blacks. That’s where the privilege lies.

      A white male with a criminal record is 5% more likely to get a job over black man with the same qualifications. What do you think the odds are of a black ex-con finding a job at all?

      Racism and predjudice are not the same thing. Racism is the way the system works, it’s not just a feeling toward a certain race. We do not have the power to oppress or bring you down. The problem lies in the ignorance of people and the refusal to be leave and the very real obstacles people face merely for the color of their skin. Yet, this man is being praised for complaining about people saying things he doesn’t want to her. He didn’t check his privlege he checked his hardships and uses it as an excuse to deny his privelege still exists.

      When people say check your privilege they are not saying your life is easy or that you don’t work hard, at least if they know the meaning of it they don’t. Remember you aren’t the only one struggling and the odds are stacked up even higher for certain people. Don’t think for second that facing hardships mean you don’t have privledge.

      It’s not about pointing fingers. Things need to change. How can things ever change if people want to ignore or even go as far as to completely deny that the existence of something very real? Don’t pat yourself on the back for anything you do.

    • We should also acknowledge and teach that not only blacks were slaves in this country. Some nationalit he’s were treated worse and thought less of than blacks. Also it was not just whites that owned black slaves. Blacks also owned black slaves. Also 1.6 % of whites owned slaves it was No majority of people. A much higher percentage of blacks owned slaves. When it co.es down to it why dint they blame one another? It was blacks of other African tribes that captured and first used them on sugar plantations prior to America existing and then sold or traded captured tribes to be slaves. The government only teaches what meets the agenda which is keeping people down and separated.

    • David Price, I agree with you totally. This country can’t and won’t heal until we stop treating people based on the color of their skin. This victimology has to stop in order for America to progress.

    • aww boo hoo. a poor old white boy found out what it is like to experience social/civil inequality. I have been experiencing this since I was 3, I am now 26… ain’t never complained…. plus you do know this comment detracts from what the author is trying to say right?!

    • Did you ever read the book “Black Like Me” which is non-fiction about a White Texan who, under the care of a doctor, artificially changes the color of his skin and passes as Black? Did you ever hear of the word “empathy”

    • Quit blaming external conspiracies for your failures and point your criticism inward and take responsibility.

    • Actually as a white male I have been harassed by police for being in the wrong part of Los Angeles. I was new to town and didn’t know white folk aren’t appreciated in that area. They assumed I there to purchase drugs. ( The truth is I was – I was looking for Right Aid in the area – but the cops assumed I was trying to get a different kind of drugs)

      This was a few years back but then I was also stopped last year in Texas in a small town because I looked out of place.
      You might have to check your assumptions as well.

    • Ahh, yes, police bias against young white males is well documented. It happens all over this country … Sniffle, sniffle

    • I have not been denied work because I am white. However, I have been harassed several times by the NYPD because, as a white, clean cut male at the north end of Harlem, I stood out. It made me nervous and I moved before they could find an excuse to shoot at me.

    • Bull shit. If by harassed you mean they stopped you, made sure you were okay and escorted you out of town, you missed the entire point of what privilege is.

    • Great job, because you’ve been turned away from ONE job and harassed by the police like ALL PEOPLE have been at one point or another you completely erase many years of research done by people who’s actual jobs are to study things like racism and inequality. It doesn’t exist because bad things happen to you.

      This is the ignorant line of thinking I’m talking about. What the hell does being white in Tucson have to do with anything? I think you have Tuscon confused with Detroit my friend. You are not being discriminated against just because you claim someone denied giving you job one time and police dont like you. Let me straighten you out, because there is absolutely nothing odd about a white man in any part of Tuscon Arizona.

  4. My husband is the son of Mexican immigrants, who came to this country and built a life for themselves and their children much like this young man’s grandparents did. No white privledge for them. The same opportunity is afforded to each of us. For some, perhaps they may have to overcome some prejudice (who doesn’t, really?). But that’s the wonderful thing about the USA. Opportunity.

  5. Some people just don’t see their own hypocrisy even as it stares back at them in the face. “Inadequate perspective”… really? An just who is the giver of adequacy? As a human being, one of God’s created, his adequacy is fulfilled in his… being.

    What kind of sick individual even coins a phrase like “oppression olympics”? He has a story, a path and a perspective that is just as valid as any. Jews have been just as systematically oppressed as ANY other race in HISTORY. Only an ignorant, self-righteous lover of only their own race would think that it began with Hitler.

    Stop with the assumption that there is some sort of racial or social debt that you are owed because you have been called names as a kid, or picked on, or excluded, or hurt, or overlooked, or passed over, or discriminated against. It happens to everybody! Nobody has universal access to their dreams and freedoms. It is earned and only those who use their own past, their “own” perspective, their Own potential, their OWN power to forge their “OWN” path will ever find the truest treasure there is… joy. If you focus so much on why you don’t have it, you will fulfill your own prophecy.

    Stop trying to defend your sick right to marginalize another human being by invalidating his worth because you think it was handed to him. It is that mentality that will always hold you back just like a broke lottery winner. For when your time comes to take advantage of opportunity, you will flush it, not knowing how to invest in others because you only see inward interest.

    • Much of what he names, were the experiences of former generations in his family, they were NOT his own.
      He’s missing the point.
      First, because he’s forgetting that the difference is in his hard work is that there is a return for it.
      He assumes he’s earned it, as well he should.
      But he’s also assuming that the same can also be true for the very group he’s not a part of and never will be.
      His immigrant family were a name and accent change from assimilating into the mill of FULL, unquestioned ACCESS to the very things that still eluded the same generations of people of color.
      The difference between access to the same neighborhoods, schools and business models.
      Sometimes a young black person cannot enter the same places, without being suspect.
      Too often. In fact.
      He’s making a tacit essay, as do many, that if people of color expect to succeed, they have to work for it.
      As if they haven’t, as if they hadn’t the will or ambition, and yet there is still no sympathy for never gaining the same footing, despite the same hard work.
      If he’s stung by anyone saying he’s accomplished what he has by unfair advantage.
      That is the same sting any highly qualified black person feels when their presence is considered suspect at the expense of someone white.
      I wouldn’t discount, nor dismiss his experience nor that of his family.
      So he shouldn’t do it to someone else.

    • A person who is of one color can never understand how it feels for the other. A man can never be a woman. Get it?

  6. “See the difference?”—–No I don’t, for one simple reason: a person can be victimized by some horrible things done to them by other people, but that person, and only that person, can choose to identify as a victim or a survivor of those experiences. That person, and only that person, can choose to fight, claw, and scrape up the side of any mountain thrown up in front of him or her, regardless of who tries to stop him or her. I am 43 years old, a survivor of childhood rape and abuse, as well as domestic violence, and I am physically disabled because of another person’s stupidity in driving with a known seizure disorder and no insurance. My income is below poverty level and if my boyfriend and I ever break up, I will be on the street. I deal with chronic pain on a daily basis that would put the average person in bed, curled up in a ball sobbing. But damn it all to hell, I AM NOT A VICTIM! And until people of any color, age, sex, or whatever division you can come up with, stop trying to be victims of something, nothing will every change in their lives. Period. Being a victim means that you are looking backward on your past. Being a survivor means that you are looking forward to what you can create your life to be. I choose to look forward. What about you?

    • Your argument assumes that there is opportunity that makes it possible to look forward. Unfortunately, being ill doesn’t cause prejudice the way race and gender do. I hold a MS in mechanical engineering and graduated back 25 years ago when female mechanical engineers were unheard of. I was driven out of one job after another as the first and only female engineer in the company due to extreme harassment, sexual and otherwise. I had my work sabotaged relentlessly. I finally reinvented myself as a role acceptable for women – I became a technical writer. Spare me the claim that their is true opportunity for all. There isn’t. But there certainly is for any white male in the US.

    • It[‘s not about being a victim. I love how incesitive people are to bring up their own hardships to ignore the existence of something like racsim. The system needs to change. If we ignore a problem it will never get solved. So educate yourself and become part of the solution, because if not you’re also part of the problem. If you don’t learn from the past history is bound to repeat itself.

  7. Wow…you commentors are NUTs…I will never “apologize” for being a white male, I will never apologize for slavery, something my kin folk were never involved in. I will not apologize to the Indians when our Government made the descision to take their land…I would have sided with the slaves, I would have sided with the Indians had I been around.

    Privileges??? What “Privileges”??? The “privileges” my dad gave me by working hard his entire life feeding and clothing us? Going to school in the 80’s with no socks while the black kids did??? The “privilege” my grandmother gave us cooking the fish and racoons we caught for dinner, ’cause we couldn’t afford “real food”, and we helped feed our neighbors. Oh, the privilege JFK had of riding in a nice top-less car only to have his brains blown out???

    If you want to use the term “privilege”, I’ll use it here for a quick second…I “earned” my “privileges” by serving this great country…something you guys probably (yes, I’m assuming) know nothing about. We do the dirty work and see the ugly (and real, I might add) side of the world, something you guys are so far disconnected from, it ain’t even funny. What have you guys done to “earn” your priveleges???

    What was Allen West born with that your typical “under privileged” African American wasn’t??? See, color/sex has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with it…If my dad was a drunk and didn’t work, and slept around, having babies with every other woman…if I chose to follow in his foot steps, that is MY FAULT and MY FAULT alone…I remember a time when people took responsibility for their lives/well being/actions.

    Let’s set the record straight…I don’t have “privileges”…I have God given rights…this White, Christian, Heterosexual, gun toting Male, owes NOBODY NOTHING!!! Not even apologies or feeling sorry. Think this “thought process” is crazy??? Look at the African Lion…yeah, we’re on the same page. I will be prejudice…it’s called survival…I will not walk into down-town Little Rock in a Klan outfit (not that I would wear one anyways).

    Get in touch with your primordial instincts…you might live longer…

    Too any African Americans that “see” what I see, drop Jesse Jackson and his ilk…take the lead of Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, Allen West, Ben Carson, and Herman Cain…work! Don’t let the trend continue…just because it’s “been that way”, doesn’t mean it has to be…YOU decide…YOU make the decisions…and you live with the consequences…

    • I think you need to see a doctor. read the news. get the facts and shut the f up.

    • You’re a little nuts yourself, guy. You wrap “apologize” in quotes as if any one on the other side of the debate is even asking you to apologize for those things. Yeah, that would be crazy. But no one is doing it. You’re either reducing the opposing argument into something ridiculous so it’s easier for you to take down or you’ve never actually comprehended it. It’s kind of a pattern with white people. But just because it’s “been that way” with you guys, doesn’t mean you can’t break the cycle and pop open a book or something.

    • Frankly you owe a debt of gratitude to those who created a society in which there is rule of law, and those who were any part of the value system whereby you didn’t have to go into a field and find your food, and those who were any part of the education system where you learned whatever skills help you from being at the bottom of the value chain. It goes on and on the depth and breadth of who you ‘owe’. Fortunately all you have to give is thanks. As to privilege, you have had the privilege of not being judged by your heritage. That’s all. You can’t be aware of it, since it hasn’t happened to you, unless you went out of your way to put yourself in a situation where you would have been visibly different.
      And while you have earned my respect for serving your country, that doesn’t grant you any greater privilege for having so. You still have to create value and be of service to others for them to be willing to pay you for whatever value you provide.
      We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. It’s up to us to provide something for those who follow that they can build on.
      Love your last paragraph!

    • I’m going to throw something out there that some might say is wrong, racist, etc. but I don’t think it is, so read it a couple of times, think about it, then come to your own conclusions. I think that current day blacks (or if you prefer African Americans) are lucky there was slavery, and that their ancestors were slaves. Why? It’s really very simple, where did the slaves come from? We all know they came from Africa, but where & why? The people that sold them into slavery were other blacks, specifically when one tribe of Africans were at war with another, the winners sold the losers into slavery! Had there not been slavery, and the winning tribe couldn’t make money by selling the losers to the people running the slave ships they probably would have killed off most of them, possibly keeping some as their own slaves.

      So what I’m saying, while slavery is wrong, detestable, and a whole lot of other words for bad things, it is still slightly better than being dead! So all of the black folks that are complaining about all the bad things that happened to them due to white folks, remember 2 things, first it was black folks that loaded other blacks onto the slave ships, and second if there hadn’t been slavery, you probably wouldn’t have ever existed! That’s my take on the situation, if it offends anyone, I’m sorry, that’s not my intention, but read it again, and think about it some more, you might change your mind, or at least understand where I’m coming from with this idea.

  8. White guilt is a new sickness in this country. A white male has to apologize for being a well-adjusted, hard working, and productive person primarily because you were raised by a great family. The American dream means your children will have it better than you. However, the current generation is conditioned to believe that these winners only got there because they’re white, and they should feel guilty because some black folks’ ancestors from 150 years ago were slaves. Memo to the NAACP, you better get over your victim mentality because guess what? The Chinese and Indians can give a flying feck….and they’re going to eat your lunch if you don’t outwork and outthink them. Welcome to the global economy.

    Here’s an interesting story (to me at least)…..Affirmative Action is real, and people get accepted into universities because of their skin color who otherwise wouldn’t have. But my family turned the table on these people…..family member born in Africa to missionaries……that makes him/her more of an African-American than any black American……the med school application (ACC school) has a box called “African-American”…..not BLACK…..he/she checked it off, and of course was accepted to said school….with a bottom 10% MCAT score…..mind-you they did have a 3.5 GPA from a top Big 10 school, but there’s NO WAY they would have been admitted if they were “privileged” White.

    Score one for WHITEY.

    • I guess the Klan did nothing to help keep blacks in their place after 1865. You know those Jim Crow laws also helped to build character and after that unfortunately happened to be outlawed in 1965, 100 years after slavery.

      Racism is not as prevalent but it would be quite difficult for an individual who goes to a rundown school, worrying about hunger, and trying to take care of family, to make it out of that situation. It isn’t impossible but when the odds are stacked against you and then people assume you are terrible based on the statistics of others. You will eventually revert to what you know.

      If you are going to use history please don’t use the convenient bits but all of it. This is not a post saying people should be ignorant but a post to give history. 30 – 40 years max removed from full blown racism doesn’t give time to establish anything. The young black people coming from college now are the ones that will be determining how the future of the race will be shaped because they were given the opportunities to succeed. They had a hand pushing and guiding them along to success, to become functioning members of society.

    • It is disappointing that just reading these comments alone, the ignorance and hatred dug up towards “the other side” of this issue. While I feel this young man has much merit to what he has written and understand fully his stress, the commenters lamenting on people of color as “affirmative action cases” and “helpless leeches” is appalling and disgusting at best.

      Have you seen all these student’s test scores and submissions applications? So ALL people of color are in college based on race alone? NO people of color actually graduate from HS with high GPAs and quality abilities that are appealing to the colleges that they apply too? That is ignorant.

      What true “white privilege” is, is being so ignorant and apathetic to the struggles of other marginalized groups that any complaints or stresses from the other side are just cast off as ridiculous or seen as something for those people to simply “get over.” This is simply because by default you (white people) just don’t have too. You don’t have to wake up and worry about how your skin color will affect your interactions with coworkers and how every body movement and word spoken out of your mouth will be taken in some distorted manner because of your skin color. That your race is much more likely to be shot and killed senselessly with no questions asked because people of color are deemed guilty by default by majority society. That when you apply for jobs and their is Jay Walking or some other minor offense that eyes brows will be raised at the sight of the applicant who is also “of color” with that offense. Why Ivy League institutions like Harvard have to conduct “research studies” on the correlation between a mother being able to provide diapers for her baby and her level of self-confidence-Not shit Harvard privilege, no shit. Why only blonde blue eyed white women get national attention when they go missing on the news. Because who gives a damn about other phenotypes and ethnicities who go missing!

      The list goes on and on and on and on…Privilege affords the majority group the ability to not give a fuck. You walk into the world with a blank canvas. Because of “privilege fear” people of color invoke deep fears, jealousy, and hatred which keeps these groups marginalized and subject to terrible atrocities and inhumane attacks even until this day. Privilege just means you aren’t concerned with it because your pale skin allows you to look the other way. People of color shouldn’t be the only one’s forced to “assimilate.” This nation will only heal from racism when the topics are able to be discussed without attacking the other side and having some Humanity in our interactions, perhaps someday this will be possible.

  9. That Nigerian terror group that kidnapped 200 girls from school a few days ago? I am seeing headlines now that most of them have been sold into slavery or marriage, some for as little as $12. Being that Nigeria is in Africa and is not South Africa, I’m going to hazard an educated guess that the perpetrators are “people of color”. But by all means, let us continue to focus upon what the Privileged White Male Establishment has done to hold down the Black/African American race for the last couple of centuries, because we know just how hard oppressed people really have it in America.

    • Hey man, I dont know if u know it or not, but South Africa is Africa as well, and Blacks in Africa dont have the same background as black Americans so u are basically grouping all people of color in one box, that would be like me saying that White Americans and Russians are the same people because of skin color. Plus South Africa has a black president an 80% of South Africa are black, white Africans is just a name they gave themselves cause they aren’t from the region naturally. Just a history lesson. What about the American terror group invading Iraq an destroying a country for nothing.?
      And by the way u know nothing of oppression, since u are a woman u do realize white men didn’t even like white women at one point. When the fact is white people make more mney at the same job than a black person at the same job in the same position that tells it all, only in the past years has job wages began to be fair.

    • So if it turns out you are wrong, and the 200 girls were abducted from 21st century slavers, would that provide ample evidence that we should continue to focus on “white privilege”?

      Your educated guess was likely correct. But do you see how lazy an argument that was? The sarcastic undertone of your message seems to suggest you honestly think the two concepts are related. That is completely asinine, though, indeed you would have been in a better logical position if you had alluded to the black-on-black murder rates in Chicago. Since I take it that your purpose is to say that black people are holding themselves back? Though, I could be wrong.

    • Haha, you cite as evidence a crime of a few black people to prove that white males are not privileged. Let me cite as evidence this non-sensical reasoning that you don’t know what you are talking about …

    • Yea because the US is on a freaking mission to get these little girls back home where they belong right? They won’t rest until they’re all safe? US doesn’t give a fuck about Nigerian children, but let 234 blonde haired blue eyed girls go missing they’ll all be home by bed time that very same night.

    • The “privileged white male establishment” is the single largest dollar-for-dollar contributor to feminism. Without the monetary support OF the privileged white male establishment you would not be labeling working-class and middle-class males as ‘privileged’. You’ve been used as proxies – strung along by your own hatred and past experiences.

  10. What it comes down to is that racism is an easy cop out for some people. You fail in life, “it’s not your fault, you were held down by the man”. The problem with this additude is that each year there is another shining example of a minority that rose to great heights, upon their merrits. How did they escape “the man”. Life is 20% what happens to you and 80% what you do with it. People like to see it the other way around, to make excuses for laziness.

  11. I love this critique of our societal ideals. If people were to look beyond what society tells us to think and believe, we could actually get passed all these issues of “check where you came from” frameworks that have been propagated to keep the mind in a world of chaos. My point is, that as a society we need to make the decision to move on from the past and learn from it, not to continue to argue and fight over who had/has it the worst. To move beyond the outward appearance of someone and let their actions speak for them instead of their past or their family history.
    We have come so far from the days of Jim crowism and the like, yet some still cant learn from the past. One of the biggest problems that has risen up in the ashes of jim crowism is what is know as “reverse racism”, where it is ok for the minority groups to hold the “white man” accountable for history. This could not be farther from the truth, every man, woman, and child are free to make their own lives what they wish it to look like, It is not up to anyone else to make their life better. We have created a system of perpetual “apologetic” financial benefit for most of the minority classes in the country. As a student I look for scholarships everywhere, and what have I found? I have found uncountable numbers of scholarships for minorities and others groups that might have been wronged in the past, I am not advocating for removal of these scholarships only that they allow those within a majority class as many equally beneficial opportunities. This is only one of the examples, there are many such ways if you look around.
    Why are we still looking to blame others for what happens to us, why can we not take responsibility for our own choices and expect others to do the same, no matter the color of their skin or their race? If we can finally come to this realization as a society, not just individuals (even thought this is where it begins), only than will the issue of color/race not matter. We can then move forward with better ideals and live a more peaceful life with our brothers and sisters of the human race. We need to stop apologizing for the past and just learn from it and move forward. Acknowledged it is there and it happened but it does not have to define us as individuals or as groups or classes. Drop the labels and live the best way you can.

    • the only ppl who make it ok to use reverse racism are the ppl who use it. and personally I”m tired of ppl like you and the many others posting here giving the whole stigma to all ppl of colour. while there are sound words wisdom in your response, there are also false generalizations. false generalizations=prejudices, prejudices when actualized into either words or actions = racism…… by the way, excuse these different organizations for trying to help minimize the financial, and educational gap between the majority and minority. HATER!

  12. I enjoyed reading this article. As a black man in America, I have nothing but respect for this young man. And to be clear: he does have a privilege. His family worked hard for that privilege, and rightfully, it will be passed down to him, and he will be obligated to pass it down to his descendants. This is how families keep their legacy alive. Instead of being envious, seek to create privilege within your own families. If a Cuban or a Hatian can risk drowning in the Caribbean Sea to come to Florida (where I live), and go from “the clothes on their backs” to “well-educated, well-off professionals” in 10 years (or often less), it makes you question those blacks in America who have lived here a their lives and yet still, cannot get it together. Put the past aside; look to the future. You’re only going to make it if you work hard. America is not a socialist nation, its a meritocratic, capitalist, protestant republic.

    • Wow good for you. And thank you. Please share your perspective with other members of your race. Then maybe we can get past racism and live in harmony as one people.

    • Thank you for the mature and honest perspective reflected in your comment. Tal is truly blessed by the way his fore bearers chose to handle their struggles and ascend through hard work and sacrifice. A “privilege” he has obviously embraced and built upon with his own disciplined efforts and sacrifice. Any person can elect to bequeath their posterity the same leg up by valiantly meeting their life’s disappointments and challenges with courage and a desire to do rather than nurture defeat and blame. I was not fortunate enough to escape abusive alcoholic parents but I made the conscious decision to not repeat their story in my life. As a result, I went on to higher education, which I worked to pay for, and raised a fine family. My children (all five) are loving, productive members of society. I am blessed and, so are my children, by God leading me to make better decisions with life.

    • Thank you for the mature and honest perspective reflected in your comment. Tal is truly blessed by the way his fore bearers chose to handle their struggles and ascend through hard work and sacrifice. A “privilege” he has obviously embraced and built upon with his own disciplined efforts and sacrifice. Any person can elect to bequeath their posterity the same leg up by valiantly meeting their life’s disappointments and challenges with courage and a desire to do rather than nurture defeat and blame. I was not fortunate enough to escape abusive alcoholic parents but I made the conscious decision to not repeat their story in my life. As a result, I went on to higher education, which I worked to pay for, and raised a fine family. My children (all five) are loving, productive members of society. I am blessed, and so are my children, by God leading me to make better decisions with life.

  13. Pingback: Princeton University Student: ‘Check Your Privilege’ | The Heavens Declare His Glory

  14. There is extreme bias AGAINST white males today. Case in point, try getting a job when all hiring is done by the Office of Diversity.

    http://staffdiversity.utah.edu/recruitment.html

    When the overriding goal is to hire a ‘diverse’ candidate, when the job opening is peppered with racially charged dog whistles, when the positions are preferentially advertised on ‘diverse’ job boards, a white man has very little chance of being seriously considered.

    The evidence is in, Affirmative Action worked. In science, well over 90% of all positions were filled by white men decades ago. By the 1990’s it had reached parity, with ~62% of the population being white and ~62% of the new hires being white. Since then Affirmative Action has swung the pendulum BEYOND parity, to the point that now less than 50% of entry level jobs are being filled by white scientists.

    At some point, we need to grow up as a society and realize that the only way to finally end racial discrimination is to stop allowing/mandating discrimination like this. My ‘white privilege’ involved being raised on a worm farm and pulling a quarter million nightcrawlers from the cold wet ground one by one to help support my family. But to the race hustlers, I’m just another ‘white oppressor’ that needs to ‘check my privilege’.

    • you sound like every hatin’ white person i’ve ever met. trying to use affirmative action as your basis for an argument on shows how ignorant you really are. affirmative action has been outdated for quite sometime now. the good thing is that as a law it keeps people in check (much like the different branches of government). and are you really complaining because business’s are more representative of what America looks like today? hmmm if so then you may have some internal searching to do!

  15. White males built the modern world we live in today. White males created Western Civilization and our forms of government. White males invented the automobile, internal combustion engine, airplane, jet engine, computers, internet, satellites, cell phones, vaccines, refrigeration, electricity, most all the arts, etc……… and we’re supposed to apologize? The truth of the matter is the rest of the world is forever indebted to us. They hate us because they aren’t us and they know it.

    • You do not have to apologize for it.

      But chances are that you aren’t within the realm of these “white males”.

      I thank these PEOPLE: MLK, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and all other successful visionaries.

      I don’t thank white people. I don’t thank any color of people. I simply thank genuine human beings who did what they could to contribute to society.

      And the Chinese invented gunpowder, which was then used by “white males” to colonize the world. Please stop being a pompous “white male”.

    • You idiot… You’ve been reading too many modern books. What have you done? Nothing but run your mouth. God says those who exault themselves will be abased. Those guys took credit for lots of things idiot. That’s why you are continuously abased. Do your homework and you will find many patents and inventions by African Americans. Not giving you the mike. Such a newswatcher. You’re not a smart person. Wow.

    • check your facts. white males built the modern world we live in today – USING BLACK AND COLORED SLAVES.

      White Males invented….
      I could make a list 10 times as long with all the problems in the world caused by white males.
      like you.

      Mathematics was not invented by white males. You white males had roman numerals which were replaced by the decimal system which is used by white males all over the world. Check the fact. it was not invented by white males. Hitler was a white male. Hitler was a white male. Oooh that reallymust hurt to know the truth. White male wake up 🙂

    • Did u do any of those things? Very confused as I thought it was all about personal responsibility ….

    • If you think by virtue of being a random white man you get credit for inventing the internet and all these other things, then it only follows you also take responsibility for slavery, colonialism, wars, the Holocaust, etc., etc.

  16. Pingback: Princeton University Student: ‘Check Your Privilege’ | The Olive Branch Report

  17. Let’s stop engaging in verbal gymnastics and call it like it is..Non-white Americans are tolerated and not judged on the content of their character.

    • You must be imbued with the same distortions as those who utter “check your privilege” to presume to speak for anyone other than yourself. Rather than accurately describing my views and my attitudes toward others you can only open the door to reveal your own views.

      Many of us who are automatically viewed as coming from privileged origins actually are products of the grinding machine of life that produced the author of this opinion piece we comment upon. Indeed the vast majority of us have succeeded not because of inherited wealth or status but because our parents and their parents have seized and built upon the opportunities that America provides. That some have squandered those opportunities is not the fault of those who did not and they need to look inside for assignment of responsibility and not project it onto others. You need to start with yourself and claim ownership of your own views and opinions and not ascribe them to those around you.

  18. As I read this article and comments, I have found that I can agree with both sides of this argument, yet disagree at the same time. As I go through my college education, i see countless scholarships I can never receive just because I am a white male. If I were Black, Hispanic, female or even more than just 1/32 Native American money for college would be more readily available than just a Pell Grant and Loan. I know there are scholarships that are available for me, but they much higher competition and harder to get.

    To get a job may be easier because I am white and male, but I know that one of my first jobs all the management I saw were women, from my boss, to her boss, and even the next boss up. I was one a handful of guys that worked there, and this was a big health insurance company. Since then I have had many job interviews, and been rejected more times than I have received a job.

    To be honest when it comes to school, careers, and any other aspect of life, it comes down to spirit, and your determination to get there. Fredrick Douglas was a black educated man who was on speaking terms and helped advise government officials. This was during the downfall of American slavery, and he was an escaped slave. He did not let anyone tell him what he could or could not do, and found a way to achieve his goals. The problem that I see with “checking my privilege” is that I am not just outright handed everything, I have to earn my college degree, I have to apply to the jobs, Go through interviews, And all in all make choices that won’t hinder or side track me from where I want to go (i.e. stay away from drugs and heavy drinking, pass my classes, etc). If I saw someone actively being persecuted, like people say, I would stand up and say that that is wrong, and others should too. I would also advise that just because people think that that is happening to them, they should not stop and believe that it is impossible to achieve their dreams because the white man will never let them. This believe only fosters the prejudice, and will do more than any other person could to stop them. By going through and winning the game by getting an education, owning their own successful business, or getting to management positions. This would do more to break the barriers and prove there are none, because some of our biggest barriers were put their by yourself.

    • Imagine I am a very wealthy man, and I set up a scholarship fund for my children. Is that unjust? How about if it is for my nephews and nieces as well. Let’s suppose I extend it all students with my surname, or of my religion, or my ethnic group, excluding others. Would that be unjust because you cannot avail yourself of those funds?

      How about, as a public policy measure, a scholarship fund provided by the nation, awarded on a need-plus-merit basis? Need being judged solely by the financial resources of the student’s family and merit being judged by academic achievement. Is that unjust? And what about funds set up to benefit a group historically and statistically disadvantaged, in the hope of leveling the playing field, and creating something more closely approaching equality across ethic or gender lines?

      All of these are blunt instruments that accomplish what they do in the aggregate, but may not be just on a case-by-case basis. The scholarship fund just for my family may be unfair in treating all my children or relations the same. Academic accomplishment and financial resources? That may not take into account character or other factors. Black Americans face barriers and difficulties, differences of expectations, assumptions about them, even conscious racism, every day that white Americans don’t: still, every individual is different. It may be, in the grand scheme of things, unjust that an affluent black kid gets something that a poor kid from a rural country in West Virginia can’t get.

      But alas, blunt instrument are all that we have. Even if we knew how to compare and balance one disadvantage or privilege against others, the incredible complexity required a for a system that made a detailed investigation of every candidate for a scholarship in every aspect of his life and circumstances would eat up the money intended for scholarships. So we use crude, blunt measures. Many white people assume that the advantages that have been allowed for blacks amount to a reverse discrimination, and are unjust. Few black people see it that way. Few black people, and few white people who have actually studied the matter scientifically, do not see that all those “preferences” are not enough to level the playing field: though they are certainly tip it in the right direction.

  19. Aww, poor Mayo boy, someone hurt his feelings! I guess one or two generations of “oppression” gives him the right to walk around campus whining that people don’t like him cause his European ancestors decided to kill each other off, like through most European history (if you can even call the European past history). But us proud Africans have to be subjected to centuries of slavery, followed by centuries of oppression, just so we can scrape by and thank “mastah” for barely letting us into college to better ourselves? Cry me a river, white boy and check your privileges.

    • I’m so sorry you are so ignorant of history. No wonder you had to be “let” into college because of your skin color. You are living proof of what is wrong with the system. You’ve allowed yourself to wallow in ignorance because you can. If you were white, you would never be allowed near a college campus because of your laziness. Any student of history knows that the Jews have been ‘oppressed’ for centuries. They also know that the blacks in Africa sold other blacks into slavery. It wasn’t white folks, dear. Your racism and hatred of your fellow man is appalling. Now, if any of the words I’ve used are too big for you to understand, thanks to your willful ignorance, I hope you have enough intelligence to at least look them up in a dictionary. You can find one online. Now, if you are too lazy to do so, maybe you can find a white European to do it for you.

    • Before you start slandering the name and opinions of Mr. Fortgang, let me remind you of a very important detail of this young man’s history: his family is of Jewish descent. His grandfather worked as a Rabbi in a work camp. That culture was passed down through generations in addition to the work ethic that got Mr. Fortgang into Princeton.

      If you want to start playing the “history of oppression” card, take a minute and remember that the Jewish culture and its people have been persecuted for millennia. Not just centuries. Hundreds of centuries. It can be argued that they have only in recent decades escaped that persecution, except that would also imply that Israel is a stable, conflict-free country in harmony with its neighbors.

      If you are saying that this “white boy” needs to be apologetic for the injustices other white people have done, you are only victimizing yourself. If you are saying that I, as a “privileged” white female from Georgia, need to apologize and feel guilt for the privileges that my parents and grandparents have been able to pass down to me, you will be waiting a long time.

      Too many times have I been confronted by “proud Africans” with demands of restitution. Why? Because I’m a white girl from Georgia? Let me say that I have no reason to answer these demands. I have never owned slaves nor persecuted a minority. I will be judged by the content of my character and by the dreams for which I strive. Because I have been privileged to have been raised by my parents, to have received a college education, and to work for a fair wage, I now have (to quote a comment earlier by “dgw1982”) an obligation to make life better for my descendents.

      We are all privileged. In every life, there are blessings. Only those who continually look back on the wrongs committed against them, be those wrongs real or imagined, will fail to recognize those blessings. For them I do not feel guilt nor apology. Instead, I feel pity that they would choose to victimize and hobble themselves with excuses and cries of imagined injustice and not embrace the ideals of their predecessors: to work hard and earn the privileges that will be passed down to future generations.

      • Mr. Fong’s understanding of work ethic is different from those who weren’t allowed to work during his grandfather’s era. It’s clear from the article that his grandfather migrated to the U.S. prior to the Civil Rights movement. During a time when many African-American men and all women weren’t educated fairly or, if employed, weren’t paid fair wages and therefore didn’t have the same knowledge to pass down to future generations.
        Although his grandfather may have been of Jewish decent, he is still a white man. If his grandfather settled in New York City during his migration, he would have assimilated with other established white, European immigrants such as the Italians, the Irish and the Dutch or his Jewish counterparts who began migrating to the Northeast during the time of Martin Luther (no relation to Dr. King) in the mid-16th century in order to escape religious persecution. These very groups of people would have found life to be oppressive in the South because of their accents, not being the “right” type of white and their religious affiliation as non-Protestants (i.e., Jewish or Catholic). Not to mention, Mr. Fong never mentions any contributions made to his privilege by his grandmother or mother.

        However, if you are a white girl from Georgia who can trace her family back four or more generation in the south, than you most certainly benefited from the persecution of minorities and slavery. Not only did the males in your family benefit from African-American enslavement in terms of free-labor but also from full citizenship, property ownership, education and being the “right” type of white in the south. That is until Abraham Lincoln changed things as you said 150-years ago. However, that didn’t stop segregationists and their continued enforcement of systematic racism which also benefited white southern men through Jim Crow laws, keeping African –Americans from being education fairly, gaining employment with fair wages and even keeping them from living a decent life free of persecution from the KKK, police and dirty politics so they could build something to pass down to future generations. That is until de-segregation, which as a southern girl you know began with Brown vs. Board in 1954. Then Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycotts in 1955, all the way to John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 and Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. That’s only 46-years ago counting from 1968. That means these are injustices your grandparents and, depending on your age, parents very much benefited from in the form of government protection, educational achievements, property ownership and lifestyle expectations that eventually became privileges passed down to you.

        On the flip-side, it means someone’s grandparents and parents had to endure the injustices for being black. An African- American born in 1954 would only be 60 years old today and an African-American born in 1968 would only be 46-years old today. I doubt those born in 1954 had experiences that were imagined, leaving them with limited knowledge to pass down except for their own experiences and their parent’s experiences as black southern men and women. Understanding the government system (legally and politically), understanding the educational system from pre-K to college without affirmative action, the ability to have property that can be passed down and having lifestyle expectations are things millennials and post-mellennials are learning and putting to use so they can continue to be passed down to future generations.

        Your character isn’t just developed by your first hand experiences but by the experiences passed down by your grandparents and parents. It’s easy to teach work ethic when you are able to work. It’s easy to understand the value of higher-learning and academia when you have parents who went to college. It’s also easier to teach future generations the insight and value of living in American when the government isn’t trying to kill you.
        It’s not always about apologizing for an injustice someone commits but for the unearned benefit that comes from it. This country’s southern history feeds into the lifestyle you as a southern white girl understand as “proper” living. You should consider being sensitive to that. The next time you see an elderly African-American person (man or woman) who is 60-years or older remember they suffered so your grandparents could prosper. And if you can stomach it, remind yourself that they had parents and grandparents who weren’t privileged enough to be born during the de-segregation era.

        As far as Shaniqua goes, I’m not sure what her personal experiences are or her parent’s, grandparent’s experiences are but she should express her point with a little more respect.

    • You sound like a fantastic candidate for a current or future single mother. Remember more kids means more free shit for the .gov.

    • I’m sick of all the ‘privilege’ crap as well. NO ONE gave me anything because I’m a hyphenated ‘Caucasian’. I had to work for everything I have. It’s not much, but it’s mine. You can kiss my bare white ass.

    • I think your emphatic disregard for Jewish history is pathetic and offensive.

      First off, a small lesson for you. Since slavery, blacks identified with the Jews – there was an eminent sense of common struggle. MLK himself said that the “segregationists and racists make no fine distinction between the Negro and the Jew.” So there is a common sense of history, struggle, and a sympathy emerged from being in like situations for centuries. Secondly, your disregard for Jewish history borders on a lack of recognition of the Holocaust, and is coterminal with many prominent deniers of Jewish plight and history in Europe. Jews (for centuries longer than blacks in Europe) were stigmatized, murdered, and thrown to the sides of society – whether it was in England, in Spain, in France, or further in the Middle East.

      The nuance to his argument is that not all white people are the same. There’s a sense that race dictates total place in a society (and whether or not thats true is another question – race fundamentally increases inequality, countless studies show that, thats not the question). However, what he fundamentally conveys is the sense that using race as a token (to attribute further characteristics, history, socioeconomic status) is flawed for so many reasons. Fundamentally, we need to look at race as not an explanatory principle for totality or total place in society.

    • A person who is white will never understand how it feels for a person who is not. They just can’t.

    • Youdidntreadthearticleitwasaheartfeltexplorationofwherehecamefromnotacomplainttoobadyouonlyseeraceasyouwillmissoutonthegoodthingsinlife

    • Shaniqua: if you’re a student at Princeton, you’re obviously there courtesy of affirmative action, not for your educational attainments or intelligence. You evidently are incapable of writing a cohesive, grammatical paragraph. You seem to know nothing of the persecution Jews have endured through history (by no means exclusively European). You seem to be under the (all too common) delusion that slavery was primarily an American crime and was one exclusively of whites owning Africans. You have a privilege you personally clearly don’t deserve and from what you write you seemingly intend to go through life expecting to be handed privilege after privilege, simply on the basis of your remote ancestry and the color of your skin. I find this contemptible.

    • Jews only oppressed for two generations? Really? Most Africans still oppressed by mostly Africans

    • I have engaged in the “…but I’m Jewish” conversation more times than I can count. Obviously the author and everyone who commented needs to do some reading and take a sociology or AA studies course…or all of them. However, it does no good to create hierarchies of oppression. Slavery was horrible and the ideas of Black inferiority that characterized slavery are still embedded deep within our society. Racism is rampant and the US and doesnt appear to be going anywhere in the next few centuries. But slavery was no better or worse than the Holocaust you cant measure hatred, genocide and oppression

    • No Europeans were ever enslaved by anyone ever in the history of the world. We know this because our progressive liberal professors told us so.

      Oooobaaahhhmaaaaa….Ooooobaaahhhmaaaaa……

    • By the way, Shaniqua, is “Mayo boy” a racial slur or not? Having done some research, I’m inclined to believe it is. Certainly “white boy” is a racial slur, at least as you intend it to be interpreted. You’re not a proud African. You’re a bitter American who hasn’t learned to embrace your real identity. You’re a victim of false consciousness, as I believe you lefties like to put it.

    • Centuries of slavery? Most of that was at the hands of other blacks.

      The bottom line is that western civilization has done more to provide equal opportunity and raise the living standards of the poor than any other group. Africa, that would be colonial Africa, was relatively prosperous. By today’s standards they were wildly prosperous. Remove colonialism, turn the continent over to black leadership and starvation and aids rule the region.

      Cry me a river, lazy bitch.

    • Shaniqua,

      There is nothing you can do to change the “privilege” that others may have. Instead of that, why don’t you figure out how to make your own privilege. There are laws & opportunities out there to help African Americans do just that, but YOU have to be the one that takes advantage of those. No one, not even the privileged, can do that for you.

    • One or two generations? I don’t judge you by your skin color, but by your gross ignorance of history. Jewish people have been oppressed not for centuries, but for millennia! From slavery under the Babylonians to the inquisition, to the pogroms where hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed for no justifiable reason, and finally the holocaust where three quarters of the European Jewish population was displaced or systematically murdered in half a decade. There has never been a time in history where Jews have not been persecuted. And no, we don’t just “let you barely scrape by” into college, we afford you privileges that other races wouldn’t have gotten. Why is it that an African American child gets accepted to better college than I do whilst having worse academic performance? Because he’s black, and that sounds like discrimination to me.

    • Now if there was a prototypical response that one would ascribe to those who care more about entitlement than content of character I’m hard pressed to find it. Well done.

    • What r u proud about african girl? Your continent is a toilet of hatred and harshness. Name onelasting monument or form of government every built, or one societal achievement the rest of the world has adopted. Small minded little accomplished people. Without america you would still be in a jungle fighting your neighbor.

    • 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.

    • Newsflash for the “white privilege” crowd: There isn’t one ethnic group on this earth who hasn’t been kicked around or done its own kicking. Some people may have a terminal case of white guilt, but I have no reason to feel guilty. I will never apologize for my ancestry, heritage, or skin color. Get over it.
      And incidentally, it’s human nature to be prejudiced and wary of others, regardless of color. It’s part of thousands of years of survival and evolution.
      Where in the hell is all this privilege I’m supposed to have because I’m white? My environment was far from prosperous. I come from a working class family in a racially diverse neighborhood. My mother raised 7 kids, mostly by herself. We all worked. My two older step sisters worked two part time jobs, and my mother worked to make ends meet. It was a hell of a struggle. I joined the Army at the age of 18 and served a total of 30 years (20 Active, 10 reserve). My skin color didn’t exempt me from two combat tours in Iraq. My Associates Degree was earned at a community college because that’s all my GI Bill and pocket could afford. My pension is still not enough to cover all the bills, but I still have Social Security to look forward to. Whoopie. No one gave me a free meal ticket because I’m a hyphenated ‘Caucasian’.
      Anyone who has a problem with that can kiss my bare white ass.

    • There are asinine comments and then there are truly insipid comments. Yours, Shanana, epitomizes the intellectually-bankrupt mentality of far too many on the Left.

      We Proud Americans of All Colors don’t buy into this Privilege Nonsense.

      Rather than equality and harmony, blacks today seek political primacy and special treatment.

      No more. It you guys can’t get your acts together and see that the Democrats lie to you about everything, and that they seek to keep you down in order to use you for your voting bloc, then no amount of handouts or Affirmative Action will ever pull you out of the collective swamp you are mired in.

    • Slavery started by Africans and continued by Africans to this day. You may have gotten into college but you have shown yourself to be ignorant. Face it, even Africans don’t like American blacks. The Africans to an individual that I know hold you American blacks in contempt. All these opportunities and all you can do is whine and play the race card.

    • Shaniqua, you say you “have to be subjected to centuries of slavery, followed by centuries of oppression.” You have not lived that long but you will hopefully live long enough to get off your ass so that you may teach your kids to get off of theirs and so on.

    • Excuse me ma’am but you are the biggest racist have ever seen.You have the nerve to base your opinion of a boy based on the color of his skin. How would you like it if someone said to you that you had no right to even speak on this webpage because they are generalizing you to have grown up in a slum neighborhood and you clearly didn’t get the proper education there. Well I’m sure you would make a big deal about it, call them a racist and try to get them kick off of the internet for have the gual to say such a thing. Im not saying that I feel this way at all. I think that racist is absolutely unfair and it should stop. But I would like to point out to you that racism is a two way street. This is not something that should be acceptable. I want you to step back and think about how racist you are being and how if the tables were turned how you would feel. Next time think about how you treat other people and then maybe they will treat you better. Then you will actually be helping in bringing the world together in peace instead of what you are doing right now(drivinga wedge between people). We are all people so live like it.
      Have a nice day.

    • Shaniqua, you remind me of so many who walk around campus with an invisible “V” on their foreheads. As an educator, I see it all the time as liberal education fills your mind with such dribble. You, as an American, are fortunate for you have an opportunity for success that many others around the world will never have. That is why so many attempt to come to our country via crossing borders, overstaying visas, stowing away on container ships, etc. Stop worrying about being a victim, focus on your success, and you will do well. Spend your time worrying about others and you will go nowhere fast. Lose the social media, the instant gratification, and focus on your future. You are not a victim, so get on with your life.

    • 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.

    • Shaniqua, your bitterness and resentment comes through loud and clear. check your hate.

    • You discount others and you are the victim who suffers the most right? You probably don’t know, and wouldn’t care, that black Africans are enslaved today. But not by white people, so eh, right? Not to your advantage, so meh. You save your outrage to indulge in your own racism and hate. It’s glaringly obvious for all to see. You expect total respect, not based on your character obviously because judging by this post your character sucks, so thats understandable. You expect respect of the highest order, and you give none. I bet you have much respect for Islam, yet Muslim Arabs are enslaving (chattel slavery!) “your people” right now. And you wonder why black Africans have no respect for black. Americans. Grab a clue, missable bitch,

    • … You think the Jews were only oppressed for one or two generations? Jews have been the most discriminated-against people group for a thousand years! From the Crusades in 1096 to the Inquisition in the 15th century, all of known Jewish history consists of being killed, enslaved, or chased out of some place or another. They didn’t even have a homeland, as Israel did not exist as a nation for two thousand years because the Romans kicked them out of it. SHAKESPEARE was prejudiced against Jews. (The Two Gentlemen of Verona) Charles Dickens was prejudiced against Jews. (Oliver Twist — Fagin was a Jew.) African oppression in the US is miniscule in comparison — a mere 150 years of actual slavery and another fifty or sixty of Jim Crow. Check YOUR privilege.

    • Once again, a racist black woman is speaking insults and stupidity and no one wants to call her what she is, an ignorant biggot! Mayo boy is just as bad as Alabama Porch monkey or something like that. That is the same as calling blacks niggers, is it not?

    • For clarification, “oppression,” appearing here in offensive scare quotes, means the Holocaust.

    • I wasn’t aware that a full scholarship was ‘barely being let in’. The SATs are not a form of discrimination – if you do well you can attend any college you like – it is only those who are unable to attain high scores that talk about ‘discrimination’. I wonder why that is…

    • As mean as your comment is you’re literally the only one who doesnt have their head up there ass. :”Check your privilege” isn’t about complaining about the past. It’s about changing how fucked up things are now. White people like to act like just because their lives aren’t perfect that there’s no such thing. They don’t want to believe that things aren’t equal. If that were the case why are all the history books and great people in history we learn about mostly white? They’d like us to believe that white people are superior that’s why. So when we say check your privilege we don’t mean go look at your history and see if anything bad has happened.

      We mean check how many black students there are in your college as opposed to white, check the odds of students with the same grades not getting into the same school because of their skin color. Seriously can’t believe the attitude of every single one of these people.

    • You should really check your history before making statements like you did. If you’re referring to the writer of the original article, then you might be interested in knowing that the Jewish people were not oppressed for just a couple of generations, but rather the Jews have been slaves (SLAVES, not just oppressed) for a few thousand years in Egypt until Moses lead them out of Egypt to find Israel the land the Lord promised them. So if anything Jews have more of a right to complain about having been slaves than black people have, but I’d bet you’ll have a hard time finding one that will complain as most of them are too busy trying to make the earth a better place both for themselves and their families. You might also want to know that Jews were discriminated against in this country too. Back in the 1930’s or so my grandfather & uncle went on a road trip thru New England, at one town where they stopped for the night the motel clerk said he had a room for my Grandfather, but none for my Uncle. Why? Because my Grandfather had changed his name to a more generic American sounding name, but my Uncle hadn’t!

      I can understand still having some ill will toward the relatives of folks that might have enslaved your relatives, but when it comes to people whose relatives came here at the turn of the last century (between 1890’s to 1920’s or so) which includes Jews, Italians, Irish, and I’m sure others I’m not aware of, these people truly had nothing to do with slavery. In fact these people might have been living under conditions even worse than slavery, consider a family working hard and saving up their money just to send one or more of their children on a boat going across the ocean, never to be seen again in the hopes that the children will have a better life! I would say that their lives had to be pretty desperate to do something like that, but yet that was a fairly common thing back then, in fact my paternal Grandmother came over with her 2 sisters but without her parents because they couldn’t afford to send everyone. If that’s a privilege, I would really rather be under-privileged!

    • “The Holocaust was insignificant and was not oppression.”

      Thank you for providing us with such an in-depth mental analysis about yourself Tulande.

    • Shaniqua, your assertion that Jews have only faced two generations of oppression is ridiculous. Read a history book. And to say that “his European ancestors decided to kill each other off” makes me assume you don’t understand how slavery worked. It was actually Africans–black Africans, I might add–that were the ones gathering other black Africans to be shipped off to slavery.

    • How DARE you! At the very time when your ancestors were being promised 40 acres and a mule, my ancestors (Eastern European Jews) weren’t even *allowed* to own land. All your bullshit about “centuries of slavery” doesn’t overshadow the even longer history of oppression and murder directed at the Jews. Ever heard of the Inquisition, of pogroms or crusades?

      This isn’t some sort of competition. That’s not the point. The point, in this instance, is that Shaqniqua should check her own very real (and different) privileges before demonstrating her culture’s tradition of critical, nuanced thinking — exemplified by her vile little playground taunts.

      That’s not to say African culture has left a record devoid of contributions. By the time Europeans began colonizing the New World, chattel slavery had largely disappeared from their culture — but not from West Africa. As for the claim that African slavery was some sort of charming expression of indigenous warrior culture? Yeah, right — colorful celebrations of brutality for its own sake! At least the Europeans had the good sense to put such a brutal institution to productive use.

      To this day, America’s black population is wealthier than that of any country in Africa. Maybe that Middle Passage proved not to be such a bad move, after all.

      When you go back for a look, just remember to check your privilege!

    • I work with low income individuals every day. Many, not all, are people of color. You know who succeeds regardless of their race? The person stops blaming others for their present day circumstances and decides to change their family tree by doing something about their quest for a “better life.”
      “Mayo boy,” indeed. If a white person uttered similar words to you they’d be called racist. Please, check YOUR privilege.

    • Are you nuts ? This man just offered a articulate rebuttal of the whole race blame game and tou are just repeating the old cliche without bothering to reply intelligently to his point ? no wonder your people are so defected..

    • I don’t think he is super racist like you’re assuming. The language you use in this comment sounds really accusatory. It’s okay for white people to complain if they think someone’s being a little racist against them.

    • This article presents an impressive litany of struggle, sacrifice, survival, and achievement. Unfortunately none of it is Mr. Fortgang’s. That is the relevant point. Mr Fortgang is using the same sorts of arguments that the upper classes have frequently used to justify their status and credibility, the sacrifices and accomplishments of their ancestors. If those lessons had truly been passed down and appreciated, then Mr. Fortgang might exercise more humility and less self righteousness. He might recognize that others less fortunate than himself did not chose their less successful ancestors, did not choose to grow up in poverty and deprivation, did not choose to receive inferior educations and opportunities. “Check your privilege” is a straw man employed to elicit a self congratulatory monologue built on the accomplishments of others.

  20. There is no denying that you can’t tell what has happened in someones life, or what their ancestors have been through based on the color of their skin. Also there is no denying that you and your family worked hard in your life. However, it isn’t really about what your ancestors went through or what you went through, but more what advantages have been given to you has a white person growing up in a decent neighborhood. It comes down to the fact that you, for example, probably don’t have to cary over 500$ on you for fear of being stopped by police based on the color of your skin and arrested for trivial reasons. As a white Jewish man myself, I have be easily forgiven for transgressions of my past, while if I were black I am almost certain the police or judge would have made assumptions and not given me the benefit of the doubt.
    It comes down to the fact, that more is expected from you if you are white, therefore you are treated differently and pushed to be better; Your mistakes don’t usually have severe consequences because you as a white person isn’t expected to continue making this mistakes, however someone who is of a minority would probably be put in jail for something as simple as a few grams of weed. You can walk down the street without fearing arrest or people crossing the street because of the color of your skin. Predominantly white neighborhoods are given more state and federal money for schools and infrastructure, while poor predominantly minority neighborhoods are ignored and cast aside as a lost cause.

    In the end however, you obviously did well for yourself, and for that I congratulate you, yet still as hard as you have worked, some of your life is different and most likely easier and better simply because of the color of your skin. Take a step back and think about it. I am sure you will see, even if it is minor in your situation.

  21. Looks like Shaniqua Tulande is a racist! Tell you what there “chocolate drop” when you stop using the racist name calling (“Mayo Boy” and “white boy”)…I’ll quite calling you a “chocolate drop” and “brown girl!!!”

  22. I am just wondering about an assumption that this writer is setting out his argument with: can Jewish be considered “white”?

  23. I will start off by saying that white privilege has its limitations as a definition. I empathize with the fact that it doesn’t take into account class privilege, but that is where it stops. White privilege via Wiki, “The term denotes both obvious and less obvious unspoken advantages that white persons may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice. These include cultural affirmations of one’s own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely. The concept of white privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one’s own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.” In summary, the majority sets the cultural, social, political standards and benefits from them in sometime inconspicuous ways.

    If these benefits are camouflaged into the systems of our society, pointing to the past isn’t an excuse to ignore the reality. What the author does a great job of is to highlight that we all have a diverse background and that we all face struggles in life. But he chooses to defend his position from a very far right, “Think like an elephant” point of view. It is understandable that as a young man his life experiences have made him defensive. But it is unfortunate that he does not fully appreciate the gravity of socio-economic factors that dictate ones willingness to choose either assimilation, acculturation or any other form of social adaptation. Not to mention one’s self perceived freedoms. For many, choice can be severely limited due to the inequities that have burdened generations. This can come in the form of family debt, primary school choices, parental make-up or education, juvenile justice system, and a host of other factors. Not to say that we are not all born naked, we just might not have the same foundation for opportunity.

    White privilege is not a blanket term for all whites. However, the fact that this individually clearly has had many people tell him to “check it” infers that some cultural competence should be suggested in the form of education or involvement. When I read the many posts berating affirmative action, Obama, 200 girls kidnapped in Nigeria???, and any other chest pounding “I am white and proud for being the majority cuz my ancestors who I love but don’t agree with” comment is just a reminder to all that no matter where we are as a society doesn’t mean that minorities are disenfranchised. Just by the fact that it is unrecognizable to that group means we have not reached the fair playing field we are striving for. The better thing would be to accept that there could be more barriers for minorities, but say you view everyone on an equal playing field regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, class etc.. (Ignorance is bliss afterall) Or just show your true colors. Lastly, money and the majority are the foundations of power in the U.S., meaning you cannot talk about equality without considering them.

  24. I truly hope Princeton University take note that they have a student who plan to major in history and political science who is extremely lacking of knowledge and reasoning. They need to correct this problem. The time he took to write his bias views should of been spent taken classes in African American history to combat his ignorance. He should of known that people of color did not had the privilege to earn because of slavery; that people of color for decades did not had the privilege to learn to read and write and it was a crime to do so. He would of known that before 1952 people of color did not had the privilege to higher education because of segregation and did not had the privilege to vote untill 1965. He may have realized that perhaps it is indeed a privilege that got him into Princeton. It’s amazing that others did not do their research before publishing his essay, and to add insult to injury I’m sure he got an A+ for it.

  25. Tal, thank you for telling your story. I agree with you when you describe how terrible some of your ancestors’ experiences were. You shouldn’t apologize for your privileges. In fact, nobody should be made to apologize for identities possessed. The fact that you’re considering majoring in History or Political Science should indicate that you realize the past affects what’s going on today. I don’t know you, but I am sure you possess identities that have historically been oppressed which have affected your ancestors quality of life and restricted their choices, doing the same to your own. You seem to be acutely aware of those identities and the effect they’ve had on your family background and current life.

    What is asked by a statement like ‘Check your privilege’ is NOT for your apology; in fact, I can’t think of anything more repulsive than an individual from a dominant group (in this case, white and male) pleading for forgiveness from individuals who face oppression every day. The phrase is instead meant to spark the same awareness of your privilege as you seem to have of your oppressed identities. By awareness, I mean thinking critically about why it is that you don’t typically feel the need to have someone walk you home at night. You’re typically not shamed for what you’re wearing by someone you don’t know. I mean thinking about who is given the space to comment and actually heard above all other groups (hint: they’re white and male). I mean thinking about why it is that a practice like enslaving and discriminating against someone based solely upon skin color isn’t something that simply goes away by Lincoln (one of the greatest in a coincidentally long line of white male Presidents) saying, “Alright, you’re free. Good luck out there.”

    As another white male, I won’t apologize for my identities either. The point is that nobody should be pushed to apologize for identities possessed. But if you were anywhere near as aware of these privileged identities as you seem to be of the oppressed ones of your ancestors, it’d go a long way.

  26. What the author and commentators are failing to realize is that privilege is not just money. It’s being able to walk down the street in a hoodie and not worry you’ll be stop and frisked by NYC police. It’s knowing that your chances of incarceration and death penalty are low. It’s knowing that you have the power to vote (take a look at the mass disenfranchisement of black people in Florida in 2000). It’s knowing you won’t be asked whether you’re illegal.

  27. Wow. The media instigates and points out fallicies of certain folk. The whiners come out of the wood work. Get off of your, “I’m entitled derriers, travel around this great Nation, visit people; and ask yourself what you can do for this nation; beside whining. How this guy got into Princeton, I don’t know. You’ve fought nothing. Enjoy the inheritance and stop being angry at others. Your whining is Hitler like dude. You haven’t served this nation yet. For the other passive aggressive guys, stop whining and ask yourselves what you can do for this Nation! Everyone wants to belong to what they think or feel is the elite. You actually think it’s about color. It’s about the spirit of hate dude. However, you are currently suffering from a false sense of delusion of grandeur. Look in the mirror and ask yourself what you have to offer society; in respects to your talents, etc. Wow….not dropping the mike but gently setting in down on the podium….God bless the U.S.

  28. Slavery of all color and types of humans has disgustingly been part of human history for tens of thousand years; black Americans think they are ONLY ONES EVER SUFFERED – had it bad hundred years picking cotton yet Hebrews enslaved 2000 years building stupid pyramids. If liberal liars and blacks truly want to fight slavery then they would stop buying Chinese Marxist products made from slave labor!

    Booooohooo liberal race baiters and America haters; FACT not a black today born into slavery so just shut up about it!

  29. Functionally, a command to “check your privilege” during an argument is a warning shot: if, after examining the intersectionality of your own background (which the author more or less did), you still disagree with your more-leftwing or darker-complected interlocutor, you are going to be branded an obstinate, hateful racist.

  30. Congratulations! You’ve leveraged your privilege and capitalized on the hard work antiracists (mostly POC’s) have been doing for decades to centralized the discussion institutionalized racism.

    Unfortunately your essay is just another example of how our educational institutions are for the large part doing students an expensive disservice. The people who are telling you to “Check your privilege” have done their homework, and do in fact know what they’re talking about. The people who tell you to “Check your privilege” have not only learned about your ancestors experience (after all you ARE describing the kind of story most all of us have been taught in high school history), they have also been cultivating an advanced understanding of the structures (systems of oppression) that have shaped our collective consciousness (which are directly linked with the mindset that allows genocide) On top of it, sounds like most of them have more personal experiential knowledge of what it’s like to BE OPPRESSED than you do.

    Until you decided to do the homework yourself you will be excluded from certain conversations that require a more advanced knowledge. It’s like going into a surgery and being pissed that they won’t let you dissect the heart just cause you have a heart too? Get the picture?

  31. What this young man is describing here is the notion that there is indeed class mobility in the United States. Perhaps there was such a possibility during the 20th century for the poor and the wretched to claw their way to the top, one generation at a time. But evidence increasingly shows that as wealth is concentrated in this country into narrow, and yes, privileged classes, such mobility has become all but impossible for most Americans. So while this essay’s topic serves as a very inspiring story about what is possible in America, the story is more about America’s past rather than its present. Unsurprisingly, conservatives have latched onto this story, because they want Americans to believe there is such a thing as class mobility so that ordinary Americans will ultimately vote against their own interests: vote for lowered taxes for people with wealth the middle class will never obtain. People have been tricked into thinking that higher taxes for the wealthy will kill the American Dream. But in fact breaking up concentrations of wealth allows for the dream itself: allows for the many to strive, as opposed to the same few families to win.

  32. “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.”

    -Well, there you go. Why should we rely on statistics when we can just use anecdotal evidence instead?

  33. Bill: the only reason you can make those claims on the behalf of white men is that the rest of us were closed out. For instance, women…world wide….have not been able to attend school until recently. In some countries TODAY girls still are not permitted or encouraged to attend school. Case in point: look at what the girls are experiencing, today, in Taliban controlled countries: shot in the head, acid thrown in face, kidnapped from school and raped, and burned alive in their schools which were deliberately set on fire. But let’s go back in history to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle who lived and taught about 500 years before Christ. Add 500 years to the 2014 years since the birth of Christ….2500 years that boys and young males have been the recipients of education; girls, however, only for the last 150 years. Interesting contrast, don’t you think. But girls and women have caught up and, in only 150 years, have whizzed by the boys. The stats on grades by gender prove that. Meet me back here in 2350 years and we’ll see who has boasting rights.

  34. you know you’re privileged when you have to go back three generations to find evidence to the contrary.

  35. just fyi, if the author were a woman, many of the “responses” to her piece would have been people threatening to sodomize her.

    thank goodness for his privilege

  36. The author of this article misses the point. When I saw the phrase “check your privilege” — tonight was the first time, even though I was a Princeton grad student for most of the past six years — race didn’t come to mind; socioeconomic advantage did. I can say as a white male that the author is ridiculously clueless about his privilege.

    The author had the privilege of growing up with a grandfather who worked hard and a dad who went to City College and then went to a top grad school — not to mention who could also afford to send him to Princeton. Going to a top graduate school easily put his father into the top quintile of income. This is a bit different from the kid whose dad is working at Walmart. The author refuses to acknowledge that the property that your parents pass along is privilege, instead weirdly suggesting that people should admire it (note how he conflates the sacrifice of his parents and grandparents with his own privilege):

    ‘But when we do it by passing along property and a set of values, it’s called “privilege.”… Such sacrifice of any form shouldn’t be scorned, but admired.’

    He talks about an American Dream “attainable even for a penniless Jewish immigrant”. Where is this immigrant in the author’s article who achieved the American Dream? Was this immigrant his grandfather, who never went to college or made it big? Was it really his grandfather’s dream that in three generations — three generations! — one of his grandkids could go to Princeton? Show me how often a penniless individual in our country goes from rags to riches in his *lifetime* in America and I’ll be happy. But that hasn’t happened a whole lot lately, and when it does, these people recognize that the government was helpful for them along the way: http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2014/02/19/exclusive-inside-story-how-jan-koum-built-whatsapp-into-facebooks-new-19-billion-baby/

    Remember when John Boehner cried about sweeping his dad’s bar as a kid, claiming that his story was rags-to-riches? The ‘privilege’ here — somehow missed by a lot of people — is that his dad owned a bar. Seriously — John Boehner’s rags-to-riches story started with a dad who could afford to own a bar. Many kids don’t have that kind of privilege.

  37. White privilege isn’t about apologizing for anything, it’s about self awareness. In that regard, I don’t think you understand what white privilege is. It’s not your fault that a majority of leaders in america are white, but the truth is, “white” people constantly have their culture reaffirmed for them. We are more likely to have teachers that look like us, deal with people in leadership roles who look like us who we can relate to, and when we turn on the TV we see someone who looks like our dad telling us that our culture is the best in the world. Because of that we have a larger capacity for success because there is an assumption that we better understand cultural norms, and for the most part, we do, because “white” people are a majority of the ruling class. No one is asking you to apologize, they’re asking you to take your head out of your ass.

  38. Anyone who doesn’t understand what he’s saying here is too stupid to walk and chew gum at the same time.

  39. Here is an example of media deception..at HARVARD…JEWS are %1.8 of the population,yet %25 of the students..
    WHITES %68 of the population….only %20 of the students
    data from the Hillel Princeton review.
    White people are UNDER represented more than any other group! Man people are stupid. Media control means you get to push the “white privilege” ,but in reality it is JEWISH PRIVILEGE ….For you people who don’t know the difference between white people and Jews,you need to. They do NOT consider themselves white,and in fact despise white people. They like to shift the blame for crimes they commit on whites,like the slave trade..Jews were the slavers. Jews are so over represented in IVY it isn’t even funny…they boast about it,like they brag about their media control,control of Wall Street,and the big banks,and of course Hollywood. The most prominent NY Times Columnist, David Brooks, wrote a column called “The Chosen, Getting In.” The article talks about a book by a Jewish Professor James Karabel who wrote a book called The Chosen, which discusses the Jewish takeover of the Ivy League.

  40. Interesting to me that he proves the point that he is trying to refute. His family went through hell, true enough, so that he wouldn’t have to. And succeeded. He didn’t have to. That’s what privilege is all about. Only a tiny minority of people, those of long-tailed hereditary wealth, cannot point back to parents, or recent ancestors, who had to struggle.

    He is right, it was his privilege that enable those penniless Jewish immigrants without English to come to America. Millions of people with no better qualifications are denied that privilege today, and millions more who have come in illegally but have nevertheless proven themselves, would now be denied the privilege of staying. He should remember that there were millions in America who would have kept his grandparents out if they could have, and a regime in Europe who would have killed them if they could. Does he think it was his family’s unique superiority of character and cleverness alone that enabled them to survive the Holocaust? That there was no element of chance involved?

    He is right, it has been his privilege to be born to hard-working and successful parents, who were able to raise him in a comfortable home, who were there to raise him with good values. Why should this translate to lack of sympathy for those who don’t have the same advantages?

    Of course he should be proud of his family. And no, he should NOT apologize for these privileges. His family suffered and sacrificed so that he would not have to. He calls that a sort of altruism. If they did what they did because they believed that no one should ever have to suffer as they did, then that is surely altruism. If they did what they did so that their own offspring would not have to suffer, but not giving a damn about anyone else, then the glow of altruism fades (though even then it doesn’t disappear).

    He says that no one should judge him merely because of the color of his skin, or the affluence he grew up in. He is right. Nor ought we to assume that anyone has not suffered pain because we see no outward evidence of it. Nor that he and his family haven’t worked hard or struggled because it doesn’t show, or because they haven’t succeeded.

    How about judging him on the content of his character? For the degree of empathy and sympathy he shows for others, perhaps those not privileged to have been born into a hard-working, strong, and successful family? For the values and opinions he holds?

    He says that people diminish the value of what he personally has accomplished by ascribing it to the “invisible patron saint of white maleness”. Really? And does he think he would be in exactly the same place he is now if he had been born poor, black and female, in the Bronx rather than Westchester? Does he think that if he were magically placed into a dark-skinned non-European-looking body, given an accent, and name that is Arabic or Hispanic or more difficult to pronounce, or some disability of mind or body, that his prospects for the future would be exactly what they are now?

    All too often this sort of narrative comes down to this: “I (or my people) had to go through hell to get where I am (or we are) today, and nobody else should get there unless they go through hell, too.”

    Every single student at Princeton ought to consider himself (or herself) damn lucky to be there, no matter how hard they or their family worked to accomplish it. There are a billion families on the planet working just as hard and not managing anything like it, and sometimes they are not even surviving. It is a privilege to be there, no matter how much they may think they have “earned” it, or “deserved” it. No one got there without the help of anyone, whether family, teacher, scholarship program, whatever. Neither luck, nor brains, nor work alone is enough to succeed in this world, you’ve got to have all three. (There are a few who get by on luck alone, but I wouldn’t call that success. Is someone successful just because he inherited a pot of money? Perhaps we should call those the people who don’t need to succeed.)

    Of course you have to climb the ladder of success on your own: but almost always, somebody else is providing the ladder. These days, too many seem intent on pulling the ladder up after themselves, saying to those at the bottom, “Get your own damn ladder. This one is mine.”

  41. I don’t think the author realizes that checking one’s privilege is more about self-awareness and empathy than an analysis of the obvious and “woe is me”-ness.

  42. The essay was eloquent in its way, but not intellectually honest. The writer has failed to “check HIS privilege”, which was supposedly the purpose of this self-imposed assignment. The closest he comes to it is when he says “While I haven’t done everything for myself up to this point in my life…” I would be interested to hear him expand on that. Did he grow up in a nice neighborhood? Go to good schools? Are his parents paying his Princeton tuition? Tell us about all the other nice things that helped get you to where you are today ***which you did nothing to deserve*** except being born, instead of obfuscating the issue by invoking the Holocaust (which of course was beyond horrific, but did not happen in your lifetime). But since you really did go there, look at it this way: Nazis had un-“checked” Aryan privilege, right? Would you accept a young Nazi writing an essay in 1939 about how he lost relatives in WWI or the hard times his family suffered during the inflationary years of the early 1920’s and saying “I have checked my privilege. And I apologize for nothing.” I didn’t think so.

  43. Tal,

    Being proud of your family is a good thing. Being proud of studying hard is also fine. But check one of the talks of Paul Piff for example. It will help you get wary of subtle tricks that our brains play on ourselves. And don’t miss the chance of taking a course in social psychology at Princeton.

  44. You did a fine job of explaining how your grandparents were most certainly not privileged.

    You did an OK job of explaining that your parents, well at least your father, worked hard.

    You haven’t said much of anything about looking at your own position. In fact, it sounds like you grew up white, male, with rich parents, and with an attitude about it.

    “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.”

    America has never granted equal protection to all her citizens. Maybe one day. Certainly not 40 years ago. Still not today.

  45. Ivy league? Stupid league. Prejudice league. Indoctrination league.

    Much to comment on, but my most important is to simply show how blacks from other countries come not as “poor me victims”, but person’s excited about opportunity. They THRIVE, not wallow. The Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson ilk drastically harm the Blacks, not help.

    Great article! Many good comments.

  46. Sorry you think the ratios have changed because of affirmative action. Quite frankly, it’s immigration that is changing the complexion of the workforce, as the white-dominated corporate Americans compete for the spoils of the global expansion. However, the effect of affirmative action has been a two-edged sword for African Americans and while many of us are living the American Dream, we left our communities to live with white people. That took the educated role-models out of the African American communities as the drugs moved in. But I digress. Truthfully, I wanted to post the employment statistics so that you could become aware that African Americans have made some progress, but comparatively are still not able to figure out how to navigate and become more self sufficient. If you a curious what African Americans face in this country, pick up a copy of the “New Jim Crow” and take a cruise around http://www.eji.org.

    Employment Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t02.htm

    I am so happy to see this discourse, it gives me hope we will get over this mental illness of comparing human beings based on race. The young ones are certainly demonstrating the ability to mingle regardless of color. I won’t be alive when they take over the world, but it is refreshing to see them grow across color lines.

    Peace

  47. Wow! What an amazing discussion. When I first read the phrase “check your privilege”, in a piece about this article in the NYT, I unconsciously understood it to mean “…be aware of and grateful for what you’ve got/accomplished/overcome…” or something of that ilk.

    But then again, I’m in my ‘70’s – not my ‘20’s – and my world view tends to be through the lens of the additional 5 decades and experiences of the life I’ve lived. So, while, as a freshman in Ann Arbor in 1959, I might well have penned a similar piece, today it’s less about “me” and more about what contribution I can make, how I can pay it forward.

    Yes, there remains some awful inequalities afoot in this country about which we have a choice: work to change them or abdicate personal responsibility for the future of the greater whole and just go about living for your “self”. Regardless of the alternative you opt for today, I urge you to revisit this issue – and these choices – from time to time and see whether your world view has changed.

    Good luck.

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