OK, I’ve checked my privilege

“Check your privilege”is used to silence white male college students, writes Tal Fortgang in the Princeton Tory.

“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.

The phrase judges people based on their skin color and attributes their success “to some invisible patron saint of white maleness,” writes Fortgang, a first-year student who plans to major in history or political science.

As it happens, Fortgang’s grandfather and brother fled the Nazi invasion of Poland and spent World War II laboring in a Siberian camp.  Their mother and five younger were shot and dumped into an open grave.

His grandmother survived — barely — a death march to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

They came to America.

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.

His grandfather started a wicker business and prospered. They educated their children and taught them their values.

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.

The values we pass on perpetuate privilege, Fortgang writes. And it’s not something we need to apologize for.

Critics say he doesn’t understand white privilege.

In the Columbia Spectator students Dunni Oduyemi and Parul Guliani wrote that Fortgang shouldn’t take “check your privilege” personally. “Recognizing the fact that white men benefit from the kinds of racist and sexist structures on which American society is built isn’t meant to diminish his accomplishments,” they write. “It’s meant to remind us that white men don’t have an inherent predilection for success — the odds have just been stacked in their favor.”

I think those two sentences contradict each other.  If the odds were stacked in his favor that diminishes his accomplishments.

And it ignores the real privileges he enjoyed: He was born in the U.S., healthy and intelligent, and raised by loving and supportive parents. That’s a huge advantage in life, but not one reserved for white males.

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  1. And it ignores the real privileges he enjoyed: He was born in the U.S., healthy and intelligent, and raised by loving and supportive parents. That’s a huge advantage in life, but not one reserved for white males.

    Exactly. I have been teaching History for the last 18 years, and spend much time and effort trying to get my students to understand this. They all won the lottery. Roman emperors and Egyptian pharohs would fight to trade places with them.

    Some of them get it.

  2. D's Squirrel Food says:

    His grandparents came to America after WWII, and found a country that didn’t care about race? Well, maybe his pursuit of a history degree will set him straight.

  3. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    I’ve heard this phrase used, and with the condescending, superiority-laden way it’s used against white students (always students, always on campuses), its users might as well just say, “Gettin’ a little uppity there for a white boy, ain’t ya?”

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    it’s like “racist” and other techniques for dealing with an argument when the facts are against you.
    BTW, Palmer’s seen it. Can’t not see it. But when it happens to other people…they deserve it.
    My feeing is I would be silly to abandon my privilege, wouldn’t I?

  5. Miller Smith says:

    This white male will not put up with any gender or race discrimination against himself or others. Such discrimination is wrong regardless of the perp or victim. Anyone who says differently is a pig and should be imprisoned.

    • SC Math Teacher says:

      The problem is that discrimination is being used VERY broadly these days, and even saying the wrong thing or insufficiently kowtowing to the elite notions of non-discrimination (e.g., affirmative action) invites scorn and opprobrium.

    • Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

      Anyone who *says* differently is exercising their freedom of speech, you fool.

      I swear, the “color blind” team doesn’t need people like you. Go home. We have enough of a hard time dealing with the authoritarian statists on the left. We don’t need to watch our backs, too.

      • Miller Smith says:

        To stand in my workplace and insist that White people be treated as less than a full human in my workplace is actionable speech and is NOT protected by the First Amendment!

        • Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

          And now we witness the slow, fumbling retreat of the improvident from their exposed salient.

          First, anyone who disagrees should be imprisoned!

          Now, now that people are actually looking, it’s as if a wave of vagueness has descended, and anyone who adopts a particularly offensive, practically imperative position, in the limited context of the workplace where there are layers of harassment law in place, is subject to some unspecified legal “action”.

  6. Really? Then you’ve never been married to a hard-working, intelligent man passed over for promotion because “they wanted more females” in the upper levels of the department (IT-related). It happens. Just because you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it doesn’t. It’s just as unfair and demoralizing as being passed over would be for any other arbitrary, non-relevant reason. Bias in any direction is still bias.

  7. gahrie says:

    Maybe it is because White males are the only people it is legal to discriminate against.

  8. There’s a lot of that going around.

    I’m intrigued by white males who curse the fact that the era of civil rights marches is over because they’ve been cheated of the opportunity to display their valor in the face of prejudice. So much so that they’ll find racial prejudice, no matter how illusive or illusory, for no better reason then that they’ll have an injustice to belabor in service of their magnificent courage.

    How about we get you the Cowardly Lion’s Courage Medal hey? Wouldn’t that be nice?

  9. Miller Smith says:

    You are a victim if you are targeted for suppression due to your sex or race. Do you see that as okay?