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Princeton University Student’s Bold Response After Allegedly Being Told Repeatedly to ‘Check Your Privilege’

Posted on May 1, 2014

Tal Fortgang, a freshman at Princeton University, says he has been ordered to “check your privilege” by his “moral superiors” several times this year because he happens to be a white male. In a column in the Princeton Tory, Fortgang takes on the ideology he says ”assumes that simply because I belong to a certain ethnic group I should be judged collectively with it.”

“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 student writes. “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,” he continues.

Fortgang then explores his family’s history to figure out where his “privilege” comes from:

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?

The real problem with the notion of automatic “privilege,” he explains, is you have no idea what their struggles have really been or “what they may have gone through to be where they are.”

“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,” Fortgang writes. “While I haven’t done everything for myself up to this point in my life, someone sacrificed themselves so that I can lead a better life. But that is a legacy I am proud of.”

“I have checked my privilege. And I apologize for nothing,” he concludes.

Fortgang is from New Rochelle, N.Y., and plans to major in either history or politics.

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24 thoughts on “Princeton University Student’s Bold Response After Allegedly Being Told Repeatedly to ‘Check Your Privilege’

  1. michael says:

    Excellent…..this is just another example of the "racist" idea being turned 180 degrees…..the "whites" as a group are not the racists anymore…the minorities are….can you imagine if there was a white congressional caucus….or an all white TV channel…or perhaps a NAAWP!!! It's time to eliminate all racial preference…let every person be judged not by the color of their skin but by the strength of their character!!! Gee I wonder where that came from!

  2. AD Roberts says:

    Well, I just posted a comment that was not in violation of rules. But this site refuses to allow it. It was only commenting about the nature of a particular group who DO have unquestioned control. 'But apparently, they don't allow ANY CRITICIM.
    I guess, I will have to stop reading and commenting here.

  3. I am thinking of the movie series "Planet of the Apes". They were almost like a parody of people living on this world.

  4. thumper says:

    No, just be more subtle in your trolling. 😀

  5. AD Roberts says:

    Well, I just posted a comment that was not in violation of rules. But this site refuses to allow it. It was only commenting about the nature of a particular group who DO have unquestioned control. 'But apparently, they don't allow ANY CRITICIM.

  6. Phillip the Bruce says:

    How about "White History Month"?

  7. DABoutin says:

    Everyone one in America has a story.. I think Tal Fortgang, has a history he should be proud of, the stoey of their lives were amazing, how close to death they were but they never gave up,,No one should have to “check your privilege”.. His Great grandparents gave him all the privileges.. This Country wasn't built by just rich people.. It was built by Native Americans and Irishmen, Scotchmens, Chineses, Germans, Polishs, Jewishs and many more.. They all came here for a better life and to be a American.. They all worked hard and even fought for America.. So no one has the right to tell you to" check your privilege”…No One..

  8. Thank you so much for this article. Bravo! Life today is about levels of education; which is available to all of us in America. Playing the race card is an insult to everyone who grew up after the 60's. We have a black President! Isn't that enough to prove that things have changed?

  9. RLOwen says:

    This was an excellent article. It never ceases to amaze me that those that hate being judged by their sex or skin color are so willing to judge others. I have always accepted those I meet as individuals and judge them only as compatible or not, competent or not, entertaining or not. Except for liberals. They're just annoying, That works for me. See my blog at http://cranky-conservative.blogspot.com

  10. Skillet56 says:

    How about a "White Miss America"

  11. saltporkdoc says:

    "…history or politics…"
    POLITICS PLEASE! I don't care which party or bias (regressive [sic] or conservative doesn't matter either) we need clear thinkers like this young man to "weed the garden" and MAKE history!

  12. Rick Murray says:

    Perfect and right on!!

  13. saltporkdoc says:

    Thank you, and that is both my true feeling and my true political belief.

  14. ken1lutheran says:

    good for him!

    That reminds me of a conversation I had when I was in the National Guard, a long time ago. A black soldier in my unit, one evening in the barracks at summer camp, said, "Your ancestors enslaved my ancestors." I answered him, "You don't know who my ancestors were. One of my great great grandfathers was killed at Fredericksburg. Another was wounded at Fair Oaks, and another at Spotsylvania Court House. Another was a regiment commander at Gettysburg. They put their lives on the line, and one of them gave his life, so that you could be free–so that your sorry ass could be here telling me how they had enslaved your ancestors." (*Arthur B. Fuller, 19th MA, killed at Fredericksburg; Arthur Cain, 10th MA, wounded at Spotsylvania Court House; James R. Howes, 10th MA, wounded at Fair Oaks; Rufus Dawes, commander, 6th Wisconsin, at Gettysburg and many other battles.)

  15. SCSOCAL says:

    Whatever happened to free speech Thumper? This is the way the left controls us, making us adhere to their definition of what speech is. Do you not see this?

  16. SCSOCAL says:

    DABoutin – This is the left telling us how and what we can say. It's not about the color of your skin or the size of your bank account.
    We are being controlled by the PC crowd.

  17. How about a "White Miss America" What does that even mean?

  18. It's the politically correct a hole police.

  19. Corsica says:

    Just who was telling Fortgang to check his privilege? The University? Who were calling themselves his "moral superiors"? His response was admirable and showed heroic restraint. I, being a vulgar person, would've responded by telling them to eat hot death and lick my ball sweat.

  20. Corsica says:

    You should've told him that his ancestors' sorry-ass Chief sold them into slavery and to find that chief's descendants and bitch to them.

  21. Sutekh says:

    The big racism these days is that people who never were slaves, whose ancesters were never slaves, think that because their skin color is the same color as the former slaves, that they have the right to persecute and disenfranchise anybody whose skin color is the same as that of the former slave owners — even if these people never owned slaves themselves, and hae no ancestors who did.

    The White=Descendant of slave owner and Black=Descendant of slave formula used by these racists totally ignores the fact that in anteBellum days there were black ;plantation owners who owned black slaves, and had no intention of freeing them, because it was against their own self-interest to do so.

    The facts just don't fit the neat little "I'm black and you're white so you owe me" mantra, so the facts are ignored.

  22. Barbaree says:

    You don't know!?

  23. Barbaree says:

    And what about moochelle checking HER privilege when she got everything handed to her at Princeton.

  24. The propaganda about slavery in the US conveniently ignores the fact that there were indeed black ;plantation owners who owned and "worked" black slaves. They had no intention of letting these slaves go because they benefited so much from them. One of these blacks who owned black slaves was Andrew Durnford, of New Orleans. When he died, he owned seventy slaves, quoted as being worth about $71,000.

    So, truthfully, every black person should be telling every other black person "Your ancestors enslaved my ancestors." Considering that slavery is still going like gangbusters in Africa, that is the truth.. The most recent example is the threat of the leader of Boko Harom to sell into slavery the Nigerian girls he had kidnapped. Boko Harom was defended by Hillary Clinton, who fought long and hard to prevent it from being officially designated as a terrorist group.

    As Andrew Durnford wrote, "Self-interest is a la mode."