Cheryl Carpenter Klimek
May 2, 2014
A freshman at Princeton University wrote an epic rebuttal to the numerous occasions that he’s been told to “check your privilege.”
Tal Fortgang has been at the Ivy League school for only eight months, but has already grown weary of the social justice campaign that assumes he’s there because he’s a white male.
Fortgang posted his story on “The Princeton Tory,” a blogsite touted as “a journal of conservative and moderate thought,” where he explained that some opinions are disregarded merely because of the person voicing them.
“’Check your privilege,’ the saying goes, and I have been reprimanded by it several times this year,” he wrote. “’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.”
While the student says he does not accuse anyone of “overt racism,” he condemns the fact that everything he has accomplished is diminished because they judge him as having been raised in a privileged family.
Fortgang provides a lengthy explanation of the adversity that his “privileged” family had to endure to get to where he is now. Of his grandfather he wrote:
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.
He continued with his grandmother’s story:
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.
Fortgang said his privilege is derived from “those two resilient individuals came to America with no money and no English, obtained citizenship, learned the language and met each other.” They would raise four children, including his father, and send them to City College.
He wrote this of his father’s struggles:
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?
“I have checked my privilege. And I apologize for nothing,” Fortgang concluded.
Read the essay in its entirety here.
H/T: The College Fix