For the last month, social media and various news sources have been engaged in a flurry of commentary on Princeton freshman Tal Fortgang's article in the Princeton Tory (described as "a journal of conservative and moderate thought") which he titles, "Checking My Privilege: Character as the Basis of Privilege". In the article, Fortgang essentially claims that those who acknowledge white privilege engage in reverse racism, and fervently critiques those who attempt such things as pointing out the myth of the U.S. meritocracy. The full article can be accessed here: .
First of all, Fortgang's rejection of any acknowledgement of privilege was immediately shocking. As a Jew, even if I have not experienced them personally, I am well aware of the oppression and discrimination against Jewish people that he describes. However, in focusing on his Judaism, he neglects many other privileges which he does benefit from. For one, Jews still benefit from white privilege-many of the unfair structural privileges granted to whites are granted to us white Jews as well, simply because we're still white. In addition, despite his attempts to reject his class privilege by detailing the hard work ethic of his grandparents and parents, he fails to recognize that their successes have given him a certain class privilege. His attempts to pad his own ego around his own academic success leads him to neglect certain distinct privileges that he benefits from.
Also, Fortgang's blatant dismissal of those who describe the "myth of meritocracy" and point out structural racisms and sexisms is not only appalling, but extremely unfair. Not once does he actually argue that these forces do not exist; he simply dismisses them with absurdity, and proceeds to narrate his family's success story under the assumption that he is not benefiting from any sort of unfair privilege. Fortgang's absolute rejection of the idea of these structural issues in U.S. society hinders attempts to heal those problems, and only perpetuates them.
Finally, in the penultimate paragraph, he suggests that poor, "unsuccessful" people exist in that state simply because of poor values or lack of parental involvement. Here, his assumptions about working class society reveal exactly how ignorant he is of the structural oppressions in the capitalist system. There are numerous multifaceted reasons for continued wealth gaps in the United States, and none of them have to do with what Fortgang refers to as "poor values" or "lack of parental involvement". Such insinuations only continue to pad his ego and perpetuate systems of structural racism and oppression.
Yes, Fortgang, you have checked your privilege-and I think you might want to look a bit closer.