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Check Your Privilege Before You Wreck Your Privilege. Or Make Me Vom.

[ 213 ] May 18, 2014 |

This just in..

Repulsive Privileged Young Prick Who Doesn’t Understand What Privilege Is Writes About Privilege.

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  1. Aimai says:

    I felt just so ashamed of this kid, because he identifies as Jewish and I hold my people to a higher standard than I hold other kinds of people. And then I saw he went to Princeton and my daughter just turned Princeton down and I thought–oh thank god, she won’t be at school with this asshole and his buddies. But mostly I just felt really sad that he was such an incredible jerk and that he was so smug in his misunderstanding of what privilige is, who has it, and what it means to have it. Its not a sin, its not a sign that you are lazy or you don’t “deserve” your good fortune or whatever. Its just a fact of life, an organizing principle, that is usually largely invisible to people who have it. There have been great essays on this topic–especially the one called “All Skulls On: Teaching Intersetionality Through Halo” and the recent essay by some math-computer guy about how much easier it is to do well as a “model minority.”

    The point about teaching about privilige is to get people to reflect honestly on the current state of society and the economy and recognize that inequality in society arises not out of differential inputs but out of differential beginnings and an entire series of fortuitious or disasterous events that some kinds of people weather better than others. Once you recognize that, as a young person, you can begin to see the necessity for social action rather than resting complacently in your elite status.

    • Monty says:

      I felt just so ashamed of this kid, because he identifies as Jewish and I hold my people to a higher standard than I hold other kinds of people.

      Great way to keep the ethical standards of the lowly goyim separate and distinct. I for one will continue to look to the Chosen People for guidance in moral matters; please accept my thanks for providing a shining example to the rest of us in darkness.

      • J. Otto Pohl says:

        I don’t necessarily think that having higher standards for your own ethnic group over others is a good thing. But, this response is plainly anti-Semitic.

        • Yeah, how dare the Palestinian featured in Monty’s link get in the way of a poor, misunderstood Israeli bullet.

          • Malaclypse says:

            When you find yourself arguing that J Otto is an apologist for Israelis, you may perhaps need to become aware of at least some internet traditions. Or carry on being an aggressive asshole with no regard for the history of the community in which you find yourself.

            • Saying someone who links to an article about Palestinian suffering from Israeli violence is Anti-Semitic is risible, since one of J. Ottos’ obsessions is that teh Left overlooks and excuses violence of that sort.

              Just heightening the contradictions for tovarich Pohl.

          • Walt says:

            Is Aimai Israeli? No, she’s American. The only way the link is relevant is if you think that one Jew is automatically guilty of the crimes of all Jews, i.e. if you’re an anti-Semite.

      • Warren Terra says:

        Please do fnck off, and maybe come back when you’ve apprehended the distinction between (1) holding your own people to a higher standard and demanding more of them than you do others; and (2) insisting your own people have achieved a higher standard and are innately better than others.

      • Ronan says:

        jesus people really do get wound up about the oddest stuff online

      • ChrisTS says:

        Holy crap. As an ethicist, I expect better of myself and other ethicists.

        Does that mean I think non-ethicists are inferior?

        No, asshat, it means I hold myself and t-others like t=me to a higher standard which I am not sufficiently arrogant to impose on others.

        • Guggenheim Swirly says:

          I don’t think this is a solid comparison. You can make an argument that as an ethicist, you’d have a reason beyond simple tribalism to hold yourself and those who share your profession to a higher standard. What with being the experts in ethics and all that, due to your education and training and professional experience.

          • Warren Terra says:

            If you prefer, think of it as affiliation with a sports team; ChrisTS’s reference to ethicists is something of a red hrring. Yes, there is a broader cultural identity and an ethical philosophy associated with Judaism, but Aimai’s comment would have worked just fine if she’d instead said she hated to have her identity as a Red Sox fan tarnished by the bad behavior of other Red Sox fans.

            • Aimai says:

              Yeah. I didn’t mean my comment to be taken as a form of Jewish exceptionalism–I’m not into that and I don’t believe in that. It was more in the common spirit shared by many minorities that I really prefer not to have anyone associated with me (geographically, educationally, socially, emotionally, tribally, religiously, ethnically) bring shame and disgrace on the whole lot of us by acting badly or speaking badly. There’s really nothing specifically religious or ethnic about this. If I came from New Jersey I might have said the same thing about Chris Christie.

              A sense of shame over the bad behavior of people in one’s own category–and I’d include in that a sense of shame over the behavior of Americans generally at times–is a perfectly normal human response and it has its functions in society since it impels one to better behavior (in one’s own life) and may impel one to join in censuring the individual, in a social sense, for bad behavior. In fact its related to the common observation that racism is a problem that white people need to deal with and misogyny and sexism are things that men need to deal with. Its not a form of self exculpation, its a form of recognition that work needs to be done.

              • Guggenheim Swirly says:

                I’m not into that and I don’t believe in that

                Just to clarify, I did not think you were or did, based on the sense of you I’ve picked up through all your writings here. I got what you were getting at, even if it may have been somewhat inartfully phrased.

              • Anna in PDX says:

                I think it is not that difficult a concept and that JOP was attempting light humor. It’s the “shanda for the goyim” concept, and most everyone has heard of it and feels the same way about their affiliations, whether ethnic or other.

            • Guggenheim Swirly says:

              Oh sure, I see that. I was mostly just pointing out that “as an ethicist” might not have been the best comparison to make here.

            • ChrisTS says:

              Yes, I should have gone with something broader such as ‘being a professor.’

      • Loud Liberal says:

        I think what Aimai is saying is that, after everything Jews have been through, they should know better. And, most of them do. Then there are the Donald Sterlings and Lloyd Blankfeins of the World.

      • Loud Liberal says:

        How dare Jews defend themselves from far, right wing, extremist, blood thirsty, arab, islamist, fundamentalist, terrorists.

    • ThrottleJockey says:

      Its not a sin, its not a sign that you are lazy or you don’t “deserve” your good fortune or whatever. Its just a fact of life, an organizing principle, that is usually largely invisible to people who have it.

      Hell, I’m neither white nor rich and in some ways I empathize with the kid. Its true that privilege is a useful organizing principle and when it finds its teachable moment its extraordinarily illuminating. “Check your privilege” , however, is about as illuminating as “Shut the fuck up, honky”.

      • DocAmazing says:

        I have encountered honkies who needed to shut the fuck up, and I feel fairly certain that you have too.

      • DrS says:

        Hell, I’m neither white nor rich and in some ways I empathize with the kid. Its true that privilege is a useful organizing principle and when it finds its teachable moment its extraordinarily illuminating. “Check your privilege” , however, is about as illuminating as “Shut the fuck up, honky”.

        Completely unsurprised by your position on this

        • ThrottleJockey says:

          Where I grew up, DrS, “Check yourself (before you wreck yourself)” was an aggressive, in your face comment. It wasn’t meant to spark dialogue. Perhaps “Check you entitlement” has different roots and is meant to spark enlightened dialogue but that’s not how it strikes me. Does it strike you that way?

          • DrS says:

            Oh, go fuck yourself TJ

            • ThrottleJockey says:

              Lulz, I’ll take that for agreement.

                • ThrottleJockey says:

                  That was hilarious. Chris Rock has a great bit like that too: “Out there somewhere is a 1 legged, blind white waiter who if he could trade places with Will Smith would say, ‘Nah I think I’m going to ride this white thing out.’ “

                • Aimai says:

                  Sure, TJ, but there is actually data out there on this. I believe that economics professors have posed the question to students as to whether and for what amount of money they would change races and even white people who dismiss the idea that there is real racism in the world are reluctant to do so for mere money or they demand lots of guarantees and money (in the game) to imagine switching.

                • As with any form of well-done comedy, there is an uncomfortable grain of truth that Louie C.K. changes into a pearl of humor.

          • sharculese says:

            If ‘check you privilege’ strikes you that way it’s because you’re working overtime to read things into it.

            • ChrisTS says:

              I just want to know why we have all given up on the distinctions between ‘you,’ ‘your,’ and you’re.’

              /joke

            • ThrottleJockey says:

              Ice Cube got a #1 hit off that track! You’d have to work overtime not to read that into it!

              A command that is blurted out, usually angrily, by one individual to another as a condemnation of the latter’s behaviour, actions or poor choice of words. Those who indict another with such a phrase normally do so if the said individual has severely offended or insulted them, and are calling upon the individual to think about what they have done and atone for their lack of judgement.

              Variations of this phrase, such as “Check yo self foo!” and “Check yo self before ya wreck yo self” are also used to communicate the same message: correct your behaviour (idiot/before you get in trouble)

          • Area Man says:

            I think “check your privilege” is kind of a douche thing to say, but frankly I don’t believe the kid’s claim that other students repeatedly tell him this, much less that there’s an epidemic of it on college campuses across the nation that a Princeton freshman somehow has first-hand experience with.

      • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks says:

        Of course you do. You really love the taste of boot leather, don’t you?

      • Loud Liberal says:

        Urban Dictionary: honky

        a derogatory term for a Caucasian person.
        there are three main theories for the origin of the word:

        1. the word originated from the practice of white males wishing to hire African-American prostitutes in the 1920’s, and going to the appropriate part of town while honking their car horns to attract the whores. Some versions state that the reason for this was that the white men were too afraid to actually stop in those neighborhoods, so the honking would bring the hookers to them. Others say that since few African-Americans could afford cars back in that time, the honking signaled a higher-paying white client and would quickly gain the prostitutes attention.

        2. the term comes from the word “honky-tonk”, which was used as early as 1875 in reference to wild saloons in the Old West. Patrons of such disreputable establishments were referred to as “honkies”, not intended as a racial slur but still a disparaging term.

        3. “honkie” is a variation of “hunky” and “bohunk”, derogatory terms for Hungarian, Bohemian, and Polish immigrant factory workers and hard laborers in the early 1900’s. African-Americans began to use the word in reference to all whites regardless of specific nation of origin.

        also spelled “honkie”.

        by Dawn Davenport October 27, 2004

        I’m going with #1.

    • Don’t sweat it, somebody‘s got to be the designated shanda fur die goyim.

  2. wjts says:

    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.

    “I’m not saying you’re the real racists here, but I will ask ‘Do you know who the real racists are here?’ and I will answer that question by saying ‘You are’.”

    • sharculese says:

      I wasn’t aware that sentence had a point besides ‘I can’t use just one word when five are available.’

      • Aimai says:

        There’s more than one kind of privilige too. Noting the existence of Class privilege, and white privilige is a kind of class privilige (especially under conditions of legal discrimination, Jim Crow, and redlining or stop and frisk) can’t be described as another form of racism–even when noting that Jews are currently treated as white seems to implicate all jews in a racial class.

        • Aimai says:

          Urk, my apologies for that sentence which, even with the best will in the world, makes no sense.

        • ThrottleJockey says:

          I *think* what he’s saying is that assuming that just because he’s rich and white he’s an asshole is racist and classist. I’d agree with that.

          • Hogan says:

            But I doubt they were assuming it, as opposed to concluding it based on something he’d said or done.

          • Anonymous says:

            “I *think* what he’s saying is that assuming that just because he’s rich and white he’s an asshole is racist and classist. I’d agree with that.”

            pretty much what I got out of it.

          • Warren Terra says:

            “check your privilege” doesn’t mean “you are a complacent racist asshole”; it means “have you considered whether you might come to a very different conclusion viewing the same facts from a very different perspective?”.

            Sure, the suspicion they’re a complacent racist asshole is implied – but the potential for change is also implied. And a lot of this is just about growing up. As twelve year olds, most of us are monsters, precisely because of the same issues being suggested here: most of us assume we deserve everything we’ve got, and don’t really take seriously the interests of others. Part of growing up is learning to have more sincere consideration of others’ viewpoints and interests. This blowhard is hardly the first college kid not to have grown up yet.

            • ChrisTS says:

              I’m with you except about the age issue: 7 year olds are monsters; 12 year olds are pre-next stage monsters.

            • JL says:

              While I was several steps ahead of this guy, I am thankful that nothing I said about issues of social power dynamics (race, gender, etc) as a college freshman ever ended up discussed in the national media.

            • As I understand it, the phrase is meant more along the lines of “check your zipper” than “check yourself” — a brief reminder to consider something one may have forgotten.

              To be fair, I’ve never spent much time on a college campus, so perhaps they are crawling with privilege-checking gangs that rough up innocent white men with rubber hoses while screaming “check your privilege!!!” If that’s happening, I suggest it may be a counterproductive strategy, albeit a satisfying one.

            • mud man says:

              most of us assume we deserve everything we’ve got

              Most of you, maybe. Most of some other people find out that they aren’t ever going to get what they’re told they deserve. They do come to not take seriously the interests of others, tho’.

      • N__B says:

        Check your tenseness privilege.

    • Nick says:

      “Prosperity is the surest breeder of insolence I know.”

  3. Malaclypse says:

    Your font convinces me not to get out of the boat.

    • Barry Freed says:

      I saw some ripe ones in the comments there. But then I thought I heard a tiger so I ran back to the boat.

      • The Dark Avenger says:

        Oh, Jesus, they let Amy out of her den again?

      • bspencer says:

        If the comments are from other Princeton students, I think it’s safe to say that school is churning out some really moronic assholes. I weep for our country.

        • Warren Terra says:

          Even more so than its peers, Princeton is notorious for the entitled assholes it admits. This is not the whole story about wh Princeton undergrads are – I’d not be surprised if it’s a small minority – but they’re just such flamboyantly wealthy pricks. And then of course there are the even more depressing kids who suck up to them …

          • rea says:

            Princeton is notorious for the entitled assholes it admits

            Such as Mr. Justice Alito . . .

          • NewishLawyer says:

            I would say that Princeton and Dartmouth win the biggest throwback awards among the Ivy Leagues.

            Brown is the most liberal probably. Cornell, Harvard, Yale, are all over the map. I have no idea how to classify UPENN.

            • Lee Rudolph says:

              I attended Princeton as an undergraduate, and nine years after arriving on its campus I arrived at Brown’s for my first teaching job. Since leaving Princeton I’ve rarely returned (and never in the role of an alumnus, nor in a role where I would have run into undergraduates), but I’m on the Brown campus several times a year (I live reasonably nearby and use its library a lot), though again I rarely meet undergraduates (or anyone else besides librarians…). “Most liberal” or not (back when I worked there, definitely NOT, compared to, say, Columbia, where I worked next), Brown seemed to me to be just as full of entitled assholes as Princeton had been (which is to say, pretty damned full).

          • DrDick says:

            Matriculating entitled assholes is the primary function of the Ivies, along with actually educating the technocrats who will run the world for them.

        • Linnaeus says:

          Count me in as not surprised that elite colleges can attract (and produce) elite assholes.

  4. Nobdy says:

    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.”

    Environmentalism’s benefits don’t accrue just to your particular bloodline but to your community and to a lesser extent humanity as a whole. It’s not at all like passing down property or “a set of values” (Please substitute middle to upper class accepted behaviors and mannerisms for values)

    GET A BRAIN, MORAN!

    Also you don’t get to justify your easy life with the sacrifies of those who went before you. “My Grandfather survived the Nazis so I deserve not to be hassled by the police” is a nonsequitor.

  5. Nick says:

    I hate it when writers feel that ‘serious’ subjects require them to eschew contractions — it’s the compositional equivalent of the ‘very special’ sitcom episodes of the 1980s.

    As for the unfortunate state of being male, young, and having a lot to say, well — most people grow out of it naturally without leaving too many cringe-making artefacts behind, this poor fellow is going to have it worse than many. I bet Twain has an epigraph or two that might apply . . .

    • Nobdy says:

      This kid is going to be venerated among the kind of right-wing fartsniffers who pray for any young conservative voices to come along and allow them to convince themselves that their ideology won’t die along with their generation and then spend the rest of his life rich and surrounded by other self-satisfied fartsniffers or toadies and underlings.

      I doubt he will ever regret his terrible essay.

      • Aimai says:

        I find that hard to believe. He’ll be celebrated among people like him, of course, but I doubt very much that his real life social circle is full of people exactly like him and most people reading that are going to be revolted. I also think stuff like this looks different when you are writing it for a small audience, and then after it goes viral. I’d be very interested, just as a matter of anthropological inquiry, to see where he lands on whether writing this was a good idea in three or four years.

        • Nick says:

          “It is by the goodness of God that we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.”

        • J. Otto Pohl says:

          I think in three to four years it will be totally irrelevant. Nobody will remember it or care and current obsession with privilege on US university campuses will have been replaced by something else. Really, this is a tempest in a teapot. Very rarely do the writings of university students, people who are be definition still in the process of learning, have any lasting effects. I suppose there are a few exceptions like God and Man at Yale or the Port Huron Statement. But, I am pretty sure this is not one of the more durable ones. Which is overall a good thing.

          • Barry Freed says:

            The writer has an eminently googleable name. Unless he’s going for a career on Wall Street he may not make it past the asshole filter.

            • Warren Terra says:

              The recent European High Court ruling means he may be able to pursue a career across the pond free of repercussions from his vile juvnalia.

            • N__B says:

              the asshole filter.

              Man, I hate cleaning those.

            • Anonymous says:

              “Unless he’s going for a career on Wall Street he may not make it past the asshole filter.”

              I feel certain his plans include a future where being a tortured, flaming asshole is considered an asset, not a liability. while wall street may have the highest concentration of tortured, flaming assholes, it is by no means the only place that revels in them.

          • Nick says:

            I dunno — look for an essay about the pudgy kid who became famous at the dawn of the Internet age for doing something with a lightsabre. That really affected his life negatively, and since then we’ve become quite familiar with the phenomenon of someone who does something stupid and ruins their life. That woman who made a crack about AIDS and South Africa on Twitter is a recent example; I am personally uncomfortable with the way that indiscretions have permanent, seismic effects on lives. This kid is a dumb boor, he’s 18, it’s no favour to him to have his boorishness magnified to the level it’s reached, and he won’t even realize that for a while.

        • Nobdy says:

          He’ll be celebrated by conservatives. Bill Kristol goes to cocktail parties. BILL KRISTOL. If there are people who can stand to be around and even, ugh, friends with him, then people will be friends with this kid.

          THAT’S RIGHT, BILL KRISTOL HAS FRIENDS WHO CLAIM TO LIKE HIM!

          • LosGatosCA says:

            Other than family, fellow wing nut welfare recipients, and people who want to leverage a relationship with Kristol into a permanent seat on the wingnut welfare circuit, exactly who would be friends with Kristol?

            Paying members of National Review cruises are the closest things I can think of – and that ain’t even close.

          • ThrottleJockey says:

            C’mon Kristol is funny in his quirky way. Even Jon Stewart is friends with him!

        • Phooey the Lurker says:

          His father told the press that although he was proud of his son, he (the dad) believed it was reckless for Tal to publish his heartfelt thoughts. Not sure whether Fortgang senior worried about the boy’s getting laid, though.

        • comingstorm says:

          Don’t worry. His daddy’s rich, so he won’t suffer any significant consequences.

      • Consider it his “audition” for the NRO “Corner”.

    • Nick says:

      “Education is the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty.”

    • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks says:

      I feel the need to point this out:

      As for the unfortunate state of being male, young, and having a lot to say, well — most people grow out of it

      That’s part of the problem, society’s background assumption that the default is male.

  6. Some guy says:

    It’s always white liberals writing about white privilege, like they’re the protectors. The only ones smart enough to tell job-whites why other whites, not them, are arrogant about their privilege.

  7. laura says:

    Talk about Republicanism as identity politics. His ancestors did his suffering for him so screw the rest of you, he’s got his.

    • Karen says:

      That’s perfect. At least the old nobles felt some oblige, but this guy can’t be bothered.

      • laura says:

        Also the guy might want to check his privilege facts on the “crippling national debt” since, you know, the deficit projections actually look pretty ok these days.

        • N__B says:

          How much debt can you really run up crippling Nationals? I mean, there’s a maximum of 25 men on the roster.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Look, actually examining Dept to GDP ratios doesn’t change the FACT of BIG SCARY NUMBERS. The proves that liberals simply privilege math over feelings. Don’t you care about his feelings?

          • laura says:

            lol. In all seriousness, I could make room for feelings (naivety etc) if the whole gist of the piece weren’t “I’m the rational one who sees the world as it is”. But the big scary numbers are obviously being imagined as $ being spent on people who didn’t pull themselves up by the bootstraps like this kid(‘s parents). I could muster some sympathy like others in the thread if he was making a straight-up argument about the fact that people tell him to “check his privilege” in class without knowing his back-story. But that he morphs from that to a coded screw-the-poor-Tea-Parteeee! message so easily tells me any sympathy would be wasted.

  8. Karen says:

    These d-bags don’t even know what the word “privilege” means. Thousands of years of Western literature and philosophy teaches us to be grateful for those good things we enjoy that we haven’t earned; he comes along and spits on that idea. Instead of being happy that his parents and grandparents provided him a happy, safe, and stable childhood so that he could be admitted to Princeton, he complains that people notice that he received all those good things and ask him to consider the fact that other people didn’t have those benefits.

  9. calling all toasters says:

    Give the kid a break. He’s an 18 year-old from New Rochelle. The girls he knew in high school didn’t face a glass ceiling– they undoubtedly went off to colleges (including the best) at higher rates than the boys. He’s probably known very few black people or Latinos, and no poor people.

    So give him a few years– Princeton isn’t exactly CUNY for diversity, but it’s got to be better than a Jewish suburb of New York. I grew up in a different one, and I didn’t have any idea about life at 18 either. If he still doesn’t get it by graduation, THEN he’s a douche.

    • calling all toasters says:

      Just to clarify, let me add that I don’t think he felt any privilege compared to anyone in high school, and is a little shocked to be accused of this at college. If, indeed, he has been accused of it….

    • JazzBumpa says:

      So, for now he’s just a proto-douche?

    • New Rochelle has a population that is 19% African-American and 20% Latino. The A-A population centered around 5th Avenue counted Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee among its luminaries. The commercial district on Main St is anchored by Mexican restaurants that are better than any in NYC. If this kid was ensconced in a bubble, it was not because he grew up in New Rochelle.

    • Nick says:

      Look, I’d be happy to give the kid a break if this were

      And this?

      “Furthermore, I condemn [people who hurt my fee-fees by telling me to check my privilege] 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.”

      This is inexcusable and should be a cause of considerable embarrassment for the university.

      It is objectively true that the United States is not a meritocracy – quite obviously true because, for instance, black people and women are underrepresented in mathematics despite being equally capable as white men. It is also objectively true that the ‘equal protection clause’ is, okay maybe not a ‘myth’, but an elusive beast indeed, unless you can give an equally-protected explanation as to why there are a few 99% nonwhite high schools within a few miles of my apartment (in a ~50% white city).

      Things like these are, of course, due to a centuries-long racist and sexist conspiracy that, though weakened, still exists at nearly all levels of society, even if white male Princeton freshmen (and probably many professors) blithely dismiss it out of hand. The denial of these two obvious facts is a major symptom of white male privilege.

      Tal Fortgang is a freshman from New Rochelle, NY. He plans to major in either History or Politics.

      So he’s a youngster, ill-trained, etc. I hope Princeton teaches that ‘fact-free white supremacist resentment’ isn’t a solid framework for understanding US race relations. Maybe he’ll learn to read a book, too. That helped me quite a bit.

      • Nick says:

        Damnit:

        “Look, I’d be happy to give the kid a break if this were…” an extemporaneous speech that he didn’t realize he had to give. Only then would his ignorance be forgivable.

      • DocAmazing says:

        I hope Princeton teaches that ‘fact-free white supremacist resentment’ isn’t a solid framework for understanding US race relations.

        That’s a better take than “fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

    • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks says:

      The girls he knew in high school didn’t face a glass ceiling– they undoubtedly went off to colleges (including the best) at higher rates than the boys.

      They’ll hit it eventually. More likely in the workplace than in college.

      • JL says:

        And they’ve probably hit other forms of marginalization for being female already. Otherwise-privileged women still experience sexism/misogyny (this is an add-on to your comment, not an argument with it).

        • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks says:

          Agreed. For example, the higher the economic strata, the more intense the pressure is on women to be very thin.

          This isn’t to say that they’re not better off on the whole than working-class or poor women, just that societal misogyny manifests in different ways up and down the ladder.

    • Chris says:

      Having been a teenage right wing asshole (high school rather than college, but still), I certainly can’t disagree and hope he breaks out of it too.

      I’m just worried that now that he’s a published Right Wing Asshole, he’s going to find himself swamped with attention from College Republicans and other such groups (even adult blogs and “news” networks and the like) assuring him that he did nothing wrong, treating him like a hero, and in a year or two even starting to open doors for him on the Wingnut Welfare Circuit.

      It’s hard to get someone to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. Even harder when his social networks and his self-image as a worthy person also start to depend on it.

  10. Pupienus Maximus says:

    I used to get high on life but alas, I built up a tolerance.

  11. Murc says:

    I will just say that this guy seems to be missing the point. People who are arguing with you in good faith who tell you to check your privilege are not telling you that your privilege makes you a bad person. In many cases, they may not even be telling you that you are wrong, although that will often be the case.

    What they’re telling you to do is ‘take a step back and really think about how you got where you are.’ That’s it. That’s all. And that’s advice those of us who are, as John Scalzi said, playing life on easy mode can all use from time to time.

    It’s true there are smug assholes who will deploy the term as if it’s some kind of magical argument-winner. Guess what? There are smug assholes who will deploy literally every useful rhetorical term ever as a magical argument-winner. I did debate club with someone who would point at people and yell “Poisoning the well!” in the tones of someone laying down a trump card anytime someone tried to pre-rebut obvious rejoinders to their arguments.

    In short, this dude is about one step up from the people who think that their three a.m dorm room discussions have solved all the problems raised by classical philosophy.

    • Karen says:

      This. +1,000,000,000.

      Privileges are usually good things, like having received a good education, speaking correct standard English, or growing up with both parents in a safe and economically secure family. Realizing that not everyone has those things and and that the subject himself didn’t earn them is a big step on the way to maturity.

      • Murc says:

        And even when they’re not good things, they usually don’t speak badly of the person enjoying them.

        Having the privilege having to worry about getting pulled over all the time because you’re white doesn’t say a goddamn thing about you and your personal morals. At all. How you react to that fact being obviously true and what it says about our society does.

    • ThrottleJockey says:

      What they’re telling you to do is ‘take a step back and really think about how you got where you are.’ That’s it. That’s all.

      Perhaps in theory. When I’ve read it its meant as a pat put down, not an invitation to dialogue.

      • Murc says:

        That’s happened, yeah. As I said, there isn’t a useful rhetorical tool in the world that hasn’t been used by smug assholes.

        Although worth noting: most often, people telling you to check your privilege often do mean “you’re wrong and don’t even know it.” It doesn’t necessarily mean that, but it often does.

        And maybe you are wrong and don’t even know it. If you have been on the receiving end of “check your privilege” and you are reasonably sure the person deploying it is arguing in good faith, it behooves you to take a minute and think about things. You can always reply “Well, it’s true that I’m privileged, but I still think I’m right. Perhaps you can expand on your point some? I’m open to being convinced here.”

        • Ronan says:

          yeah i agree. ive come around to this position after being a little annoyed when i first came across the rhetorical tool that is ‘privilege checking’ (primarily on twitter)

        • LeeEsq says:

          If you want somebody to reconsider their position and reflect on things, telling them to “check their privilege” seems like one of the least useful ways to do it. A lot of people, especially the privileged, aren’t prone to reconsidering things in the first place and attempting to do so in a very hostile manner only works in fiction usually.

          • JL says:

            I’m a bit curious how many people have ever used the actual phrase “check your privilege” outside of the Internet. I never have, and I spend an awful lot of my time in social justice circles. I do participate in meatspace conversations where the sentiment of “check your privilege” comes up, but it’s expressed in a more detailed or tactful way.

    • NewishLawyer says:

      I have to agree with throttle jockey here. There is a good way to ask someone to check their privilege and a bad way. Using the short hand of check your privilege is usually the bad way. Maybe people who are seeped in the social justice movement understand what the shorthand means but the average person does not and just hearing “check your privilege” is going to sound like “You are bad and should feel bad.”

      It is generally better (but also much harder) to ask biographical questions which make the same point like whether said person ever faced food insecurity as a child or needed to miss out on a fun activity because his or her parents could not afford it like a school trip to an amusement park, etc.

      Hillel works well here “What is painful to you. Do not do to others.”

      There is also the fact that I know see people posting Buzzfeed privilege quizes on facebook and talking about how humbled they are. The cynic in me raises an eyebrow at this. Perhaps unfairly.

      • Ronan says:

        I have a lot of sympathy with this, but also..I just find it hard to really care if people misuse the term(which they do, I dont doubt). The concept (to me) of privilege is useful and correct (even if also banal and obvious in a lot of ways)
        I’ve no doubt people use it at times (a lot?) to shut down conversation or engage in ad hominem attacks, but then why engage with those people ? I’dont mean this dismissively of what you and TJ are saying, but undergrads will be undergrads(which is why I have some sympathy for this Tal dude)and people will be people. We have choices who to engage with and who not, and if someone purposely seeks out engagement with a group of people they know will respond with hostility to their positions then I can only really muster so much concern.

        • NewishLawyer says:

          If anything I think the fact that his story went big is going to make him double down more. My bet is that if this remained on Princeton, he would probably regret the story by the time he graduated or was in his mid 20s.

        • ThrottleJockey says:

          Oh, Ronan, I’m not all that concerned. I suppose a lot of this is personal style. I’ve seen people use “the direct approach” skillfully. After hearing one white guy say he had recently moved to a distant suburb, a (black) friend of mine responded, “Damn, white people would move to Mars to get away from black people!” Everyone just laughed. Perhaps its all in the delivery.

      • Warren Terra says:

        There is a good way to ask someone to check their privilege and a bad way.

        Sure; a snapped retort of “Check your privilege!” is confrontational and unlikely to inspire introspection. But the basic idea is a worthy one, and anyone who is being aggressively told to “check their privilege” has likely been behaving as something of an asshole themselves.

        people posting Buzzfeed privilege quizes on facebook and talking about how humbled they are. The cynic in me raises an eyebrow at this. Perhaps unfairly

        Ah, yes, the ostentatious display of affected humility. Always a problematic phenomenon.

  12. NewishLawyer says:

    Ah the Tal Fortgang saga. Here are some of thoughts.

    1. Like Aimai, I wonder why the tiny majority of American Jews who are conservative seem to have the loudest and most broadcast voices. 70-80 percent of American Jews are Democratic voting and liberal, why is it that the Snyders, Sterlings, and Fortgangs get into the news more oftehn?

    2. I am sort of surprised that this story made it big. He wrote a rather strident essay that is typical of college freshman stridency everywhere. Most people who write these essays end up being deeply ashamed of them by the time they are 25 if not earlier. How did this kid get reprinted in Time and talked about in the NY Times? His story/hypothetical is not really unusual.

    3. I am not surprised that there is a publication called The Princeton Tory. What I can’t tell whether is they are being sincere, trolling, or both. My guess is sincere.

  13. joe from Lowell says:

    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.

    This is the most common mistake you see from people who don’t understand the concept of privilege.

    No one thinks anyone laid things out for you; 98% of the work of privilege takes the form of things that don’t happen.

    You don’t get busted for weed. You don’t get distracted from learning by hunger pangs your mother can’t afford to satiate. You aren’t traumatized by someone getting shot outside your building. On and on and on – you go through life, and nothing happens to screw you up. That’s privilege.

    • Murc says:

      No one thinks anyone laid things out for you

      Er, actually, yes, they do. And usually justifiably so.

      It’s possible to be a hard worker and also to have had things laid out for you. I have enormous amounts of social capital (as well as actual capital) that exists because it was laid out for me explicitly by my parents and their parents.

      • Colin Day says:

        It’s possible to be a hard worker and also to have had things laid out for you.

        Yeah, as if Bill Gates was born with a million-dollar trust fund.

        Oh, wait.

  14. Major Kong says:

    He seems like a fine, strapping young lad.

    I’m sure he’ll be signing up for a stint in the US military so that he can give back something to the country that has given him and his family so much opportunity.

    (crickets)

  15. Ns says:

    Picking on kids under 20? Typical LGM class!

    • DrDick says:

      Picking your nose and eating it? Typical of our no-class trolls.

      • Warren Terra says:

        Careful with your allegation there – apparently this is the sort of thing that conservatives take very seriously indeed. One of their eagle-eyed reporters for The Daily Tncker realized that C-SPAN had maybe caught a Democratic Congressman picking his ear and then sucking on his finger, and this threat to our way of life was the subject of a four-day extravaganza in the Wingosphere in ways that, say, the House budget chair’s tax proposals were not.

  16. Nick says:

    LGM, I just thought I’d mention that for some reason this page keeps raising Bitdefender’s hackles, you might want to check for malware.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I’ve read this thing about ten times, and here is where I think this particular asshole goes catastrophically, historically, wrong:

    “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.”

    Black Americans did not enjoy any of those things, from the mid 1600’s up until now. Check your white, Western European privilege, which has obviously won you a spot in the great American rat race.

    • Patricia Kayden says:

      Exactly. At a minimum he should acknowledge that only recently has America cared little about a person’s race given that Jim Crow didn’t officially end until the late 1960s (and unofficially well beyond the 60s).

    • JL says:

      What I want to know is how a young Jewish person grows up thinking that this society cares not about religion or race, but the content of your character. The Jewish side of my family is relatively politically conservative by the standards of US Jews, but I learned young why my grandparents had anglicized our surname (to avoid discrimination by med schools), and being aware of my grandmother’s internalized anti-Semitism around things like nose size.

    • Ronan says:

      Yes, of course. But also lets chill the fuck out for a minute. He’s a twenty year old college student who *at least* has expressed enough thoughtfulness to consider his own family history, how it fits into this debate and how discrimination was suffered by his relatives and how they were excluded from the societies they lived in. (he doesnt flesh it out completly, but it’s a start a lot dont make) He engaged with the concept of privilege in the US in a sloppy, half assed way, but he made an attempt to engage it. (acknowledging that life is ‘more difficult for POC’, although he also didn’t bring this to it’s logical conclusions) So he made an attempt, he’s twenty, and he seems intelligent and thoughtful enough to learn. (all things going well)
      Plenty of people dont *really* recognise the privilege they hold, even those who feel versed in and accept the concept.They accept that there is class privilege, or race privilege, or privilege built into where you grow up etc, and they are able to engage with that, and acknowledge how it manifests itself in society, but also rare to examine specifically how it effects their life.So they might acknowledge the ways they are privileged, but usually as an addendum to their primary interest (areas where they arent) Which is what he did, also.*
      I would say most people on IVY league campus’ are privileged in hugely important way. Even those from poorer backgrounds are probably not going to have an adult life marred by brutal poverty (although they might be poor at times)So I could imagine that these debates in general could suffer from the same parochialism and self centredness that Tal exhibited, so I wouldnt beat up on him too much. It seems to be built into the argument in a lot of ways.

      *I dont think he lacks privilege in any area of his life worth talking about, of course.

  18. rmgosselin says:

    I’ve read this thing about ten times, and here is where this particular asshole goes catastrophically, historically, wrong:

    “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.”

    Black Americans did not enjoy any of those things, from the mid 1600′s up until now. Check your white, Western European privilege, which has obviously won you a spot in the great American rat race.

  19. Thursday says:

    Once more: bragging about what your ancestors accomplished is taking credit for other people’s work.

    Your precedents had to fight against a privileged class that was trying to keep them down? Good for them. Guess who “those people” are now…?

  20. Bloix says:

    He says:

    “Perhaps it’s the privilege my grandfather and his brother had to flee their home as teenagers when the Nazis invaded Poland… 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…

    Or maybe it’s the privilege my grandmother had of spending weeks upon weeks on a death march through Polish forests in subzero temperatures…

    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…”

    But none of these things happened to him. They are not his experiences and it’s – well, perhaps obscene is too strong, but unbecoming, certainly – for him to use them in this way. He doesn’t have the right to their experiences, particularly when he shows no sign then they are anything more than a rhetorical tool he can deploy for his personal benefit.

    His own life has been an almost literal bed of roses. And there’s nothing wrong with that! But he can’t legitimately appropriate the suffering of others just because they happen to be related to him.

    It used to be that Jews called on their ancestors’ experiences of oppression as a reason to fight injustice against others. The Bible is pretty clear:

    “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as a native from among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

    But now there are Jews, like this kid, who use the oppression and endurance of their grandparents to justify their own callous arrogance.

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