College Freshman Sparks Debate With White Privilege Piece

A Princeton University freshman wrote a piece for The Princeton Tory expressing his frustration with racial discrimination he’s received for being a white male, and now, his opinion piece has gone viral, sparking strong reactions on both sides.

Tal Fortgang says in his piece that he has been told multiple times to “check his privilege” as a white male.

“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,” writes Fortgang. “‘Check your privilege,’ the saying goes, and I have been reprimanded by it several times this year. 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.”

His key points can more or less be summarized by this paragraph:

"That’s the problem with calling someone out for the 'privilege' which you assume has defined their narrative. You don’t know what their struggles have been, what they may have gone through to be where they are. Assuming they’ve benefitted from “power systems” or other conspiratorial imaginary institutions denies them credit for all they’ve done, things of which you may not even conceive. You don’t know whose father died defending your freedom. You don’t know whose mother escaped oppression. You don’t know who conquered their demons, or may still conquering them now."

Fortgang went on to describe his family history and said he makes no apologies for being a white male.

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. It’s not a matter of white or black, male or female or any other division which we seek, but a matter of the values we pass along, the legacy we leave, that perpetuates “privilege.” And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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. 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.

While Fortgang’s piece has garnered a lot of support, others have come back at the college freshman and challenged his views.

“But perhaps the most infuriating and telling part of Fortgang’s op-ed is its ending: ‘I have checked my privilege. And I apologize for nothing.’ Except, he clearly hasn’t checked his privilege—because he doesn’t even understand what it is,” writes Dunni Oduyemi and Paul Guliani for The Columbia Spectator. “The very act of writing a defense of white privilege (and a condemnation of those who point to it) is in itself an exercise of the very entitlement he refuses to acknowledge."

Fortgang, who is from New Rochelle, New York, has yet to publicly comment on the debate that his piece has sparked.


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