Patterico's Pontifications


Next Up: Uncheck Your Privilege

Filed under: General — Dana @ 5:30 am

[guest post by Dana]

Last week, Patterico linked to an essay written by a Princeton student who spoke about the admonishment to check his privilege as a white male.

Students at Columbia University responded .

We decided that we had to respond to this op-ed, which completely misses the point and grossly misinterprets the meaning of privilege and the way it functions.

Tired of feeling like he has to apologize for being a white male, Fortgang is frustrated that his family history is rendered irrelevant by discussions which link skin color with privilege. But nobody is asking for personal apologies for historical injustices—that’s literally not the point.

To be clear, nobody wants, or needs, more nuanced understandings of race than people of color. The fact that family history and other factors that influence a person’s station in society are often ignored in favor of skin tone just speaks to how reductionist our understanding of identity can be.

Fortgang accuses those who tell him he’s privileged of toeing the line of racism. (Let’s forget for a minute the inherent contradiction in the idea of “racism against white people.”) His success, Fortgang argues, should not be diminished to a socially constructed narrative of white male privilege and ascribed to “some invisible patron saint of white maleness.” But what he fails to understand is that this “patron saint” of white maleness isn’t so invisible—historically, socially, and politically, institutions have protected and supported white men. Recognizing the fact that white men benefit from the kinds of racist and sexist structures on which American society is built isn’t meant to diminish his accomplishments. It’s meant to remind us that white men don’t have an inherent predilection for success—the odds have just been stacked in their favor.

Fortgang continues to criticize those who ask him to check his privilege, saying, “Furthermore, I condemn them 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.”

First of all, meritocracy is a myth. We are not all born with the same opportunities to succeed—and that is not a conspiracy.

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. 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.


39 Responses to “Next Up: Uncheck Your Privilege”

  1. So the Walking Dead are going with privilege:

    The Zombie Opposition is sticking with being known as the Party Friendly with Big Business and accommodating of Crony Capitalism when, of course, the Borg gets the bigger paycheck.

    Yeah, that’s the ticket! They are the champions, we are the racists, you know the tune.

    gary gulrud (e2cef3)

  2. “Shut up”, they explained.

    nk (dbc370)

  3. Let’s forget for a minute the inherent contradiction in the idea of “racism against white people.”)

    So to our enlightened darlings at Columbia, there can never ben any racism against whites by “people of color”. Funny, tell that to Spike Lee. Bet they get an “A” for this effort from their Black/Womyn/Homosexual Studies professors.

    Ipso Fatso (10964d)

  4. But, but,..Amnesty?

    You’ll love us then, right?

    gary gulrud (e2cef3)

  5. To summarize the editorial: “Shut Up!,” they explained.

    Xmas (f65ded)

  6. circular logic always seems to come right on back around to the beginning of the argument…

    it’s like a miracle or something! 😎

    redc1c4 (abd49e)

  7. The proper response to such leftist drivel is: Fuck you.

    gahrie (a05ed4)

  8. In today’s society, being white is the new Original Sin. Except there’s no baptism to absolve you of this sin.

    Chuck Bartowski (11fb31)

  9. If these students were about 25 years older and about 450 miles further south, they’d be the Duke University professors from a decade ago, who pretty much decided it didn’t matter if the lacrosse team didn’t rape anyone, they should still be punished because they represented white male privilege.

    John (1bada8)

  10. Privilege, smvilige:

    You don’t need a pile of cash.

    You just need a candidate.

    gary gulrud (e2cef3)

  11. So which is it? Not everyone is born capable of success or not everyone can achieve success because whitey makes it impossible to do so? I am so confused.

    Alix (ff160a)

  12. These students have yet to realize just how little they know. Perhaps time, or circumstances, will change that.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  13. But what he fails to understand is that this “patron saint” of white maleness isn’t so invisible—historically, socially, and politically, institutions have protected and supported white men.

    Okay, so if that’s true, certainly in today’s era and not mainly in the past, then can we assume your lovely liberalism will be the answer? Can we assume that all the do-gooder, left-leaning programs, policies and politicians imaginable — which you all adore — will provide the solution? If so, can we say that never before in US history has so much liberalism saturated America society, both its people and government? And that we’ve witnessed several decades of that liberalism, originating from around the 1960s?

    Okay, great!

    I’m sure you’ll agree that the following location is one of the bluest of blue areas of America, liberal, progressive, compassionate and beautiful from A to Z, and so it’s an ideal testing ground for your ideology and for those who embrace it:, March 25, 2014: Silicon Valley’s biggest names — Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe — reached a settlement today in a contentious $3 billion anti-trust suit brought by workers who accused the tech giants of secretly colluding to not recruit each other’s employees. The workers won, but not much, receiving only a rumored $300 million, a small fraction of the billions the companies might have been forced to pay had they been found guilty in a trial verdict.

    The criminality that the case exposed in the boardrooms the tech giants, including from revered figures like Steve Jobs who comes off as especially ruthless, should not be jarring to anyone familiar with Silicon Valley. It may shock much of the media, who have generally genuflected towards these companies, and much of the public, that has been hoodwinked into thinking the Valley oligarchs represent a better kind of plutocrat–but the truth is they are a lot like the old robber barons.

    Starting in the 1980s, a mythology grew that the new tech entrepreneurs represented a new, progressive model that was not animated by conventional business thinking. In contrast to staid old east coast corporations, the new California firms were what futurist Alvin Toffler described as “third wave.” Often dressed in jeans, and not suits, they were seen as inherently less hierarchical and power-hungry as their industrial age predecessors.

    But the collusion case amply proves what has been clear to those watching the industry: greed and the desire to control drives tech entrepreneurs as much as any other business group. The Valley is great at talking progressive but not so much in practice. In the very place where private opposition to gay marriage is enough to get a tech executive fired, the big firms have shown a very weak record of hiring minorities and women. And not surprisingly, firms also are notoriously skittish about revealing their diversity data. A San Jose Mercury report found that the numbers of Hispanics and African Americans employees in Silicon Valley tech companies, already far below their percentage in the population, has actually been declining in recent years. Hispanics, roughly one quarter of the local labor force, account for barely five percent of those working at the Valley’s ten largest companies. The share of women working at the big tech companies – despite the rise of high profile figures in management—has also showed declines.

    The tech giants claim that they hire cheap workers overseas because of a critical shortage of skilled computer workers but that doesn’t hold up to serious scrutiny. A 2013 report from the labor-aligned Economic Policy Institute found that the country is producing 50% more IT professionals per year than are being employed. Tech firms, notes EPI, would rather hire “guest workers” who now account for one-third to one half of all new IT job holders, largely to maintain both a lower cost and a more pliant workforce.

    In a way, the example of Silicon Valley may, ironically enough, illustrate the “privilege” you’re so flustered by. So although “white male” may have to be stretched a bit to include “Asian male” too, what’s your answer to this dilemma?

    Students of Columbia, walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk! Talk, after all, is dirt cheap.

    I recommend you begin to really excoriate all the people throughout America who are guilty of “limousine liberalism,” starting with yourselves. IOW, don’t be so smug and confident about your ideology. At least start being both privately and publicly embarrassed — truly embarrassed — by liberals and liberalism. That will be a good entry point in dealing with white male privilege, or American imperialism, or whatever.

    Mark (59e5be)

  14. Was there a more vacuous cliche reliant essay ever written? I am sure there has been, but it does not come to mind. As a prior commenter noted, the essay could be condensed into “shut up” and could have conveyed the same message without the window dressing of what was intended to be examples of deep thinking. How thrilled the parents of the authors (had to be more than one because it takes a village and all that…) must be to see their kids think and write like this.

    Kyle (7c7d88)

  15. In my experience, arguing with leftists is like arguing with someone from the “Flat Earth Society”. Their sheer irrationality makes intelligent debate
    almost impossible.

    Bar Sinister (b48c12)

  16. I think we should take their word for it. Columbia is no longer a “meritocracy”. The concept, as they’ve experienced it, “is a myth. We are not all born with the same opportunities to succeed—and that is not a conspiracy.” Indeed it is apparently the way things are at Columbia. No more “gentleman’s C” for them, an “A” for everyone! Just mummble the rant and keep your head down. Become one with the Borg.

    A little time spent reflecting upon the means by which merit has been removed from their education would be illuminating. But these students haven’t been given the foundational knowledge to make such an inquiry. So don’t look for much along these lines. About all they can do is categorize by skin color.

    The only question in my mind is how long parents will want to send their children to such benighted institutions. And what will we do as a society with the human debris that places like Columbia throw off with such predictability.

    bobathome (c0c2b5)

  17. Elect them President?

    nk (dbc370)

  18. “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.”

    Remember, they want us to have a “conversation” about race.

    Daryl Herbert (6fdb1c)

  19. “because he doesn’t even understand what it is”

    How did they get inside his mind and make that determination? Anybody ever notice that only the Left understands things?

    Otto Maddox (990b3b)

  20. Why don’t you all just f-f-fade away,
    Cause you don’t repeat what we all say.

    nk (dbc370)

  21. After reading both sides of this issue, I can’ t help but come away with the feeling this argument is really about ‘individualism’ verses ‘collectivism’.

    cap'n john's nephew (d017c5)

  22. At least they admitted up front that they don’t believe people can be racist towards white with the statement: “(Let’s forget for a minute the inherent contradiction in the idea of “racism against white people.”)”

    This is the truth of the progressives when it comes to race. They don’t believe it can happen towards white people because…the claim goes…white people control the institutions that cause racism. As can be seen here through this gif that floats around places like Tumblr.

    Of course no one has pointed out to these people that a black man now sits at the head of the government and the head of the DOJ. I’d say that qualifies as being a leader of an institution that can discriminate.

    DejectedHead (a094a6)

  23. The only two great things that ever came out of Columbia University are Alexander Hamilton and Lou Gerhig. The rest of that entire campus is mostly useless.

    JVW (05e1e2)

  24. Have any of the white students who agree with the essay made amends for their own ‘privilege’ by dropping out and taking a low-paid job?

    Teflon Dad (53f3f7)

  25. These people with there crypto-Marxist theories fail in a couple of huge regards.

    First, these social structures and institutions they are talking about developed in the Europe, particularly Great Britain, where just everybody was white. You do not need a society nor institutions that support “white privilege” when there aren’t any minorities to lord it over.

    In Europe the Marxists (there’s not need for them to be “crypto” there) say almost the exact same thing. Except it’s the existing “socio econimic class structure.” They exist to support certain socio-economic “privileges,” if you will.

    Here with the need to deny the Marxist roots of this delusion the Marxists and their useful idiots have to graft race and gender onto their economic idiocy. Hence they change the term for “class structure” to “white power structure.”

    Also you can look outside the borders of the US and see that very similar societies that theoretically are organized to support “white privilege” work really well for people from all over the world. Such as in Canada. Where for some reason conservatism hasn’t yet been turned into a synonym for racism. But then in Canada their immigration system is geared more toward attracting entrepreneurial types as well as professionals. So is ours, if you look at our official immigration policy. Unfortunately we have an unofficial policy to import as much as possible an uneducated underclass.

    Actually they work really well for people from all over the world, of all races and colors, in the US as well as long as their minds weren’t poisoned by an American university education. African immigrants do pretty well on the whole. Black African immigrants (roughly 1/5 of African born immigrants are white) do not have the same rates of incarceration and do better economically than American born blacks.

    Steve57 (e86077)

  26. 24.
    I think the expectation is that you wear a tie dye shirt to show that you support all colors.

    Also, as an aside, why was the Buzzfeed privilege quiz mostly about being gay if “white privilege” is all about being institutionally advantaged. Does being gay make you non-white?

    DejectedHead (a094a6)

  27. 19. “because he doesn’t even understand what it is”

    How did they get inside his mind and make that determination? Anybody ever notice that only the Left understands things?

    Comment by Otto Maddox (990b3b) — 5/5/2014 @ 8:42 am

    “White privilege” is a coercive persuasion (CP) technique. It wouldn’t be effective if the target could understand it. To be effective, CP techniques have to destabilize the targets confidence in their ability to perceive the world. That shakes their confidence in their own world view, and if effective gets them ready to adopt another world view. Their “controller’s” world view. And then the target is entirely dependent on the controller because by definition they can never form an independent world view that is valid. In this case, any questioning of the theory or any attempt to provide their own input means they’re still in denial of their “white privilege.”

    Again, if you understand the totalitarian roots of all this it’s not hard to understand.

    Steve57 (e86077)

  28. “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.”

    Being literate is for white folk?

    Phillep Harding (0ae744)

  29. How is “check your privilege” different from “indulge my desire for pity”

    quasimodo (97433f)

  30. So, this just goes to prove you don’t have to be intelligent to get into an ivy league school.

    What a bunch of f’n idiots.

    Jim (145e10)

  31. It’s like the Climate Change cult: No matter what occurs, it is taken as evidence of White Privilege, because Shut Up. There is NO event that can disprove White Privilege, just as there is no event that can disprove Climate Change (to these cultists).

    Mitch (341ca0)

  32. this pidgin marxism, which has led to the perfect :Latin American idiot, by folks who didn’t know any better then a Zinn treatise”

    narciso (3fec35)

  33. 26. — I have a tie-died workout shirt from a bakery I frequent. It says “Bread Heads Unite”. Wearing it in the gym one day, I was berated for not being understanding of those who are gluten-intolerant. When I explained that I bake for family and friends who are so, she told me that didn’t matter, the shirt’s message was intolerant.

    htom (412a17)

  34. This is a classic method of “gaslighting” – it is a form of mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory, perception and sanity.

    In this case he precieves they are engaging in racism and prejudgment of him (they are), and they claim his perceptions are not reliable, that the thing he is complaining about doesn’t even exist, and is not even possible, and besides he is guilty anyway.

    The goal is not to “win” the argument per se. They know there is no logical way for them to win such an argument. The goal is to make him (and by extension us) spend time questioning our perception of events. The next step to to talk about “moving on” and moving past” the disgareement, without actually ever discussing the issue.

    Laborite (6f017a)

  35. Yes, gaslighting is a good description (in case anyone doesn’t know it’s named after a movie, “Gaslight”) but it’s really just the first step in establishing mind control. Also known as brainwashing or coercive persuasion. Not only does the individual doubt their own views, thoughts, or perceptions, but expressions of those thoughts views, thoughts, or perceptions are brutally suppressed.

    Hence the constant streem of insults like bigot or racist if you deviate from the pc line. As someone once wrote, pc = cp. You intimidate people, including those around the the individual you’re targeting, into silence. The only socially acceptable views that can be expressed are the leftist world views.

    Such expressions are approved and rewarded.

    With enough intimidation, and with enough control of the target’s environment so the individual becomes dependent on such approval, you can coercively persuade the target to adopt the new worldview. Which is of course a false worldview.

    Cult’s operate this way. “White privilege” is part of the belief system of the leftist cult. Like global warming.

    Steve57 (e86077)

  36. When some black person argues that s/he doesn’t have white privilege, s/he’s effectively admitting (or even boasting), that s/he’s dumber and less competent than I am, because I had white privilege. With friends like this, minorities don’t need any enemies

    David in Cal (a4b47c)

  37. htom:
    If anything like that happens again, perhaps you should suggest that someone who thinks it’s any of her business to tell strangers what t-shirts they should or shouldn’t wear is pretty f***ing intolerant her damned self.

    Dr. Weevil (3eb6a6)

  38. Here’s my question for the writers of this piece:
    If a White man says that Blacks are all stupid and inferior to Whites, that is clearly racism.
    If a Black man says that Whites are all stupid and inferior to Blacks, what is that if not racism?

    Seriously, if being bigoted against a specific race is not racism, then what do you call it?

    Also, the idea that arguing against an idea is proof that the idea is correct is generally insane, and incredibly insulting. I assert that liberals are naive adolescents, you argue that they are not, I then cite your argument as proof that you are naive adolescents, since only such a fool would argue with this proposition.

    OmegaPaladin (f4a293)

  39. The Columbia students wrote, “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.”

    If you write that the government went overboard against Cliven Bundy, you are “defending racism”.

    If you write that people shouldn’t record private conversations post them on hack websites, you are “defending racism”.

    And now if you attack the concept of “white privilege” you are “writing a defense of white privilege”.

    The novel “1984” was intended as a warning, not a guidebook.

    tyree (84087f)

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