Where’s My Privilege?

On April 2nd, a freshman named Tal Fortgang at our sister publication, The Princeton Tory, wrote a piece called “Checking My Privilege” that has blown up the editorial pages across the country with a polarizing debate about “white privilege”–the advantage that whites, particularly white males, receive because of the systematic racism that allegedly lingers in the United States. Publications like The New York TimesReal Clear PoliticsThe BlazeThe New RepublicTime, SalonBBC, and Gawker have all had something to say about Tal’s controversial op-ed. Today, Dani Bernstein, a Cavalier Daily opinion editor, weighed in on the matter. Like the other left-leaning publications before them, The Cavalier Daily was swift to enforce the argument that in America, being white is the key to success.

Tal obviously had something to vent. Unlike the University of Virginia, schools like Princeton University have a long history of coolness towards non-progressives, to put it lightly. Personally, I had never heard the phrase “check your privilege” before Tal’s story gained national attention, which perhaps helps to explain why The Cavalier Daily had a much nicer reaction than some national news outlets.

Gawker’s “Conservative Money Front Is Behind Princeton’s ‘White Privilege’ Guy” is of particular noteworthiness. Not only did Adam Weinstein–yes, the same Adam Weinstein who wants to “Arrest Climate-Change Deniers”–brandish the usual attacks against white privilege, but he also noted how the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) and the Collegiate Network (CN) fund publications like The Princeton Tory and The Virginia Advocate as a part of their national effort to mobilize the “campus right-wing outrage industry.”

I take that as a compliment, Mr. Weinstein. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that nightmares of teenage conservatives publishing right-wing blog posts have invaded the dreams of progressives across the country. (Forget being a white male, that is privilege enough!) And here is why: before The Virginia Advocate planted its flag on the Grounds of the University of Virginia, The Cavalier Daily stood alone with its generous grants from the administration and its prerogative to bar conservatives from entering into its staff. Before The Princeton Tory came to be, The Daily Princetonian monopolized student news in the same fashion. In fact, for every CN publication across the country, there is an official left-wing student newspaper that has dominated school media since time immemorable.

Is that “privilege,” Mr. Weinstein? Is the fact that as a conservative I have no chance of having my opinion heard in my school newspaper really a privilege? Then again, I suppose it is privilege enough that I have not been arrested for being skeptical of flawed climate change models that predicted the submergence of Florida in the 1970s, 1980s, and once again in the 2000s for good measure. Perhaps you should check your facts, Mr. Weinstein, and take into consideration that conservatives, not blacks or Asians or gays or women, are the most oppressed people on a college campus, something that The Cavalier Daily and The Daily Princetonian never let us forget on a daily (*bi-weekly) basis.

Enough with Gawker. Both Tal Fortgang and Dani Bernstein’s editorials bring up their “rags-to-riches” family histories as recent immigrants to the United States. Yet, what is most intriguing is that neither columnist mentioned how people who we may consider to be “white” today were once derided as something else not too many decades ago. As a second-generation Italian immigrant, I cannot help but feel amused when people say that Jewish, Italian, Irish, and Slavic are just another word for “white.” I doubt that anyone considered my Italian grandparents to be another band of white people coming off the boat to Boston, Massachusetts. The Italians and Irish received wholesale discrimination up through the Civil Rights Movement, and the de facto residential segregation of blacks was much the same with Italians in the Greater Boston area before the city government decided to demolish the “white” ethnic communities of the West End to make way for more sightly high rises.

Thus as a white conservative, I would like to ask, where is my privilege? Was my family supposed to have it when the city of Boston demolished their homes? Was I supposed to have it when The Cavalier Daily threw out my magazines and told our writers and editors to get lost? Were my friends supposed to have it when they were laughed out of our politics seminars by both students and professors for their political beliefs? Is getting spat on for holding a Romney sign a privilege? Is seeing your RA tell a black conservative girl that she “lost her black card” for supporting Romney a privilege? To suggest that Tal Fortgang and thousands of other “whites” across the country do not deserve to have a voice because some white people in the past orchestrated horrific actions against others is preposterous.

Whether you like it or not, conservatives are the most oppressed people on a college campus today, which is precisely why publications like The Virginia Advocate and The Princeton Tory exist. The day that The Cavalier Daily stops publishing hateful nonsense is the day that the CN loses its purpose and that The Virginia Advocate will dissolve itself. For however much I have come to love both organizations and the protection that they provide for me, I would love to live to see the day when our service is no longer needed. To come out as a conservative in a world where Hollywood, the media, and academia are wholly against you is no easy task; and while it is a task that some of us relish, it is certainly no privilege.

By Rob Mogni, Editor in Chief

Postscript: the same ethnic discrimination against groupings of “whites” still exist today. Attend a European soccer game and see just how vulgar the fans of the opposing team are towards not only other nationalities, but mere regions and cities too. In fact, I would venture to say that whites bear their strongest hatreds towards other white people. Just look to Crimea in Ukraine, Wallonia in Belgium, Catalonia in Spain, and other “white” places in the world where the divisions are so strong that people are willing to fight and die for a partition of their own countries. 

0 thoughts on “Where’s My Privilege?

  1. This is a wonderful and thoughtful column as is Tal Fontang’s column which it alludes to. The only flaw in it is the little aplology to progressives that Conservatives seem compelled to include regarding slavery as an awful treatment of a people by other people. To be brief, the women and children who were left at home on plantations when the men went to oppose a vulgar murderous invader were never at threat of slave uprising–it did not occur. Why? Because slaves were almost never mistreated as lying abolitionists would have us believe. For the most part they were very well treated and cared for. We owe liberals no apology.

  2. A slightly inconsequential comment, but the Catalan movement for independence is neither fueled by hatred for the Spanish, nor is it violent in nature. Rather, it comes from a desire for respect and acknowledgement of Catalan culture, language, politics which are very different from Spain. You may want to use a different example in your postscript.

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