Privilege: Checked and Debated
Fortgang ’17
Fortgang ’17
Courtesy Fox News Channel

A freshman’s essay for the Princeton Tory set off a national stir over the issues of racial and gender privilege.

Tal Fortgang ’17 wrote in the April 2 issue that he is frequently told to “check your privilege” — the inherent social benefits enjoyed by virtue of being white and male — when he expresses opinions contrary to what he perceives as liberal orthodoxies.

“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 display in offering an opinion rooted in a personal Weltanschauung,” Fortgang wrote for the Tory, a conservative student publication. He cited his family history, including grandparents who fled the Nazis and emigrated to America penniless, as rebuttal to claims that he enjoys special status because of his race and gender.

The essay made national news and went viral on the Internet. It also generated controversy within the Princeton community, fostering long debates in The Daily Princetonian and the Parent-Net online discussion group. Fortgang declined to speak to PAW for this article.

“No one is asking a privileged person to apologize for his or her lifestyle,” wrote Morgan Jerkins ’14 in a response to Fortgang for Ebony. “All we ask is for you to be aware that not everyone has the same experiences as you.”


Tal Fortgang ’17’s essay for the Princeton Tory

Morgan Jerkins ’14’s essay for Ebony