Tal Fortgang is a very brave freshman at Princeton who will probably be shunned by his classmates and failed by his professors for writing this article for TIME:
It’s a must read, especially for those who are not comfortable with the popular theory around college campuses that if you are a white male you should feel constant guilt about being privileged, and realize that your accomplishments are not due to your own efforts, but rather are handed to you on a silver platter. The basic idea is that unlike minorities, white males face no adversity in their lives. I call this way of thinking “radical race theory,” which is, of course, ludicrous. Fortgang debunks this theory, explaining that even white males face adversity, using the example of his Jewish grandfather who escaped Nazi Germany and moved to America. I’m sure some enlightened professors from Brown would argue that minorities in America have it worse today than Jews did Nazi Germany, but I doubt many people outside the faculty lounge would support such a claim (other than those desperately trying to enter the faculty lounge).
Fortgang’s takedown of “radical race theory” was excellent so I will only add a few comments to build upon his argument. I will try and defend white men (and all others) who very well may be privileged in our society.
1) When liberals talk about white privilege, they are lumping all white people together and assuming they are one homogenous group of people who all belong to country clubs, go to private boarding school, and are selfish people who are oblivious to the challenges of the real world. To me this sounds like judging someone by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.
2) At least in my experience, many who complain most about white privilege are themselves among the most privileged of the whites. This does not mean they are all hypocrites, but I want to see what they do with all the wealth that they themselves inherit. I hope they prove me wrong, but I have a feeling many will gladly accept their parents’ money.
3) Privilege undoubtably exists in our society, just like it has for thousands of years. Instead of trying to make all white males feel guilty for being born a white male, lets focus on encouraging the upper classes to use their power and wealth for the good of society. This does not mean taxing the rich so that government can waste their wealth. It means creating a culture where the rich have a sense of “noblesse oblige” and see it as their duty to help the less fortunate. Instead of vilifying the rich as evil we should encourage them to voluntarily support charities and other organizations of civil society, and let them know we are grateful for their kindness. The “1%” donates huge sums of money to various organizations that do a lot of good in the world. Should these acts not be applauded because they were done by a privileged person who supposedly “didn’t earn” his money the hard way?
4) Fortgang mentions that his opinions are often shot down simply because he is a “privileged white male.” Does this mean we should not study Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, Rousseau, Tocqueville, Jefferson and countless others because they were white males who did not face the same adversity as others in their times? Perhaps we should abandon the ideals of liberty and equality that America was founded on because they were thought up by and fought for by white men of privilege. Ironically, this would be abandoning the very ideals that radical race theorists invoke in an attempt to give their ideas the moral high ground.
Being privileged is not something that white males should feel guilty about unless they do not try to use their privilege for the common good. This is not an outrageous proposition. History is filled with men and women of privilege who used their power and wealth for a cause greater than their own self interest. The first blog I wrote was about people such as these: the men who signed the Declaration of Independence and the women who supported them. These men pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to our country. In many cases they ended up losing all three in the fight for independence. It would be a shame if we could no longer look to these men as examples to be followed, simply because they were privileged.