Princeton University freshman Tal Fortgang is a jerk, but he's not an outlier on the issue of racism in America
By Katie McDonough
Tired of being told to “check his privilege” by others at his college, Fortgang goes through his family’s history and concludes that he deserves to go to an Ivy League school and live in a wealthy suburb of New York City and share his ridiculous baby tantrum thoughts on a national news site because his family made smarter and better choices than other families.
“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,” Fortgang writes. “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.”
It goes on like this for a long time. Nothing in the essay is a new or shocking expression of white privilege or the astounding sense of entitlement and self-regard shared by white racists. (Yes, Fortgang’s ignorance is a manifestation of his racism. So is his glee over the deaths of Palestinians.)
A lot of people in the United States also believe that race-blind meritocracy is real and that discussions of privilege and institutional racism are just sore losers being sore, and many of the people who think this way also happen to make our policies or control most of the wealth in this country. (Or both.) Fortgang extolling the bootstrap ingenuity of his parents and attributing his spot at Princeton to little more than his family’s focus on education is the same kind of ignorance that fuels Paul Ryan’s belief that parents who use government programs to help feed their families don’t love their children or Rand Paul’s faith that his niece’s spot in a veterinary program means that sexism is dead. The only difference is that Fortgang is just some college jerk-off, but Ryan and Paul get to shape policies that force real people to go hungry or prevent women from seeking legal recourse when they’re discriminated against by their employers.
A Facebook friend and I mocked this naive young man: