MAEL: A Defense of Tal Fortgang

"It’s time that America use one barometer to judge society, one that is truly free of racial division and set on the principles of unadulterated justice."

After Princeton University student Tal Fortgang broke the politically-correct line of thinking and condemned the phrase “check your privilege,” commentators from the left  responded by attacking Fortgang for being privileged.

They are quick to comment that Fortgang is white, straight and affluent. How can he, at a prestigious liberal arts university, deny that he has advantages? They essentially called on Fortgang to “do something” to reconcile this incomprehensible inequality.

The main paradox of the concept of “check your privilege” is the insistence on highlighting differences of race. While its proponents invoke it in the name of equality and ending discrimination, they discriminate against an entire group of people merely because of their skin color by implying whites are inherently privileged. Instead of being judged on the merit of one’s arguments or ideas themselves, race is reaffirmed as a relevant factor.

This is a direct manifestation of the mentality of the “social justice” generation of which I am a member, which claims that unless everyone has exactly the same thing then we must be in a panic and sound the alarms. As one critic put it, “I refuse to be content with a society where equality of opportunity is still not extended to all, and where racism, sexism, and prejudice continue to exist -- in any form.” 

Everyone shares this desire. Clippers owner Donald Sterling is universally considered a bigot. The question is about methods of achieving this just society, not the end goal itself.

Another critic of Fortgang’s explained, “I think confronting the fact that we do have many advantages is complex for American Jews, particularly those whose parents or family were discriminated against. We often use our difficult past to advocate for social justice, but we are more hesitant to mine our less difficult, more recent history in this country to interrogate our present-day lives."

But why do we need to alter simple justice?

The Department of Government and Justice Studies at Appalachian State University cites a definition of  social justice as “promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity” and claims that the conditions of a society set on social justice hold that people are “not be discriminated against, nor their welfare and well-being constrained or prejudiced on the basis of gender, sexuality, religion, political affiliations, age, race, belief, disability, location, social class, socioeconomic circumstances, or other characteristic of background or group membership."

The idea that all “upper class,” “white” and “heterosexual” people must be challenged and labeled as inherently above others is in itself unjust. Targeting individuals for something of which they have no control and placing the perceived flaws of an entire society on their shoulders is the essence of the wrong that Fortgang was highlighting.

We should demand a just society, where we have a moral and ethical standard, not government-adjusted controls enforcing division. The fact that Fortgang has certain things and others are less fortunate is not morally repugnant.  The fact that Fortgang’s family made it out of the depths of the Holocaust and into the upper-level of American society is entirely just and should be irrelevant to a modern-day analysis of Fortgang’s situation.

Continually harping on the fact that Fortgang is white and then adding that he is a Jewish upper-class man as if to somehow reaffirm the sentiment is a problem. An artificial contest about who has suffered the greatest amount of injustice and should therefore garner the highest amount of sympathy as a result is a byproduct of the kind of leftist logic which inevitably highlights racial differences.

It is this mindset of highlighting social class and race which perpetuates racism and class-division in America.  Affirmative Action focuses on the race issue to such a degree that it simply aggravates and inflames social divisions and misunderstandings and promotes a policy of race over merit. Thomas Sowell (whom leftists would certainly demand that I note is an African-American), has said that Affirmative Action “has done little or nothing for most people in the ghetto” and stated that “Many defenders of affirmative action are not even honest enough to admit that they are talking about quotas and preferences.”

Americans should be apathetic to the racial standing of each individual. An insistence that these qualities serve as a person’s primary definition and label encourages further bias. Americans should be able to recognize differences without fanatically reinforcing prejudice.

 We must demand and uphold the mono-ethical standard that is inherent in the fabric of America. Let’s examine each other simply on merit and action rather than artificially confirming again and again social and racial divisions. It’s time that America use one barometer to judge society, one that is truly free of racial division and set on the principles of unadulterated justice.