All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.

SED OMNIA PRAECLARA TAM DIFFICILIA QUAM RARA SUNT

05 May 2014

To diminish or not to diminish -- thou must choose

There's been a little kerfuffle on the web lately about a phrase that's sometimes deployed on university campuses: "Check your privilege."  I've heard this phrase used, and I'm generally not terribly impressed either with its interpersonal tone (which is generally acrid), the way the phrase is used (which rings somewhat liturgical to my ear) or with the ideology typically informing its use (which strikes me as problematically grounded in notions of race that I find personally threatening as a minority in this country).

I also suspect that most of those who use the phrase are deliberately trading on the ambiguity in the word "check" -- really using the phrase in the peremptory and authoritarian fashion of "check your attitude at the door" but claiming, when pressed, that they are using the word "check" in the sense of "examine" or "interrogate".

The kerfuffle started with an indignant response to the use of the phrase by a Princeton student, a Mr. Tal Fortgang, who didn't appreciated being told to "check his privilege."  There's been a lot written about this piece on the web, so I won't add my voice to the chorus of praise and criticism.  (It is worthy of both, for very different reasons.)  But recently, two students at Columbia -- Dunni Oduyemi and Parul Guliani -- have published their own response, in which they lament Mr. Fortgang's lack of awareness and sensibility.

 These two students make the argument one would expect: that "check your privilege" is a sort of interrogation of the power of whiteness in society.  The core of their response is the following:
His success, Fortgang argues, should not be diminished to a socially constructed narrative of white male privilege and ascribed to “some invisible patron saint of white maleness.” But what he fails to understand is that this “patron saint” of white maleness isn’t so invisible—historically, socially, and politically, institutions have protected and supported white men. Recognizing the fact that white men benefit from the kinds of racist and sexist structures on which American society is built isn’t meant to diminish his accomplishments. It’s meant to remind us that white men don’t have an inherent predilection for success—the odds have just been stacked in their favor.

Using the phrase "check your privilege", then, is supposed to be an invitation (or perhaps less charitably, a command) to "recognize the fact that white men benefit from the kinds of racist and sexist structures on which American society is built."

The purpose is, if we are to take Oduyemi and Guliani at their word, "to remind [Mr. Fortgang] that white men don't have an inherent predilection for success -- [that] the odds have just been stacked in their favor."  This position seems untenable to me.

First, it assumes that Mr. Fortgang needs reminding that white men don't have an inherent predilection for success.  But that hardly seems to be the case: it's fairly obvious that Mr. Fortgang is proud of his accomplishments (whatever they might be) on an individual level, and that if you asked him whether he was doing so well because he was white, he'd say no.  Indeed, the whole point of the phrase (again, if we take this position seriously) is to make Mr. Fortgang more aware of how his membership in a particular racial or ethnic group has influenced his accomplishments, and specifically to make him aware that it influenced it in a very particular way.  (One can imagine that Oduyemi and Guliani would be no less pleased were Mr. Fortgang to say that being white made his accomplishments more impressive.) 

Second, and more troubling, is the inherent tension between the claim that the phrase "is not meant to diminish his accomplishments" and the claim that the way in which Mr. Fortgang's membership in his particular racial or ethnic group has influenced his accomplishments is to have "stacked the odds in his favor".

You can't have it both ways.  You can either have the cake of good spirits and not diminish his accomplishments, or you can consume that cake and have the pleasure of reminding him that what he's done isn't really as good as he thinks it is, because the odds are stacked in his favor.

Because that's what it means to have the odds stacked in your favor: that the resulting endeavor is cheaper, easier, less impressive.  That's why so many people claim that a near-perfect SAT score from someone coming out of a prestigious institution like Lowell in San Francisco or Stuyvesant in New York is less impressive than the same score achieved by someone from a crime-ridden inner city school that no one has ever heard of.

Back in the day, before someone decided to abandon credibility, people who received extra time on the SAT had their scores marked as such.  The popular term for this was an "asterisk" though it's unlikely that it was actually an asterisk.  (Who knows, though?  Someone at the College Board knows.)   People say the same thing about sports records achieved under different conditions, whether the different conditions are different season lengths or the use of illicit performance-enhancing substances (indeed, the Maris asterisk is probably where the popular use of the phrase asterisk comes from).

It seems pretty clear to me that what the users of the phrase "check your privilege" really want to do is to append an asterisk to the accomplishments of those against whom the phrase is deployed.  But the argument against asterisks on SAT scores was that the asterisk really does diminish the accomplishment.  (Which, of course, is really the whole point of having it in the first place.)  Those who argued against the asterisk thought that those accomplishments didn't deserve to be diminished.


I don't mean to attack either Oduyemi or Guliani.  To riff on their theme, I don't really deserve any great credit for being able to philosophically assault an undergraduate newspaper column: the deck is "stacked in my favor".  But I think it's vitally important to make it perfectly clear that you cannot have it both ways: either you want Fortgang to feel less proud of his accomplishments, to understand that they have an asterisk next to them, or you don't want him to feel less proud of his accomplishments.

Thou must choose.

(As a side note, I use a prefix for Mr. Fortgang and not for the Columbia students simply because, while I'm not familiar with the typical association by sex of any of the three given names, Mr. Fortgang is the only one to have a picture included with his piece and so is the only one of whose sex I am certain.)

UPDATE: Apparently this got posted before it was finished, possibly under a different name.  I apologize for any confusion.

54 comments:

William Shell said...

Hey, Your blog is very informative. It is nice to read such high-quality content. Attractive information on your blog, thank you for taking the time and share with us.The experts of our science assignment help provide custom dissertation for you within the time that you provide us Myassignmenthelp delivers high-quality content related to https://myassignmenthelp.com/uk/segmentation-positioning-assignment-help.html.

Ideal Assignment Help said...

IdealAssignmentHelp offers customized assignments solutions to the students studying in different universities. You can get better Quality content in a more personalized manner. If any students want then contact our expert team we have here. we have providing best and high-quality My Assignment Help .

UK Dissertation Help said...

Our Dissertation Proposal Writing Help Services in UK has provided significant services for letting students succeed success; we keep in mind the investment and issues in order that their trust in online services can be maintained. we've gained a name as best proposal writing agency in the UK and that we skill to take care of this position – provide best, succeed best.

JOHN SMITH said...

This post is a pool of information. The readers are quite impressed after reading this impressive post. By: Coursework writing services

James Ian said...

Your article is fascinating and tell you what? I have bookmarked your site and even shared to my friends. There are several key things that you must aim at accomplishing when writing a BSN capstone. First of all, you must demonstrate that you can satisfactorily design and conduct a study that aims at improving the roles that the field of nursing plays in ensuring that people have access to quality healthcare. Moreover, you must proof that you are capable of improving the quality of life of a given target population by designing and implementing a program or intervention model that is based on verifiable and credible evidence. Learn more from BSN Capstone Writing Help .

James Charlie said...

The blog on psychology is certainly resourceful, and well written. If you have been unable to find optimum time to conduct further research, you can head to seeking professional services at myassignmenthelpau.com. Feel free to explore the services and attain Assignment Help Lawton.

Trump lodgus said...

Hello, I have browsed most of your posts. This post is probably where I got the most useful information for my research.I just found what i needed in this siteI just found what i needed in this site Bussiness analytics

Trump lodgus said...

i love browsing through creat blohg like this one. please continue giving us such content.
hvac SEO
.

Unknown said...

I love the way you put your points. Thank you. Did you know that the first law of thermodynamics is that energy cannot be created or destroyed?. While this law is always true, energy can be transformed from one type to another. Heat can be changed into kinetic (moving) or latent/potential (stored) energy. Thermodynamics uses P-V-T (pressure, volume, and temperature) diagrams to model these transformations. Get Thermodynamics Help

Procurement Resource said...

Procurement Resource Presents The Production Cost Of 1,3-Butadiene In Its New Report

The new report by Procurement Resource, a global procurement research and consulting firm, looks in-depth into the costs involved in the production of 1,3-butadiene. The comprehensive report analyses the production cost of the material, covering raw material costs and co-product credit, equipment costs, land and site costs, labour wages, maintenance costs, financing charges, and the depreciation cost. The extensive study describes the step-wise consumption of material and utilities, along with a detailed process flow diagram. The report also assesses the latest developments within the 1,3-butadiene industry that might influence the costs of production, looking into the capacity expansions, plant turnarounds, and mergers, acquisitions, and investments.



Download a free sample of the production cost of 1-3 butadiene production-from c4 hydrocarbons and many more

Procurement Resource said...

Procurement Resource Assesses The Production Cost Of 2-Ethylhexyl Acrylate In Its New Report


The new report by Procurement Resource, a global procurement research and consulting firm, looks in-depth into the costs involved in the production of 2-ethylhexyl acrylate. The comprehensive report analyses the production cost of the material, covering the raw material costs and co-product credit, equipment costs, land and site costs, labour wages, maintenance costs, financing charges, and the depreciation costs. The extensive study describes the step wise consumption of material and utilities along with a detailed process flow diagram. The report also assesses the latest developments within the 2-ethylhexyl acrylate industry that might influence the costs of production, looking into the capacity expansions, plant turnarounds, and mergers, acquisitions, and investments.



Download a free sample of the production cost of 2-ethylhexyl acrlylate production from acrylic acid and 2 ethylhexanol via esterification and many more

Procurement Resource said...

Procurement Resource Assesses The Production Cost Of Acetic Aldehyde In Its New Report


The new report by Procurement Resource, a global procurement research and consulting firm, looks in-depth into the costs involved in the production of acetic aldehyde. The comprehensive report analyses the production cost of the material, covering the raw material costs and co-product credit, equipment costs, land and site costs, labour wages, maintenance costs, financing charges, and the depreciation costs. The extensive study describes the step wise consumption of material and utilities along with a detailed process flow diagram. The report also assesses the latest developments within the acetic aldehyde industry that might influence the costs of production, looking into the capacity expansions, plant turnarounds, and mergers, acquisitions, and investments.



Download a free sample of the production cost of acetic aldehyde production from acetic acid and many more

Mathew Williams said...

According to a new report by Expert Market Research, ‘ Global Facility Management Market Size, Share, Price, Trends, Growth, Report and Forecast 2021-2026’, the global Facility Management Market size was valued at USD XX million in 2020 and is predicted to register a CAGR of XX% from 2021 to 2026.

Download a free Sample Report : Global Facility Management Market Size, Report & Forecast

Mathew Williams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mathew Williams said...

According to a new report by Expert Market Research, ‘Global Haptic Technology Market Size, Share, Price, Trends, Growth, Report and Forecast 2021-2026’, the global Haptic Technology Market size was valued at USD XX million in 2020 and is predicted to register a CAGR of XX% from 2021 to 2026.

Download a free Sample Report : Global Haptic Technology Market Size, Report & Forecast

Mathew Williams said...

According to a new report by Expert Market Research, ‘Global Glycated Haemoglobin Testing Market Size, Share, Price, Trends, Growth, Report and Forecast 2021-2026’, the global Glycated Haemoglobin Testing Market size was valued at USD XX million in 2020 and is predicted to register a CAGR of XX% from 2021 to 2026.

Download a free Sample Report : Global Glycated Haemoglobin Testing Market Size, Report & Forecast

Mathew Williams said...

According to a new report by Expert Market Research, ‘Global Senna Leaf Extracts Market Size, Share, Price, Trends, Growth, Report and Forecast 2021-2026’, the global Senna Leaf Extracts Market size was valued at USD XX million in 2020 and is predicted to register a CAGR of XX% from 2021 to 2026.

Download a free Sample Report : Global Senna Leaf Extracts Market Size, Report & Forecast

Mathew Williams said...

According to a new report by Expert Market Research, ‘Global Masa Flour Market Size, Share, Price, Trends, Growth, Report and Forecast 2021-2026’, the global Masa Flour Market size was valued at USD XX million in 2020 and is predicted to register a CAGR of XX% from 2021 to 2026.

Download a free Sample Report : Global Masa Flour Market Size, Report & Forecast

Procurement Resource said...

Procurement Resource Assesses The Production Cost Of Chloroprene Rubber In Its New Report


The new report by Procurement Resource, a global procurement research and consulting firm, looks in-depth into the costs involved in the production of chloroprene rubber. The comprehensive report analyses the production cost of the material, covering the raw material costs and co-product credit, equipment costs, land and site costs, labour wages, maintenance costs, financing charges, and the depreciation costs. The extensive study describes the step wise consumption of material and utilities along with a detailed process flow diagram. The report also assesses the latest developments within the chloroprene rubber industry that might influence the costs of production, looking into the capacity expansions, plant turnarounds, and mergers, acquisitions, and investments.



Download a free sample of the production cost of chloroprene rubber from butadiene and chlorine and many more

timeandxcess said...

Hey, Your blog is very informative. It is nice to read such high-quality content. Attractive information on your blog, thank you for taking the time and share with us.
office automation services
hearing aid Pakistan
hearing aids in lahore
custom suits
ad agency
chemical industries in lahore
Architecture Designs in lahore
mbbs in china
hearing clinic in lahore

Mathew Williams said...

According to a new report by Expert Market Research, ‘Global Sage Herb Extract Market Size, Share, Price, Trends, Growth, Report and Forecast 2021-2026’, the global Sage Herb Extract Market size was valued at USD XX million in 2020 and is predicted to register a CAGR of XX% from 2021 to 2026.

Download a free Sample Report : Global Sage Herb Extract Market Size, Report & Forecast

Mathew Williams said...

According to a new report by Expert Market Research, ‘Global Bullous Pemphigoid Treatment Market Size, Share, Price, Trends, Growth, Report and Forecast 2021-2026’, the global Bullous Pemphigoid Treatment Market size was valued at USD XX million in 2020 and is predicted to register a CAGR of XX% from 2021 to 2026.

Download a free Sample Report : Global Bullous Pemphigoid Treatment Market Size, Report & Forecast

shahzaib said...

The comprehensive report analyses the production cost of the material, covering raw material costs and co-product credit, equipment costs, land and site costs, labor wages, maintenance costs, financing charges, and the depreciation cost. The extensive study describes the step-wise consumption of material and utilities, along with a detailed process flow diagram.
Noor Sofa is an online store.where you can buy your desired sofa things in an ease,and quick way.we can provide quality service related to sofa set, corners, bed,dewan etc
sofa set in lahore
coolding sofa in lahore

assignmentauthors said...

There is a big difference with both, it may be easier to work with an individual but it’s more fun to work with a group. essay help

James Ian said...

This is a wonderful piece of content. Thanks for sharing. Need help with Capstone project Writing? There are so many online professional writing services that can lighten your burden. My Assignment Help Desk is one the most competent and trustworthy capstone writing agencies you can ever find. Read more on Capstone Project Help .

Eddie Cooper said...

Thank you for your outstanding article. You will always find clients coming back to us which is a result of our excellent services.
Kindly visit thewebcam test

Daniel Park said...

We have the best authors and writers who work according to the guidelines and standards of top universities and colleges. You can consider us the most reliable assignment help service provider. We are offering the best quality assignment writing services worldwide. We have offered the work within the given time frame. Quality and cost may be appropriate for every student. So, if you are looking to write my online thesis for me, our professional writers can help you.

Arif said...

Thank you so much for such a quality article. We have extensive expertise in research question development, methodology, literature review, and results and discussion chapters—experience that makes us invaluable to you in this once-in-a-lifetime process. You get you the support you need to complete your dissertation—and working with professionals like us makes good sense. Call us now to schedule. Now you can get Dissertation Statistics Consulting

Anonymous said...

Sir, I read your full article and I like very much. One Of The Best Blog Which I Found. Looking forward to reading more articles of your blog.
I am sharing a very genuine post to read where you can get to know about Space Bar Counter. Please refer article Test your spacebar speed.

Rosemarie Cozart said...

Thank you very much for this wonderful information you have shared and excellent information you have provided in your article. Making decisions is a very difficult task. Now you don't have to worry about it. You can do this using many applications that can help you make an important decision. We have provided information about the Decision Making Apps 2021 in this article.

parking lot pole lighting said...

Our lighting solutions can save you up to 80% on energy and require very little maintenance for up to 10 years.
digital signs chicago , sign repair company near me , led gas station canopy lights

parking lot pole lighting said...

The best led gas station canopy lights repair services are provided by NUER Electrical Lighting & Sign Services.
led gas station canopy lights , Neon sign repair near me , gas station led lighting

vistahermosa said...

Everyone has their own tastes when it comes to choosing a location. Some people like to stay in coastal villas to take in the breathtaking views of the ocean, while others prefer to remain in the main town.
beachfront rental costa rica , costa rica wedding villas

Daily Word said...

Your blog is top-notch. You have the good and latest info on your blog. I will definitely come back to read more of your meaningful post. Keep it up. Checkout Toefl Speaking Topics PDF

Gammi said...

Your article is very informative and helpful to me. Thank you for the post, it’s really nice. This is more good! Visit my site. best computer science universities in Europe

Gammi said...

Your article is very informative and helpful to me. Thank you for the post, it’s really nice. This is more good! Visit my site. laundry pod memes

Education said...

Well Done. Coursework Help

capsim said...

Are you searching for CIPD assignment writing help? Most likely, you will need to acquire the homework assist services of CIPD experts. In most scenarios, CIPD assignments tend to revolve around human resource management or HR development. This does not go to mean that the jobs will be as easy as ABC. Read more CIPD Level 5 Assignments Examples

Samwel Njuguna said...

My urgent writers is a professional academic writing service dedicated to assist our clients achieve scholarly excellence.

Essien said...


Thanks for sharing this with so much of detailed information, its much more to learn from your article. Keep sharing such good stuff. Thank you for sharing. visit southwestern university cut off mark for computer science

Essien said...


It’s a great and valuable effort! You explained it exceptionally well! Thanks for sharing. visit baze university cut off mark

zarkazijar said...

I'm so much in love with this article for the well-researched content and excellent wording. I got so involved in this material that I couldn’t stop reading. I am impressed with your work and skill. Thanks for sharing. adeleke university departmental cut off mark

zarkazijar said...

Very fantastic and educative blog, everything is very open with a precise description of the challenges, your site is very useful and i found enormous joy reading through. Thanks for sharing! adeleke university departmental cut off mark

Jobi Johnson said...

This is the best post I have ever seen. Very clear and simple. Mid-portion Is quite interesting though. Keep doing this. I will visit your site again. batman robin jacket

eddielydon said...

Nice post. Thank you to provide us this useful information. 13 reasons why jacket

Anna Buckley said...

I read a lot of stuff and felt that the writing style was wonderful for conveying exactly what I wanted to say, so I'm impressed and hope to return. Are you having trouble charging your PS4 controller? I recommend reading this article on the subject PS4 controller not charging. This article is for those who are having issues with their PlayStation 4 controller.

olivia said...

oliviarodrigomerchshopello there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate!

fmerchandise said...

It is very nice blog and helpful piece of information for others. fmerchandise Please keep us up to date like this topic. Thanks for sharing.

sifon said...

Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your blog is great, let alone the content. free jim ovia scholarship past questions

Outlook Support said...

Outlook working offline error message. When using Microsoft Outlook, you may sometimes encounter an error message that says "Working Offline." This message indicates that Outlook is not currently connected to the internet and is unable to send or receive emails. To resolve this issue, you can try reconnecting to the internet, checking your email account settings, or restarting Outlook. If the problem persists, you may need to seek further assistance from a technical support professional.

Rose Bell said...

Very informative post! Thanks for sharing! Business Management Assignment Help USA is a service provided by Assignment Help Pro that assists students in completing their business management assignments with accuracy and timeliness. It is offered by experienced professionals who have a sound understanding of business management concepts and can provide customized solutions to meet individual student needs.

Arthur Wilson said...

Global Assignment Help is an organization that helps students across the world by writing assignments on the subjects like engineering, nursing, accounting, finance, law, and delivering them on-time. The professional writers of the firm are experts in their respective fields. They are well-known for delivering high-quality plagiarism-free assignments by providing correct information about the concepts, and recent technological developments. The afterwork services like editing, and proofreading enhances the quality of the assignments. By taking assistance from the organization, students can ensure high academic grades and success in the future. The 24/7 customer service, and affordable price range makes them one of the best assignment help service providers in the world.

Jane Wilson said...

This MIS case study for MBA students explores real-world business challenges and solutions, providing valuable insights into the application of management information systems in today's competitive market.

Barbelbae said...

Discover a wide range of workout sets for women designed specifically for women to help you achieve your fitness goals. Find the perfect activewear for your next workout session.