Harvard School of Government adds a 'check your privilege' course to orientation
It's all the rage on campus, so, naturally, Harvard is leading the way. "Checking your privilege" - a catch-all phrase that the college left has gleefully latched onto as a means to silence the opposition -- will become a part of orientation at the Kennedy School of Government.
Privilege — a catchall term for the perks an individual enjoys in society because of his race, gender, or class — has been used to analyze social inequality for decades. It’s also enjoying something of a moment, thanks to social-justice bloggers and their critics, like Princeton freshman Tal Fortgang. In a viral article for the conservative Princeton Tory, Fortgang wrote that calls to “check his privilege” — that is, to consider how his good fortune might impair his ability to empathize with others in any given debate — “threaten to strike down opinions without regard for their merits” and “solely on the basis of the person that voiced them.” Being told to check his privilege is not overt reverse racism, Fortgang admitted, but it “toes the line.”
Mody has some sympathy for Fortgang and his ilk. “If what you’ve been told all your life is you’re really talented and you deserve what you have, it’s going to be really hard to find out Maybe I don’t deserve it, and all these other people equally deserve it but never even had a shot,” she says. “Schools are not giving students a space to manage that loss of identity.”
She says most of the resistance to discussing privilege comes from those who (mistakenly) believe it’s about making individuals feel guilty. That’s why Mody thinks Kennedy School of Government makes a good pilot program for institutionalized privilege-checking. For them, examining the world and your position in it isn’t just a feel-good liberal intellectual exercise; it’s a practical tool for people who hope to be leaders.
Mody and other students began to organize for privilege training in the fall, when they bonded over their shared experiences of classroom hostility toward racial critiques. (Mody herself once walked out of a class on implicit cognitive biases when the professor told her, “This isn’t a discussion about racism.”) In October, they held an HKS Speak Out, where students shared stories of racial insensitivity, and in the spring, they created a Tumblr where more students joined the conversation anonymously — crucial, Mody says, at a school where everyone plans to run for office.
There is nothing wrong with an individual challenging their own personal assumptions about race and privilege. This is something that any well-rounded person should be doing, in that it breeds empathy and understanding of people who are different than you are.
The problem becomes apparent when, as the young activist so perfectly illustrates, one disagrees with the dominant racial narrative that everyone is a racist - even if they are unaware of it on a conscious level - and that such attitudes must be exposed, criticized, and eventually expunged - even to the point of suppressing speech..
It is an insidious form of censorship, made worse because of the sanctimony of those pushing it. Assuming that white males -- and perhaps a few rich white females - are "insensitive" (meaning they disagree with the political beliefs of minorities and other leftists) and that campus leftists are just the people to fix that is an arrogant point of view.
Prostating oneself before those who would use race or class to stifle opposing points of view, demanding a mea culpa for being born white, or male, or rich, is senseless. Horror of horrors - what happens if the white guy is, indeed, better than everyone else? We'll never know because that individual will always be seen in the context of an artificially created bubble of white, male privilege even to the point that his accomplishments are dismissed as a product of racism.
To automatically assume any achievement, any talent, any genius flows from the color of one's skin, their sex, or how much money their daddy makes is anti-intellectual - the perfect way to look at the world at centers of "higher education" like Harvard.