Wednesday, April 30, 2014

“I have checked my privilege. And I apologize for nothing”

Anyone who follows the anti-Israel activists on Twitter has seen how often  the phrase "check your privilege" is used and misused.  Its an attempt to reframing the conflict in the Middle East.  In the narrow minds of the haters, Israel represents white imperialist colonialist power.  Don't  let anyone bother you with the facts. This nation of immigrants, this nation of refugees fleeing persecution represents European privilege, if only for the purpose of painting the Palestinians as the perpetual victims. "Check your privilege" is the battle cry of the weak minded, who cannot imagine the world without dividing it into two camps, "us" vs "them". Its not just Israel that  that bears the sin of this alleged "privilege'. It is the entire Jewish people.

From the Princeton class of 2017, Tal Fortgang writes in the Princeton Tory

" There is a phrase that floats around college campuses, Princeton being no exception, that threatens to strike down opinions without regard for their merits, but rather solely on the basis of the person that voiced them. “Check your privilege"...

Tal examines his "privilege". His background will be familiar to many of us. We know these stories from our own families
Perhaps it’s the privilege my grandfather and his brother had to flee their home as teenagers when the Nazis invaded Poland, leaving their mother and five younger siblings behind, running and running until they reached a Displaced Persons camp in Siberia, where they would do years of hard labor in the bitter cold until World War II ended. Maybe it was the privilege my grandfather had of taking on the local Rabbi’s work in that DP camp, telling him that the spiritual leader shouldn’t do hard work, but should save his energy to pass Jewish tradition along to those who might survive. Perhaps it was the privilege my great-grandmother and those five great-aunts and uncles I never knew had of being shot into an open grave outside their hometown. Maybe that’s my privilege.

 Or maybe it’s the privilege my grandmother had of spending weeks upon weeks on a death march through Polish forests in subzero temperatures, one of just a handful to survive, only to be put in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she would have died but for the Allied forces who liberated her and helped her regain her health when her weight dwindled to barely 80 pounds.

Perhaps my privilege is that those two resilient individuals came to America with no money and no English, obtained citizenship, learned the language and met each other; that my grandfather started a humble wicker basket business with nothing but long hours, an idea, and an iron will—to paraphrase the man I never met: “I escaped Hitler. Some business troubles are going to ruin me?” Maybe my privilege is that they worked hard enough to raise four children, and to send them to Jewish day school and eventually City College.

 Perhaps it was my privilege that my own father worked hard enough in City College to earn a spot at a top graduate school, got a good job, and for 25 years got up well before the crack of dawn, sacrificing precious time he wanted to spend with those he valued most—his wife and kids—to earn that living....
 He concludes
 I recognize that it was my parents’ privilege and now my own that there is such a thing as an American dream which is attainable even for a penniless Jewish immigrant....

Behind every success, large or small, there is a story, and it isn’t always told by sex or skin color. My appearance certainly doesn’t tell the whole story, and to assume that it does and that I should apologize for it is insulting. While I haven’t done everything for myself up to this point in my life, someone sacrificed themselves so that I can lead a better life. But that is a legacy I am proud of.
I have checked my privilege. And I apologize for nothing.

Read it all here

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