published Monday, May 5th, 2014

Smith: Check yourself: Successful or privileged?

By Robin Smith

Remember back in July 2012 when the statement "You didn't build that!" became controversial in the presidential campaign? The remarks made by Barack Obama specifically fingered successful business owners: "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

Clearly, successful individuals are shaped by their families, their teachers and their cultures. Still, some politicians want to shame and guilt those who achieve a modicum of success, attributing their accomplishments to the work of others or simply to the pixie dust of ancestry.

That same narrative has a new catch phrase that is frequently heard on college campuses. I first read the phrase "check your privilege" while traveling on business out of state. It seems to be a growing refrain among those who want equal outcomes versus equal opportunities, and those whose actions are guaranteeing collective mediocrity while badgering any who strive for personal success.

For fun, you can visit, among many other sites, to survey your standing in the world of the shamed. Prepare to hang your head if you're not a racial minority; if you are a Christian; if you're an individual with regular employment and income; and if you approve of heterosexual relationships. Your woe is extreme if you're a male at birth.

To further "check your privilege," the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois has marshaled its resources to define the "dominant" privileged sectors of society and offer "action steps" to fight the urge to succeed. A few for your learning:

• Understand your privilege will not go away until the root systems that give you privilege are abolished.

• Be an ally to communities you are not part of.

• Recognize how your privilege can destruct community empowerment.

• Use your privilege to benefit groups you are not part of.

• Educate others with your privilege to check themselves.

• Call out people and embrace being called out about privilege.

Understand that in no way did your own efforts, your personal sacrifices or your dogged determination and grit have any role in your life successes or accomplishments. According to the social-justice-equal-outcome-crowd, you are privileged ... and should be publicly shamed, humiliated and degraded into the embrace of the views of your detractors.

A freshman at Princeton University recently rebutted his multiple chastisements by retracing his ancestry, recalling his many relatives who fled an oppressive Nazi Germany and Poland to seek liberty in America.

Tal Fortgang noted his ancestors learned the English language, obtained U.S. citizenship, became hard workers as laborers, raised their nuclear family, sent them to a Jewish day school. Their offspring are now productive, "successful" members of society.

Fortgang condemned his "moral superiors" for "diminishing everything I have personally accomplished, all the hard work I have done in my life, and for ascribing all the fruit I reap not to the seeds I sow but to some invisible patron saint of white maleness ..." and for treating all merited success as "a myth, and for declaring that our nation runs on racist and sexual conspiracies."

It's time to reject the politics and efforts of those who condemn the able-bodied, working population for channeling their energies to seek excellence in education and business.

To those who live in self-pity and find their only accomplishment in tearing others down: Get a job, get a grip on reality and get a life.

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm and serves on Tennessee's Economic Council on Women.

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librul said...

You can stick all that verbage up your ample arse, Robin. You know very well what was meant by the comment and you also know very well that it is true. None of the "successful business owners" you fawn over created their success in a vacuum - the arena in which business operates is kept alive and functioning by people across the spectrum of life. It is a sickness of the "successful" that they are so eager to discount the contributions of their fellow citizens to what they achieve.

Federal Express did not build the Interstate Highway system, nor the semi trucks and airplanes it uses, nor the computer infrastructure it uses for package tracking, nor the trucks and vans that deliver its packages. Each of those contributors to its business success came from thousands of individuals working much harder on any given day than the CEO of Fedex ever will. That is the truth in the statement and it is very easy to grasp except, apparently, for those on the right who think they are being "shamed and humiliated" when asked to admit it as a fact.

May 5, 2014 at 2:16 a.m.
LibDem said...

Odd how conservatives think pretending to be dumb is clever.

May 5, 2014 at 8:10 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Well said, librul. LibDem, I wonder to what extent Ms. Smith is dumb or she simply lies as viciously and knowingly as the talking heads of the right wing propaganda machine.

I would really like to know how, when, and where the lie got started that liberals are haters of personal achievement and success. I daresay we recognize and appreciate it as much as anyone on the right. But we also recognize greed and unbridled self-interest, which those on the right today seem to have no comprehension of. Or if they do, they actually praise it as a good thing and wrap it in their mantra of "individual freedom." And individual freedom is another thing the righties like to claim we liberals oppose, preferring instead to opt - so they say - for a nanny-state sort of government in which we want nothing more than to swing idly and slothfully in our safety net hammocks and suckle at the teat of "big gubmint." The reality is not even close to the stereotype of liberals they constantly allude to. The vast majority of libs are every bit as industrious, independent, and proud of our personal achievements as anybody on the right. As for those benefiting from the safety net programs, there are at least as many Republican-voting conservatives on welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and SSDI as there are liberals/Democrats.

Another thing I can't for the life of me understand is how the lie got started that we libs want "equal outcomes." Nothing could be further from the truth! Creating and sustaining a society of equal opportunities is no guarantee of equal outcomes and I don't know of any liberal who even thinks or talks of wanting "equal outcomes." Do you righties not see how idiotic you sound when you try to accuse us of such a thing? You keep trying to paint a picture of us that simply does not exist and anybody with a modicum of intelligence and common sense is aware of your distortions and deception.

So which is it, Robin Smith? Are you really so dumb? Or are you just a shameless bald-faced liar?

May 5, 2014 at 12:58 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

The flag of "individual freedom" that today's righties and libertarians constantly and furiously wave in our faces is nothing more than a license for greed and unrestricted selfishness, without regard to their/our interconnectedness to the rest of society. The sort of society they envision is one that cannot sustain itself for much longer. It is that very sort of society that led to the Great Depression, and many economists are saying that, without the proper checks and balances, compliments of the government that you righties detest so much, we are on the verge of another economic collapse. The income inequality is even greater today than it was just before the Depression of 1929. So do the math.

You honestly think that we can live in a nation of over 300,000,000 people as diverse as we are and not have some kind of governmental controls to reign in those who would wantonly and recklessly be free and unhampered to do their bidding? The "individual freedom" that you are so intent upon can only lead to utter chaos. And we are very nearly there.

May 5, 2014 at 1:03 p.m.
conservative said...

I see that some of the regular Atheists have shown up. Ms. Smith has said something that offends them i.e. the truth.

May 5, 2014 at 1:04 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

Must not have much to say when you have to use an old discredited misquote taken out of context to illustrate your point. Shameful.

May 5, 2014 at 4:56 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

The only thing that offends me about conservative, Robin Smith, and their rabid right-wing ilk is how anyone so lacking in critical thinking skills manages to walk upright and pass themselves off as human.

May 5, 2014 at 5:31 p.m.
Easy123 said...

Wouldn't Ms.Smith's last sentence, at least partially, apply to her? Did she not just make a feeble attempt to "tear down" President Obama and anyone that questions the status quo as it relates to big business/banks/corporations, etc.?

Do you even read what you write, Ms. Smith? To quote you: "Get a job. Get a grip on reality. Get a life."

May 5, 2014 at 6:29 p.m.
gypsylady said...

At one time I thought Chuck sorta did her dirty and felt a little sorry for her, but I've lost all respect for the woman. She comes across as shameless. I guess that's what's required of a party hack.

May 5, 2014 at 9:44 p.m.
conservative said...

I missed the privilege bus.

I always had to work to make a living.

I didn't get to miss Vietnam.

I never got food stamps.

I never got unemployment checks.

I never got welfare.

I never got affirmative action in college.

I never got rent subsidies.

I never got free school lunches.

I never got free lunches period.

I am a white male.

I did get Salvation and I would not trade that for all of the government privileges in the world.

May 6, 2014 at 7:22 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

Bully for you, con. As a white male you never, ever experienced discrimination. Unlike so many others, however, you also have never demonstrated empathy for others.

The fact remains that Smith had to use a long debunked quote to make her point, something that indicates that she didn't have a good case. A good argument does not have to rely on dishonesty.

May 6, 2014 at 7:38 a.m.
conservative said...

But you are so wrong.

My standing before God was once the same as yours.

Jesus said:

I am the way , the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6

You see, telling people the truth might seem harsh to lost souls but it is the first step to everlasting life.

You refuse the truth, for now.

May 6, 2014 at 7:50 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

No, I am not wrong. But you can't comprehend why.

May 6, 2014 at 7:57 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Of all the things con-man never got, he never got, and still doesn't get, "it." And so-called salvation is NOT it. If he hasn't got it by now, he probably never will. You are a sad, sad little man, connie.

May 6, 2014 at 11:41 a.m.
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