In the very early hours of July 15th, 1984, I came into this world. Born in a hospital with well-trained staff, up to date equipment and an overall safe and clean environment. After my birth I was taken home to a comfortable house where I had a roof over my head and somewhere warm and safe to sleep. I am white. I am Canadian. I was born privileged.
I know that word can make some people feel uneasy. Privileged. It’s not an insult. It’s not something to feel ashamed of. But it is a fact.
When I was 21 years old I made the decision to leave my home country to volunteer in Honduras, later traveling onwards throughout Central America, and down to South America, where I spent several months volunteering and hopping from country to country… to countries where I met and worked with dozens of people. People who never would have been able to make that same choice in return. No one stopped me at the borders and told me I couldn’t enter. No one sent me back to my home country and told me I was not welcome there. That is privilege.
At 22 years old while working at a job in the United States, I fell inlove. He was British. I was Canadian. And although we spent many hours discussing where our future may take us, we never once worried whether we would even be allowed to be together in the same country. That is privilege.
Yesterday a Haitian friend of mine came to me for advice. He asked me if I thought he should keep sending $40 of his $70 a month salary to his family in Haiti so that they can buy food each month, or if he should try to get them all over to the Dominican Republic where, yes, it will be more expensive for them to live, but at least he will wake up and see his family everyday.
He, just like the countless black men shot in America in the past decade, and the thousands and thousands of Syrian refugees trying to find a place to call home, and the kid at the toy store who gets followed around by the shop attendant just because he is black… they weren’t born with the same privilege.
Those people will all write their own stories, but they didn’t choose those beginnings. I didn’t choose this privileged beginning and I do not feel guilty for it. However, because of it, I will make sure I do everything in my power to use this privilege for good.
It could mean educating the guy on your Facebook feed who is claiming he doesn’t want any Syrian refugees coming in and taking over ‘his land’. It could mean sticking up for the kid at school who gets teased because her hair is ‘different’. It could mean speaking up when you know darn well that yes, all lives do matter but right now what we need to be focusing on is that BLACK LIVES MATTER. It could mean using a connection to help someone get a job they otherwise might not have had access to. It could mean donating what you can, whether it is the left over change in your pocket after getting a coffee or your whole annual bonus to someone who might just need it that little bit (or a lot) more. It means using your privilege to confront racism when you see it in action, whether on your Facebook feed, in line at the grocery store, or in your own work place. We have that responsibility.
We have that privilege.