The Lies You Tell Yourself

The Lies You Tell Yourself

Eenie meenie minie moe, catch a tiger by the toe…

You know the rest, I’m sure.

And if you’re my age – you know, not exactly old, but gettin’ there – you might remember an older, less-kind version of the rhyme. The one with the n-word.

I picked up the rhyme from my kindergarten school friends and took it back home with me to my little brother who was not yet in school.

My mom was not pleased.

That was my very first encounter with the concept of “racism”, or as we called it at the time, prejudice.

Mum has the gentlest of souls, the kind that is mortified to know that something she said or did hurt another. She did her best to inculcate that value in me as well.

I can remember her taking me aside as a child and correcting me for bragging to a friend about how my daddy was the boss of his own company and that we were moving into a big new house that my daddy had built. This was all true enough, but mum was gently insistent that it was not nice to brag to others about all one has.

“Not everybody’s daddy is the boss, honey. Not everybody has what we have. It is not nice to make people feel like they are “less” than we are by showing off.

The eenie-meenie-minie-moe incident followed shortly after this, and mum took a similar approach.

“That’s not a nice word, dolly. It is a very mean word for Negro people and it hurts their feelings very much. You can say “tiger” instead of the not-nice word, okay?”

I took my mom’s word for it, but I was like, five, so naturally I wanted to know why.

Mum crouched down to my level on the sidewalk in front of our house and looked me with sadness in her eyes.

“Little lamb, some people think that if you have black skin on the outside it means you have something wrong with you on the inside. But that’s not true, okay? Black or white, fat or skinny, young or old, it doesn’t matter. All people are the same inside, all people have feelings that can be hurt.”

“That word is a mean way of saying ‘black people are bad’ and that is not true so I don’t want you saying it.”

Yeah, my mum was that great.

These early lessons are clearly significant to me and played a part in shaping me. Mum managed to distill the concepts of racism and privilege into little, manageable, five-year-old-sized bites that I was able to digest and understand. She dumbed it down, but she got to the heart of it.

I’ve been thinking about privilege for literally most of my life. Always been conscious of it, to a certain extent. In our modest, mostly white, middle-class neighbourhood, we simply had more than most. I don’t want to go into specifics, they don’t matter, and it would be bragging, but it would have been hard not to miss that we had more than most in our neighbourhood.

I got teased a bit, mostly good-naturedly, for being “so rich”. I don’t remember being bothered by it, but I do remember kinda downplaying it. I’ve never ever been entirely comfortable discussing wealth and money matters, not even in the eighties, when it became really fashionable to flaunt ones wealth.

Oh yes, I am aware that I had all the advantages.

I was raised in a loving, stable two-parent home – a huge advantage in and of itself – and while we may not have been as wealthy as my friends seemed to believe, there was certainly no shortage of resources in our home. My dad came to Canada from Germany after the war with nothing, so everything we had, my folks had worked hard for. That’s an ethic they passed on to me.

I always knew that I had an intellectual advantage over most people as well. Both my parents are intelligent, highly thoughtful people, and I inherited that from them. I breezed through school, with very little effort – the “A” student who won all the awards each year. Honestly, it became embarrassing, mostly because it just wasn’t that hard for me. It was a bit uncomfortable being recognized for something that took very little effort on my part. If native intelligence is not a privilege, it is certainly a powerful advantage.

Is being physically attractive a privilege? Strictly speaking, no – it’s pretty much the luck of the draw. But it is an advantage in life. People are attracted to attractive people. Attractive people make more money than unattractive people do. It’s not at all fair, but it is true. Being attractive is a little grease to the wheels – it eases your way into wherever it is you want to get, even if you’re not deliberately leveraging it.

I am keenly aware that I have had a very privileged life – a mere accident of birth, not something I earned or worked for. I was born this way. I can no more help the fact that I was born with privilege, than those who were born without can help how they came into the world. I completely get that we don’t all start out at the same place in the world.

I am not ashamed of my privilege. Why on earth should I be? I didn’t ask for any of this any more than a disadvantaged person asked to be disadvantaged. I didn’t choose this, it was an inheritance bestowed upon me.

My parents made this very clear to me growing up – to whom much is given, much is expected.

God gave me a good brain and I will not squander what he gave me, I will use it, and not just to enrich myself, but to benefit others.

I will work hard, because I am capable of it. If I have gifts that others lack, it is my responsibility to share those gifts for the benefit of all. I am, for example, a fairly well-spoken person and I can raise my voice to advocate for the voiceless.

With great privilege comes great responsibility. I can choose to squander it foolishly or I can use it for the benefit of all. People who know me well know which choice I have made. I’m chuckling here, but I’ve definitely gone far beyond anything my parents envisioned!

I have opened my home to the homeless, something I know my parents thought was foolishly dangerous. Black, white, red, yellow, they’ve all come through my home, welcomed as guests, treated with dignity, lavished with everything we had to share. People we met as strangers, left as friends. I have never regretted taking that “risk”.

When our kids were in their teens, we began taking in “strays”, kids with troubled home lives that needed a safe place to stay. We became “unofficial” foster parents, taking on all financial and emotional responsibility for them. We could have gone to the government for money, but it didn’t seem right to me. We could afford to do it without government intervention, so we simply did. Everybody thought we were stupid to not take government assistance – it’s free money! – but that’s not how we roll. Somebody else surely needed that money more than we did and it just didn’t seem right to take it.

Volunteering has played a big part in my life. I’ve lost track of all the organizations I’ve volunteered for over the years. I’ve always had a heart for the poor and the issues surrounding poverty, especially “food insecurity”. I think I’ve talked before about starting a community food bank for my neighbourhood. I haven’t been directly involved in it for years, but the program is still in place and has even expanded to reach the wider community outside of our little neighbourhood. Although it saddens me that there continues to be a need for it, I am extremely proud of having been instrumental in getting that program off the ground and available to those in need.

And of course there is my beloved Breakfast Club, a school breakfast program that I’ve been volunteering at for over two decades. My mom – who is now in her eighties and has been legally blind since her teens – has been running the program since its inception; raising funds, attracting volunteers and keeping the whole thing running year after year. Over the years all my kids have joined in, making it a real family affair.

I tell you these things not to brag about how “great” I am, but rather to indicate where my values and priorities lie and how I attempt to live them out.

I have to really question if any of this has anything to do with my “whiteness”. I completely acknowledge that I have been spared from individual and institutional discrimination based on my skin colour, but on the other hand, I’ve never attempted to leverage my skin colour to my advantage. It’s just a non-issue for me. And if I have ever received preferential treatment because if it, I certainly did not ask for, or expect it because of my “privilege”. I think it’s perfectly fair to say that there must have been some instances in my life where I unknowingly got preferential treatment over a non-white person. Perhaps I have been up for a job against a black person and the person who hired me did so because they preferred a white person. Let me be perfectly clear: I would not take a job under those circumstances were I aware of them. I abhor that kind of behaviour – why would I want to work for somebody like that?

Conversely, over the course of my life I have been in a position to hire and employ others. I used to drive my colleagues crazy because I was a softie, hiring people who maybe weren’t quite qualified for the job but just needed somebody to give them a chance. I hired people who hadn’t finished school, people who could barely speak English, people with physical and mental handicaps. They didn’t all work out, but at least they had the chance to demonstrate their ability. Somebody has to give them a chance.

This has been my life. I literally ask myself each day, How may I best serve my neighbour (that is, fellow man) today? I take no personal credit for this approach – it is a Christian ethic that is deeply embedded within me and that I attempt to live out faithfully by the power of the Spirit. Black, white, there is no distinction, God calls me to be a servant to all, acting as his merciful Hand in this broken wor

Above all else this is the privilege I cherish the most. To be His humble servant, blessing others out of the abundance of riches he has entrusted to me.

It’s important to me, it’s something I attempt to live out, and I have literally structured my life to best support that aim.

Now I am being told that in order to make up for historic inequalities, I must give up my privilege, repent of it and turn from my wicked ways.


I have spent my whole life giving away my privilege, no strings attached, asking nothing in return. I don’t care what colour the beneficiary is. We are all part of God’s creation; all in this together.

Each and every life matters to me and I will not apologize for holding that sentiment.

The solution to the problem of “privilege” (if indeed it is a problem) is not to remove privilege but to share it.

I have believed that my entire life, and it has shaped how I operate in the world. I’m not about to change that now.

I am only one person, doing what one person can. But can you imagine if everyone took that approach?

If you care about the oppressed and disadvantaged, it’s not enough to merely sign a petition or attend a protest. Seriously? You think that makes you virtuous? No, it makes you lazy. How ’bout you get off your duff and actually go do something? I’ve been doing it since childhood, so what’s your excuse?

A few years ago, my husband and I had a change in fortune and lost our house. We had to move in with one of our children and share expenses so that we can get by. It actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. By splitting expenses I was able to quit my job so that I could devote myself to full-time volunteer work. That too is a privilege; one that has nothing to do with my skin colour and everything to do with my character. I volunteer mainly in my neighbourhood, which is diverse – there is no one majority group, it’s pretty much equally distributed between white, black, Asian and Middle Eastern peoples. We live as one community – there are no distinctions. The one thing we all share in common is poverty or near-poverty. Everyone here is one crisis away from disaster. We are all kinda living on the edge and that has brought about a fierce sense of togetherness. We are all in this together.

I am on the ground, living it every day, so no, I will not be silent when pampered little whites in their exclusively white communities tell me my privilege is the problem. That is not at all reflective of my reality. I don’t attempt to pass this off to the government to fix (as if they could), I just get out there and fix what is in my power to fix. Help where I am able to help. Give where I am able to give. It’s called personal responsibility, a concept that is utterly foreign to a generation that expects the government to fix everything for them, exactly to their liking.

For those SJWs who want me to think more like them, I have this advice: Get your own life in order before you start criticizing the world. Unless you can say you do as much, or more, than I am doing, you are a hypocrite and in no position to point fingers.

So here is my challenge to you. If you really care as much as you say you do, I would love to have some allies in my mission of mercy. Prove you care. Send me your info and join me.

For once in your life, put your money where your mouth is and do something productive, something that actually relieves suffering in the world, even if it’s just one individual at a time. Stop being so bloody arrogant to think that you and your ideas are gonna change the world. Stop fighting your fight on Facebook, get off your privileged white ass, and go find out for yourself what problems are within your power to fix.

Then, and only then, are you qualified to take on the universe, okay?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s