A group of friends drink at a winery


It’s OK to have privilege — but what are you doing with it?

Aug 12, 2020

Lately, I have been thinking about the privileges I have. I own a condo, I lease a car and don’t worry about having groceries to feed my family. My life seems fairly comfortable. But I’m not.

As a parent, I try to do everything I can to make sure my son will have a head start because, to a degree, I did not. My mother tried her best for me, but I still ended up utilizing food banks, moving constantly from eviction and being ridiculed for wearing secondhand clothing.

So now as a mother, I am always grateful when my son has a healthy dinner, a restful sleep and when I am able to buy him something new from the mall. I acknowledge the benefits I have from being a Canadian citizen, and the hard work I put into my life. I know I have privilege, and I would never give it up.

Do you have pandemic privilege? Read about what it is and ways in which your privilege can help others right now here

When I first became a mom I would meet other mothers who loved to boast and list the things they’d accumulated. It’s all about your stroller, how long ago you signed up for daycare or if your baby food is locally made in small batches and organically sourced.

It always made me feel uneasy.

Even though these lists are a way for moms to connect, I often wonder if these other moms felt grateful that they had so many choices. Don’t get me wrong, I want my son to have the very best, but he didn’t care what kind of stroller he had, he just cared I was with him.

Even now, when I go to the playground with my son, there are so many parents who seem as if they aren’t affected by the world that’s clearly still on fire. They stand close to each other, they share wine, they don’t enforce the COVID-19 rules and they are quick to change the subject when I ask their thoughts about school in September.

The fact that they are so relaxed makes me uncomfortable, because as much as I want to create a community around me, it’s difficult to connect when I’m unsure if those parents share the same values.

"Even now, when I go to the playground with my son, there are so many parents who seem as if they aren’t affected by the world that’s clearly still on fire."

It’s hard to not feel a little anger when I know my life has been much harder than theirs. They probably haven’t been followed in stores when they were buying diapers, or asked if their child belonged to them by another parent at a drop-in centre. They have the choice to teach their children about racism. I think it’s a privilege to lead a life without fear of police harassment, microaggressions and being stereotyped as the angry Black mom.

I know it is up to each individual to make the best of whatever circumstances they are handed. I don’t want anyone to feel guilty about the privileges they have. I just want people to use their advantages to help those who need it. I would rather hear parents talk about how they’ve donated to charity or volunteered their time and skills instead of hearing about their cottages or speed boats or ski chalets.

"Fairness is about the decisions you make, and I try to teach [my son] how important it is to fight for everyone, not just ourselves."

I hope they consider how lucky they are to have those assets.

My son isn’t old enough to understand completely that some people are born with built-in advantages, but he understands fairness. When we play a game and he loses, he feels upset. I have to tell him, “It’s OK, you can’t win all the time.” He’s now learned to shake my hand and say, “Good game, Mama," whether he wins or loses. Fairness is about the decisions you make, and I try to teach him how important it is to fight for everyone, not just ourselves. Because not everyone has the same opportunities, advantages or privileges.

While True Daley believes that masks are helpful during this pandemic, she is mindful of the politics and privilege of masks. Read that here.

As parents, we’re all going to have uncomfortable conversations with our kids. We are going to have to talk about sex, drugs and alcohol, crushes, heartbreak and bullying. So talking about privilege or race shouldn’t be avoided because it makes you feel uncomfortable. I’m happy to talk to my son, and work through what is uncomfortable so that we can both grow, conquer our fears and stay connected.

I know it’s my responsibility to teach my son how to be fair and to empower him to connect with all kinds of people. Facing our own privileges is uncomfortable. But sometimes you have to get uncomfortable to get comfortable. It’s how we learn, how we evolve and how we can make a change.

Great things never came from being comfortable.

It’s OK to have privilege — it’s what you do with it that matters.

Article Author Vanessa Magic
Vanessa Magic

Vanessa Magic is a writer, award-winning costume designer and musician. She loves making up magical stories and singing songs to her adorable four-year-old son. When she is not in mama mode, she facilitates workshops with Inclusive Stylist Toronto, an initiative she co-founded that encourages inclusivity within the film industry for costume design and wardrobe styling. Currently, she is a participant in the BIPOC Film and TV Kids writing workshop where she is developing an afro-futurist science-based show.

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