IN OTHER WORDS | Entitlement

Whether it be your simple everyday “I need to be in front of your car on the freeway. No. Matter. What” or the belief that because of the color of your skin, because you’re white, because you speak English as your first language, because of where you fall on the socio-economic ladder, you are entitled to more freedoms, greater latitude when you exist or when you make a mistake, commit a crime, or don’t. Just as you simply live in the world, that’s entitlement and it’s reprehensible.

At best, it creates dangerous freeways, road rage, frustration at the grocery store. Everyone’s time is valuable. We wait in line for a reason; we live in a community. We need to share the roads, public swimming pools, the gym equipment at our local Y, all of the public space we inhabit. At worst, and what should be on everyone’s radar, is that entitlement is getting people killed, put in jail, dehumanized, perpetuating an unjust society, maintaining horrific conditions for a large percentage of the population of these United States (home of the free, remember?). It’s happening globally, yes, and that’s reprehensible too. But look in your own backyard, really watch or read the news, not FOX, the real news, If you are honest, if you pay real attention, there is no question that white people are treated differently than black or brown people. That’s it. That’s the simple truth. And it’s crazy-making to witness. Imagine living it every day. Living as if you are less than, fearing for your life because of your color. Watching the entitled get away with, well, frankly, murder (George Zimmerman, anyone?) and not being heard. We must all be enraged, and we must all check our behavior, check others’ behavior. It is all of our responsibility to fight this. We are all created equal, remember?
It feels overwhelming, but you can make a difference. Admit the entitlements you feel and stop. Just stop. It can be the little things, be a kind driver, or more importantly, if you feel you are better than because how you were born, the texture of you hair, the color of your skin, get over your damn self and acknowledge that we must, MUST change how we view our fellow citizens. It’s time for a new day for an entire race. Be honest. Own your actions.
When I lived in Seattle, I exercised at a popular local YMCA. The place was always hopping. And, the parking sucked. I mean really, I know I was just talking about a huge social issue, and I don’t want to detract from that, but stay with me here. I’m sharing a personal anecdote. Owning my actions. One day, frustrated by the full lot, wanting to just work out, feeling stressed, time, errands, this, that, whatever had me on edge, I know I was feeling like I need to park NOW. I thought I’d scored. A spot was opening up. Another car seemed to be waiting but in my entitled mind, I had a better angle, so really the spot was mine. I was there to pull in and I “stole” the spot. For two seconds I felt smug relief. And the other driver was apoplectic. Motioned that she had been waiting. I ignored her. She sped off. Then I felt like a giant a**hole. So much so that I sat in my car and realized I needed to do something. I couldn’t just tell myself, “oh, you won’t do that again, you’re stressed out, it’s ok.” What a load of BS. I had acted out of entitlement.
I went into the gym looking for the other driver. I wasn’t sure who she was, but I was determined to find her. Sure enough, she was sitting on one of the lobby couches talking to a friend. I steeled myself. I went up to her. “I just stole your parking spot and I’m really sorry. That was wrong. I have no excuse. I wanted to work out more than do the right thing.” She looked at me, paused and smiled. “Thank you for apologizing. I really appreciate it. And doesn’t the parking situation suck here? It’s so stressful.” “It does,” I said, “and today, I let it get the best of me. Thanks for accepting my apology.” She nodded. “We all mess up sometimes. I’m glad you said something. I’m not upset anymore now.” The next time I saw her at the gym, we smiled at each other and said “hello.”
We live in a community. Everyone has needs. Mine are not more pressing than yours. My skin color or position in the parking lot should not give me greater opportunity. It’s reprehensible to believe otherwise. Own your actions, own your beliefs. Be the change. An entire race of people does not deserve to live feeling less than. We are all created equal, remember?

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