I am a white male who was raised in a middle-class subdivision and a nice house. We had a sledding hill in our front yard with a wide oak tree at the bottom that – as legend has it – was standing there when Ulysses S. Grant traveled the Stagecoach Trail on his way to Galena in the 1860s. The town was Rockford Illinois, a place where no one visits, and no one leaves. We had a train station there once, but it closed. Then we lost our bus station too. Rockford in the seventies was a town where residents grew up thinking that the big city – even one as close as Chicago – wasn’t for us. Where people thought airplanes were for fancier types, and international travel was, well, not even invited into our imagination.
I was entitled to be raised by a single mother. My father had never been one long for employment, and so when he left, my mother was left with no prospects, no alimony, and no child support. Still, she was entitled to the “American Dream” and she vowed to keep that house. It was the foundation of what was left of our small family. Towards that goal she worked multiple jobs while going to school in pursuit of a teaching certificate.
I was entitled to have a mother who turned out to be a great public-school teacher. She was loved by her students and her parents. Yet, every fall she suffered through strikes or pink slips. Once at the end of a RPS strike, she inadvertently crossed a picket line to get her classroom ready for her returning students. That afternoon she found her tires slashed in the school parking-lot. The cruelties and challenges she suffered on my behalf are almost too much to consider.
In junior high school I was entitled to receive free lunches from taxpayers. Free-lunch kids had a special line that snaked through the lunchroom at the busiest time of the day. Those better off heckled from their seats and threw uneaten food at us – alms that not even the poor wanted. Cheers went up for face shots and extra points were given for making one of us cry. I stopped eating lunches and was entitled to have a school library where I could pass that 45 minutes for the next two years.
When I was in high school, I was entitled to become a hoodlum like my peers or get a job. My mother helped me with that decision. Now, this was Rockford Illinois, the most depressed city in the country. Minimum wage was $3.35 but with unemployment over 20%, minimum wage was a king’s salary. I took a job washing dishes for $2 an hour working weekend nights from 8:00pm until 4:00am. I was 14. I would go home at the end of the shift with $16-cash in my pocket. On school nights I could go home at midnight.
I am grateful to have been entitled to leave Rockford – alive. My first friend to die was my childhood best friend, Paul Ogilvy, who died of cancer at age 21. Jim Roberts who lived across the street from him followed soon after with a shotgun in his mouth. My dear friend Debby Warden was a drunk driving casualty as was Renee Ring and Glen Nichols. There were a couple others too. Oh, and we should not forget poor Tammy Tracy, sister to my first-grade bestie, Darren. Her teenage body was found in a cornfield. All this before I was 21.
I was accepted to the University of Chicago where I was entitled to get my ass kicked and make the best friends a fella can make. My mother couldn’t pay for it, so I got through by “beg, borrow, or steal” – which really means borrowing and working hard. School was difficult, and I joked, I was fired from more restaurants than my classmates had eaten in. It took me an extra year, but I made it through.
After college. I was entitled to find a job, quit, and find a better one. Then I was fired from that job and found a better one anyways. But then, I quit that one and finally found an opportunity in which I believed. I was offered the opportunity to invest, and I was entitled to risk everything I had (and everything I could borrow). I took a speculator leap knowing that if it failed, that burden was no one’s but mine.
But it didn’t fail. And with financial success came a generous life with my wife, my family, and my community. I was entitled to enter semi-retirement, get involved with charities, help in a meaningful way, and make gifts larger than I ever would have thought possible. I take great pride in knowing that I have made a positive difference in the people’s lives.
As my children aged and needed me less, I found myself desiring to return to the corporate world. I missed the camaraderie and shared goals of working as part of a team. But finding a job did not come easily, and I readily saw how dispassionate hiring managers can be. As a male in my late 40s who had not worked in more than a decade, I suffered intentional bias, unintentional bias, ageism, and sexism – all the while reminding myself that every obstacle was surmountable. After many years of learning how to get around those people, I finally landed a great job where I am using all my entitlement to make a positive impact on culture, efficiency, and revenue. It is from there that I write this post today.
Like many who succeed, I have been entitled my whole life. I have been entitled keep a positive attitude. I have been entitled to show compassion learned from hardship. And most importantly I have been entitled to believe we are entitled to something better than the lot we were given.
So yup, I’m entitled. And even if I’m not, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
8 thoughts on “Yup, I’m entitled.”
This is an American story. In capitalist America we are given the entitlement to risk our lives. Without that risk and without that freedom we are nothing but stool pigeons for a socialist nightmare. Thanks for sharing your American story.
We are all entitled, because we have a friend like you.
Nicely written, the world need more people who strive, rather then complain about others and their lot in life.
Nicely written Curt. You’ve done well in many ways and you’ve earned the right to be heard. P.S.Tullocks woods was a great place to be entitled to. Grateful for the memories.
You’re an accomplished person, and you faced a lot of obstacles and experienced heartache–we all do, of course, but some more than others. I’m wondering–were ever jailed just because you’re black? No, not likely. Entitlement isn’t the right word; privilege doesn’t seem right either, because like you a lot of white folks don’t have to experience the loads of racist shit black folks do, and it’s not a “privilege” to not get hassled, it just should be the steady state, the way things should be.
So, no, entitlement it ain’t.
I have to wonder though, that like me, you’ve got a bit of a chip on your shoulder, and have outlived its usefulness or relevance.
Congratulations on the success, and safe travels.
I’m not responding to specific comments, but this would be a fun one. Perhaps a future blog post will answer your questions.
Heartfelt and moving, Curt. And as a white guy at your age I can relate to the struggle and effort, and the uncertainty. I appreciate the honesty, just putting a clear view out there. It makes me wonder, why didn’t we share at this level when we were younger? Was it more risky to share in younger days? Does that make it less risky now? Is there something that really matters, that we have to get right? Or, are you just on a victory lap?
Meh. The woman was right, you just can’t see it. You might not have been born on third base, but compared to the vast majority of people in the US, you started around second. How many black people can you count as dear intimate friends? How many single mothers (like yours) but who are struggling today? How many asian friends? How many Mexicans? The ones washing the dishes at your local Lincoln Park restaurants? And on and on. How much of America do you even know that you can make this assessment? I’m actually curious as why you feel the need to write this on a your little truther blog. What makes you feel that threatened?
Do I even know you? You don’t seem to know me.