Prangs and Privilege

The other day I witnessed a minor shopping-mall accident where someone reversed out of a car-park without looking and drove into the back of a passing car.

The reversing car was a new 4WD; the car passing by was a beaten-up old sedan.

The driver of the 4WD was Pākehā (white); the couple in the sedan were Māori.

The 4WD took the impact on its towbar and was not even scratched; the sedan had its bumper ripped off and its fender badly dented.

Just another minor prang – happens every day. But also, perhaps, a metaphor for the intrinsic unfairness of our world, sometimes referred to as white privilege.  How often do we, like the 4WD driver, do something out of blindness, carelessness, or ignorance that has a major impact on others but leaves us unscathed?

The metaphor seems relevant in many domains – the economy, international relations, education, the job market – the list goes on. A simple example is food prices – why are soft drinks and junk food usually cheaper than milk, fruit and vegetables? It’s unlikely that this pricing was done with malice; simply a blindness or carelessness for the wider consequences. And I’m Alright Jack, because I can afford the higher priced healthy food. Not everyone is this lucky, and, like the sedan, family health takes a battering.

To be fair to the driver of the 4WD, she took full responsibility for the accident. And that is a good start, both literally and metaphorically.  But turning a good start into concrete steps down the road to a fairer world requires more – for example, awareness of our privilege, empathy for others, being generous with our time and money and being willing to speak out against injustice.

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1 Comment

  1. An excellent metaphor. Sometimes philanthropy is simply taking care of the impact you have on others, whether you intended to intersect with them or not. Other attributes of responsible people is to think what you are doing and watch where you are going!

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