Back when my daily commute was a two-mile power walk through Manhattan, my idea of “fighting traffic” didn’t mean dodging cars or dashing across intersections seconds before a red light. It was more literal. When drivers sped through a yellow light and blocked my crosswalk, I’d pound on their trunk as I edged behind their bumper: “Nice going, idiot!”
And if they looked around for the culprit, they never suspected it was me. Female, white, middle-aged me.
Getting away with pedestrian road rage is the least of the privileges that age, sex, race, accent, or wealth bring. Being born into one racial or economic group or another—what group is privileged depends on the society, but most of the research focuses on the discrepancies between white and Black people in North America—offers you greater or lesser access to influential networks that can give you that all-important leg up. Accidents of birth can improve or worsen the odds of growing up in a safe, clean neighborhood with good schools and cultural opportunities.
These “accidents” also determine your risk of someone calling the cops on you for driving while Black, barbecuing while Black, shopping while Black, or sitting in a college common room…