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Muzungo Meanings – Part 2: The Walking Dollar Sign

In the first part of this series of posts I looked at some of the contexts where people use the word Muzungo, and how that related more to how we in the west treat famous people, rather than how we relate simple to people of equal standing to us. In this post I want o explore a second common view of the White person, which thankfully isn’t subscribed to by everyone here, but I am frequently warned against.

This is the view that all white people are simply walking dollar signs. Whenever I’m in town with James and we need to get a boda-boda (motorbike) anywhere, we usually have to speak to more than one drover, before we can set off. Why? You may ask, simple Because I am with him, and the white men have plenty of dollars, so instead of charging the normal rate, I earn a “special rate”, usually starting at twice the usually rate.

Now when I’m on my own, the same thing happens, so my friends here ensure I know how much the “going rate” is for the different trips I have to take. Prices change throughout the day so sometimes it’s difficult to tell if I’m being ripped off, or it’s just a busy time of the day. To get around this I usually speak to more than one driver, when none of them will drop the price, it usually means it’s fair!

Now I discussed this matter in detail in a previous post, entitled “White Wealth”, so I won’t elaborate in much detail. When I’m told I have “plenty of dollars” when haggling for a better price I take joy in saying “I have absolutely no dollars! In fact, you probably have more dollars yourself than me!”, which of course is totally true, being British and not American (as it is always assumed you are here!)

Now relatively speaking, you might be thinking that things are cheap enough here, that even if I pay twice as much, I’m still not paying that much. Which is true. So why not just pay the higher price, and “bless them” with the extra money? A number of reasons.

The bible calls us to be good stewards of what we have been given. Many of you have supported me in this trip and I don’t take your support lightly, to just flitter it away unnecessarily. If we are living principle cantered lives (as talked about in Stephen R. Covey’s best selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), and I believed consistent with the narrative of scripture in instructions such as the tithe.

Reinforcing Wrong Behaviour
People replicate what’s rewarded, when a child does something well, you reward them with sweets, to help associate the good behaviour with good things. When your training a dog, you do the same thing. When we allow people to over charge us, we reinforce that that’s okay behaviour.

Wealth as a Blessing
When you look a parables like the talents, you see:

“‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭ESV‬‬‬‬‬

Out of context, it’s looks like the rich will only be given more money. But in context you can see that the wisest steward (who invested the money in the beset, place to get a return of 10x), was given the talent from the servant who was a poor steward and produced a zero return on the masters investment. More is given only to those who know how to steward it well. I will expand on this in a future post.

Andy Galpin

Andy Galpin

Business Consultant for IBM. Passionate about God, and equipping His church to fulfil the great commission. Posts on mission, culture, leadership and recruitment. My opinions are all my own.

  • Liz Mark Galpin

    Thoughtful post, Andy. Thank you.
    Would advise not to get too concerned if you’re paying a bit more than the going rate. I’ve met some muzungus who obsess rather about this, and get quite angry. We’ve been there. But often it’s the really needy in society who provide these kinds of services, and a little bit of wealth distribution can go a long way for them. I’ve also been in situations where some one is so desperate for a sale that you can bargain them down beyond what is reasonable. That’s exploitation. Some times I’ll bargain down to the usual rate but then pay a bit extra. After all, we’re called to generosity as well.
    Look forward to hearing more of your reflections!

    • andrewgalpin

      An excellent comment, and a valid point I hadn’t covered in the article, I’m still working out what generosity looks like in this culture :-). Thanks for commenting!