The white saviour complex | The Week UK

  • 3 min read
  • Nov 22, 2022

The white saviour complex | The Week UK

Bob Geldof, arguably the most prominent celebrity to be accused of having a white savior complex, has dismissed the term as “commonplace and silly.”

The Irish singer who created the Live Aid charity concert in 1985, which raised millions for famine relief in Africa, told the Radio Times that most people don’t give a “f***” about white saviors and that the debate over aid to White people are “just a wormhole where people have disappeared”.

“Black saviors, white saviors, green saviors, I’m with them all,” he added.

Controversy comic relief

A row over white saviors erupted in 2019, when an image of TV star Stacey Dooley holding a Ugandan child while filming for Comic Relief was banned for perpetuating what then Labor MP David Lammy called the “stereotype”. tired and unhelpful” described, criticized, highly praised. .

Lemmy, who is now shadow foreign secretary, said Dooley’s pictures, which she posted on her personal Instagram page, “suffused you with tiredness”. “The world no longer needs a white savior,” he wrote on Twitter. Let’s instead promote voices from across the African continent and have a serious discussion.

Lammy’s view that whites should no longer step under the umbrella to “save” people of color is a view that has been extended since the days of Goldhoff’s Live Aids. In response to the 2019 debate, Comic Relief said future appeals would be led by local filmmakers for a “more authentic perspective”. But the topic is still hot.

Even the Qatar World Cup has been marred by accusations of white savior behavior. According to Dazed magazine, the protest, led by British activist Peter Tatchell, was “a classic ‘white savior’ move” for “many queer Arabs”. “In other words, an enlightened Westerner tries to save the poor Arabs from a superior position,” the publication explained.

Also recently the Apple TV series Shantram It was criticized for following films like 1962 Lawrence of Arabia and the year 1982 blood diamond By depicting a white hero saving a strange land.

A “humiliating” narrative.

The term “white salvation” originates from patronizing colonial beliefs about the paternal responsibility of whites to guide and support non-whites. The trend has been around since the 1980s due to the increasing number of celebrities – such as Madonna, Bono and Angelina Jolie – who have become involved with charities that support people living in developing countries.

Responding to the Dooley controversy, Guardian journalist Gabby Hinsliffe wrote in 2019: “The spectacle of celebrities taking tearful ‘personal journeys’ to understand poverty has become increasingly brutal. Hinsleaf added that Geldof and Bono were “virtually canonized for Live Aid” and that focusing on such figures “overshadows the people who are supposed to understand their experiences in the first place”.

Laura Seay, a professor and student of African politics, conflict and development, said in the Washington Post that white savior narratives are also “condescending.” Original version of Do they know it’s Christmas?a charity single written in 1984 to raise money for famine in Ethiopia, was “Drowning in Negative Stereotypes”.

He wrote that the poems reductively envision Africa as a homogenous place “where nothing grows,” where “the only water that flows is the bitter sting of tears.”

The powerful role of celebrities

But the subject is a complicated one. Although celebrities have certainly played an important role in perpetuating white savior attitudes, their ability to drive charitable giving is undisputed.

Writing for UnHerd, the Spectator’s literary editor Sam Leith said Dooley’s comic relief trip to Uganda was “a PR exercise”. But, he added, “that’s not a bad thing,” because ultimately, the goal of such charity programs is to get people to donate as much money as possible “to help those less fortunate than themselves.”

“There are many less fortunate people in African countries,” he explained. “The best way to achieve this is to put these unfortunate people on TV and get the newspapers to write stories about them. And the best way to achieve that is to put cameras on them.”

Discrediting good deeds in the name of correcting pervasive Western prejudices is self-defeating, Leith added, but that doesn’t mean we should be happy with the “white savior stereotype” that “marginalizes African operations.”