Article written

  • on 04.07.2014
  • at 04:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Why Won’t the #WhiteSaviourComplex Go Away? 0

I have recently spent a lot of time with young Americans wanting to learn about global development and humanitarianism. Most of them envisage a career in the development or aid industries.

Almost all of them grew up in the relative privileges of the US or Western Europe but do not believe that their work will be in these places. Rather, they anticipate, as they take classes and plan study or internships abroad, that they will be solving the problems of any number of African, South and Central American, or Asian countries.

These young people are masters of social media and show creativity and incredible drive in the ways they approach the problems that they think need to be solved. They blog, tweet and instagram but they also form organisations, raise money and create projects. They travel to African villages, build schools, teach, dig wells, coordinate planning committees, and volunteer in clinics. When they return, many are smart enough to realise that they did very little to change anybody’s lives except their own and that they may have even been disrespectful to the people they were supposedly helping. Yet they continue working mostly within the same kinds of programmes, inspired by Nicolas Kristof and Bill and Melinda Gates, believing that in these they might find a better way for them to save the world.

These individuals also inspire the work of an increasingly diverse group of high-profile musicians and actors and even celebrities created by the aid industry itself. They might be suitably ironic about the impact made by these celebrities, but they remain convinced that their power to raise awareness is invaluable. In the same vein they enthusiastically embrace the clicktivist campaigns such as Kony2012 and #BringBackOurGirls as powerful ways to raise awareness.

Yet there is a growing critique of these young people’s work and enthusiasm, which has produced its own hashtag: #WhiteSaviourComplex.

continue reading on Think Africa Press

By Kathryn Mathers – Think Africa Press

Photo credit: Flickr

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