Should We Resist the “White Savior Industrial Complex”?
I found much to like and dislike in this essay by Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole discussing his widely shared tweets on the Invisible Children Kony 2012 video. Here is one:
1- From Sachs to Kristof to Invisible Children to TED, the fastest growth industry in the US is the White Savior Industrial Complex.
Cole goes on to observe (rightly in my view) that Africa and Africa causes like Kony 2012 often derive from the emotional needs of the American or European “saviors” rather than the needs of the Africans themselves.
One song we hear too often is the one in which Africa serves as a backdrop for white fantasies of conquest and heroism. From the colonial project to Out of Africa to The Constant Gardener and Kony 2012, Africa has provided a space onto which white egos can conveniently be projected. It is a liberated space in which the usual rules do not apply: a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied.
This problem has implications for the entire international aid community, and its affiliated international human rights community. I agree much of this “white savior complex” is real, but I don’t get what he wants to do about it. Cole believes that U.S. foreign policy is almost completely evil and hypocritical. So would he make common cause with U.S. non-interventionists like Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan? Is that road better just so he doesn’t have to watch condescending and self-regarding white “saviors” strutting around the world?