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The White Savior Complex

So, what exactly is the White Savior Complex?

Well, the term “white savior” refers to a white person who is providing assistance to non-white people. This basically means that people from western societies are going to less developed communities or countries to “fix” the problems of struggling people of color. These saviors often arrive without prior knowledge of the communities’ history, needs, or respect for the people who inhabit these environments.

Harmful Consequences of White Savior Complex

In the article, “6 Harmful Consequences of the White Savior Complex”, author Kuja spoke about how these actions lead to the uplifting of egos instead of “biblical justice.” Another consequence is the failure to actually include community leaders. These so-called “aids” would of course steal the thunder, to bring attention towards them, instead of to the actual communities and their members. The next consequence, which should be the obvious one, is that western societies will be seen as heroes, in this case, paternalism. This will also contribute to the shame and sense of helplessness for the economy of these communities. Instead of doing service out of the goodness of our hearts, and knowing the culture and history of the hardships that the communities faced, most of the time people arrive to serve, take pictures for Instagram and Facebook.

Ryan Kuja, who “served the poor and the destitute, hungry and sick, in 15 cities and on five continents”, and who “worked side by side with Mother Teresa’s nuns in the slums of Calcutta…” says that this results in the harmful consequences of the white savior complex. Coming from Western societies, white people are told “the dark bodies living in the developing world us white, Western, Christians” stated by Kuja.

The last, and I believe the most significant consequence that Kuja spoke about is that these white superiority actions “perpetuate poverty porn.” Objectifying human beings for their situations for the sake of emotional response to receive donations. These people are named to be awaiting assistance and rescue. Again, placing them under the “saviors.”

Problematic & Egotistical

In the article “Volunteer Trips are inherently problematic: Understanding how voluntourism encourages a complacency towards white savior attitudes”, Dani Kercher described this concept of voluntourism as a satisfactory vacation rather than a sense of service. He stated, “a vacation that makes them feel better about themselves.”, while of course, visiting a community.

These trips give volunteers the opportunity to feel better about themselves, especially when posting on social media about their trips and their demonstration of assistance. These social media posts also encourage others to join, promoting “complacency to white savior attitudes.”

The Lack of Knowledge Plays a Relevant Role

Kercher used an example of African communities. As cultural custom women are usually responsible for retrieving water, they walk several long miles to bring back clean water for their families. For those in western societies or developed countries, they see this as a horrible task- horrendous even. For these African women, however, they enjoy the long miles as it is a time to bond with others.

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