Most people perpetuating the white savior complex are incredibly well intentioned. We understand this. We also know that using intentions as a justification to avoid accountability stifles progress. We can acknowledge that people want to do good while also holding a higher standard & demanding better.
Two of the most recent posts that stood out were from Victoria Beckham and Natalie Portman — two white women — celebrities with money, status and influence. We commonly see NGOs use celebrities as ambassadors for their cause.
One thing we need to make clear is that it is not a bad thing to care about issues like access to water or education, human trafficking, malnutrition, child protection, maternal health, poverty, HIV/AIDS — It’s certainly not wrong to see needs that exist within our own communities OR internationally & to want to do something to address these needs. The problem arises when you need to be centered as the one solving these problems and when the recipients of your aid / charity are always Black & Brown people. The problem arises when you need to be photographed for every charitable act & when you receive praise for simply being pictured in close proximity to Black bodies.
So how could these two women do better? How can others take notes & be advocates without perpetuating the white savior complex? We have some advice but we’d also like to hear from you in the comments on what you think this should look like…
- Pass the mic – We’ve talked about how much we hate the concept of any community being “voiceless”. Celebrities have an incredible opportunity to give space & a platform to the voices of folks working in their communities to meet the critical needs that they are passionate about bringing awareness to.
- Images are powerful – We understand photos can be necessary for PR / fundraising purposes. What we’d propose is rather than images with the beneficiaries of aid / charity, share photos w/ the leaders running the organizations you are visiting. Talk about the work they are doing for their community. The truth is you really just took a tour and had a photo op, you didn’t actually DO anything.