How to be an Advocate Without Perpetuating the White Savior Complex

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.