Recognising the harm of saviourism

My partner and I were having our usual weekly conversation about the future we’d like to build in Africa at some point. See, we understand that Africa is the only place we’ll ever be seen and treated as equals, so we’re determined to get there.

Overhearing our conversation, our eldest daughter immediately reacted saying “Mummy, I don’t want to live in Africa, there’s no food there”. We were shocked – what had made our child think such craziness? – so I asked. “Mummy, the children on the television are always hungry and asking for help”.

Saviourism.

Damn those adverts. If I had a list of things I’d like to be censored, those beggy ads would be right up there on my list. I’ve always found it hard to understand why charities positioned poverty abroad when there are starving children in the UK, who the government refuse to feed.

It was tough to know my daughter believed that Africa was full of impoverished people and the UK was somehow a superior place. Africa is rich with the resource the rest of the world relies on, yet savourism has done a number on my babes.

I know most of my readers are consciously aware of matters surrounding racism and social injustice, but I felt it important to define what I believe to be savourism. Concerning racism, a saviour is a person who assumes the “burden of leadership” to “rescue” minority or marginalised people from their suffering. They view themselves as someone sent to deliver others from their unfortunate positions, inadvertently placing themselves as the hero.

I don’t question that most who place themselves in the saviour position have genuinely good intentions, however, their motivations will always cause me concern. Few questions that should be considered… Have you checked your own bias? How close friends are you and your ego? Do you believe you’re integral to ‘fixing’ the problem of racism? Do you fully understand systemic racism and the need to dismantle it? Do you acknowledge your privilege and complicity in perpetuating racism?

Black people do not need rescuing; what we need is those in privileged positions to challenge the status quo and proactively look to break this down one layer at a time. We hear a lot about allyship, however, I came across an article by Alexandria Love, who talks about the importance of accompliceship in eliminating oppressive systems.

Being an accomplice takes on more of an advocacy role; you’re invested in doing the legwork and holding yourself more accountable. The reality is black people understand our plight; we’ve been living it for over four centuries. We find it incredibly insulting when others believe they know our daily experiences, what’s best for us, and assume we lack the resources, willpower, and intelligence to move the dial ourselves – all the while failing to acknowledge the power of the systems designed to limit our progression.

Savourism is the cousin of imperialism and colonialism by putting white people in the role of guiding responsible figures. Savourism reinforces false beliefs that imply marginalised people need strong, capable white leaders and educators to create change; the furthest thing away from the truth.

I came across a quote from Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole that sums things up nicely “The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.

If you want to support the fight for equality, you can do this in more meaningful ways, such as:

  • Unpacking your bias.
  • Assertively learning to become anti-racist and expressing this position.
  • Doing your part to permanently dismantle systems of oppression by educating yourselves and making challenges where you can

Listen and be guided by those with lived experiences, question your motivations and only act if you truly care.

Sending love and light always.

DiDi x

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