What is the ‘white saviour’ (‘white saviour’) complex and why it harms continents like Africa

When a humanitarian crisis arises and affects minorities, many may ask “what can I do to help? », but if the question is asked to appease our conscience rather than looking for a solution, we find ourselves faced with the complex of ‘white savior’.

If you spend an afternoon looking at photos posted on Instagram, you’ll probably come across family photos, recent purchases, advice, and now, “volunteer” or tourist trips of influencers in Africa. It has become very common to see rich people recording every detail of their travels in the poorer areas of the continent; photographs that reveal inequalities just by seeing the clothes, the bodies and the health of the limbs.

Image of Helena Condis in Tanzania

started a stir on twitter thanks sons like julia codina —which works with humanitarian, cooperation and conflict actions— and Paul Sanchez —political scientist and humanitarian. That of the latter already accumulating 127,000 ‘likes’. The two expose the influencer’s honeymoon Therese Andres Gonzalvo and the journey of Helen Condy —whose controversial photos have since been deleted— and Juanma Castanoboth in Tanzania.

Savala Nolaauthor of “Don’t Let It Get You Down: Essays on Race, Gender, and the Body”, describes the “white savior” complex as an ideology that is realized when a white person, in a position of superiority, try to help or rescue a person or community of color. Additionally, they have a subconscious belief that they have enough means or skills to help in some way. that people of color can’t. Danielle Taana SmithPhD and Professor in the Department of African American Studies at Syracuse University he said ‘Cheers’ which, he says, “has been a fundamental foundation of Western imperialism and has manifested itself in the global enterprise of empire building”.

What the photos uploaded by these influencers reveal is a complete commodification and “romanticization” of the country. The person visits the place for a few days and makes sure to get and share photos of their “work” and the locals’ supposed happiness on social media. Something that exacerbates the narrative that “they are so happy with so little”. Locals see a lot of Westerners coming and going They never stick around long enough to make a real change nor do they try to end the causes of their poverty.

From then on, two realities now coexist: that of those who go to these countries to do volunteer work and that of those who go on vacation. Both equally bad. However, in the first case, the community is helped in one way or another, while in the second you invest in an industry that lives alongside povertygiving a certain comfort to tourists that the locals do not appreciate.

The damage wrought by the “white savior” complex in communities goes beyond posturing on social media or investing in dubious industries. Nolan explains that she compares the savior to a person running to help in an emergency room. without having any training in medicine. You may do more harm than good and leaving the community worse off.

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