To commenter: More like water and water instead of oil and vinegar. You’re talking to one
I've been giving this topic a lot of thought for a while, not only because of the observations I've made from white and people of color friends and allies, but also because I, too, have been guilty in mocking the "accented" English of people in my community and other communities of color. The imitation and mockery of these "accents" are sometimes conducted for seemingly "harmless" comedic purposes, but nonetheless those of us who speak the colonizer's language in any form of what is commonly defined as a "Standard English" accent in white English majority-speaking countries tend to overlook our privilege and complicity in attributing stereotypes to bodies of color and perpetuating the harmful racialized narrative of "modern" versus "pre-modern."
PROLOGUE: We have a responsibility, as individuals, as professionals, and as organized groups, to not be passive bystanders, but to speak out publicly on genocidal threats. I take strong exception to the notion that speaking out on the threat of Shia Genocide in Pakistan -if based on a careful review of the evidence and a balanced view of the situation- is somehow a slide down the slippery slope of sectarianism.
A few months ago: Malala Yousafzai was girl who used to blog for BBC Urdu about the dire conditions of being a girl in Northwestern Pakistan living under the Taliban. But in October, she became famous when the Taliban shot her in the head for promoting “secularism.”
Malala’s story is heart wrenching. A young girl wanting to go to school. Hiding books under her clothes and being fearful of her life. Everyday. She is one of countless girls and women that suffer day after day from living under the Taliban.
What bothers me about her story is not her – but rather the reporting of it by the American mainstream media.
Suddenly, the whole world (mainly white people) are advocates of the struggle for girls’ education in Pakistan. This passion is misguided and over-hyped for one (call me skeptical); and second, the American media quickly made her a public figure overnight. She was on the cover of Time magazines’ 2nd runner up for the Person of the Year Award.
But of course, such an award by corporate media outlet like Time magazine is elusive in its’ meaning and entirely devoid of meaning. Obama ended up getting the award despite his horrendous track record:
- 2008 election promise and failure to close Guantanamo Bay;
- withdrawing troops from Iraq while maintaining military bases to ensure steady oil supply;
- sending withdrawn troops to Afghanistan (increasing the war there);
- secret drone warfare and killing of innocent civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia;
- increased surveillance via the NSA (just look up the current passage of FISA) and the list goes on and on.
And by “white people” being empassioned by Malala I mean of the humanitarian-hustler variety, read: Greg Mortenson-type. Jason Russell of Invisible Children non-profit is in the same category too – more on him later.
Greg Mortenson wrote Three Cups of Tea which served a promotion for his non-profit organization, Central Asia Institute. The author, his book and his organization were all a huge fraud. There are several gaping flaws in Mortenson’s account of what Northwest Pakistan is like, one being the geography of the land. The other was not building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, something he claimed to do; and instead, using donations given to CAI as his own personal piggybank.
Media reporting on Malala and American imperialist literature like Three Cups of Tea contribute and reaffirm the white savior industrial complex. It’s logic goes something like this: “We, Americans, should be grateful for not being ‘them.’ This American view of the world is one in which the ‘other’ is judged based on narrow aspects of their lives (namely poverty of some kind) and Americans, then, in effect absolve themselves of any responsibility to enact direct change (the freedom of expression includes political dissent and petitioning your local, state and federal governments). There is a fallacy amongst American (esp. evangelical Christians) that the quality-of-lives of the ‘other’ are predestined – despite substantial proof to the contrary i.e. American foreign policy and U.S. military interventions.
The white savior complex is not about justice, but rather about sentimentality and that ‘big emotional experience’ that validates privilege (eloquence from Teju Cole in The Atlantic). An excellent book that can sheds light on the topic, I highly recommend to read, is Orientalism by Edward Said. Said is the first to put the study of orientalism into an academic study. He posits that the West is “rational” and the East is “seductive,” “dark,” and “emotional.”
Malala serves as a symbolic example of the white savior industrial complex (including any other important, non-white, non-American person or people so it seems). The very method in which her story is reported only goes to reaffirm why the U.S. must continue to aerial bomb of Pakistan and kill innocent civilians. If they didn’t, then how would they kill the off the Taliban? Not each civilian is a terrorist and killing off every person possible will not end terrorism. Because, essentially, terrorism is an abstract concept. It is not a person or group of people though perceived as such. This wayward, doublethink rhetoric serves the U.S. military (the defense industry and foreign intelligence) well in making sure that weapons are sold, wars continue, people die and profits are made. Blood for oil (blood for =substitute other resource here).
In case you are wondering – yes, Oprah is definitely part of the white savior complex.
But that is besides the point, the white savior complex justifies American military intervention all over the world, including Muslim countries. It is the new phenomenon in cultural imperialist trends I suppose.
Jason Russell founded Invisible Children (same culprit that spurred the Kony2012 viral video), who’s underlying goal was to evangelize the non-Christian, non-white world. Oh, that is the entire world by the way via American military intervention.
I’m new to this but your thoughts and comments are appreciated