White saviours, black victims: An old story

Published on Pambazuka News, by Sokari Ekine, March 21, 2012.

What is really disturbing about Invisible Children is, if a group of Africans had made the Kony2012 film would it have got the publicity from around the world? Would they have been able to raise the funds to make the video in the first place? … //

… Kony2012 began its public cyber life as a video by the organisation which became viral within hours. But the technologies of social media are not without their own internal vulnerabilities which act on the follower and the followed like balls bouncing randomly against each other in a child’s bouncy castle. Information flows at unimaginable speed, gathering more information each nano-second.

To stop or rather twist it towards an unplanned direction, the collective resonance has to reappropriate the information and sabotage by making it theirs. But this is not a struggle of us against them, truth against fiction – there are too many layers of us and them and too many truths and fictions for that to be possible. Two African voices who supported the actions of Invisible Children were AfroSphere and Mind of Malaka. [url= http://bit.ly/GGCn7a Alatentou of AfroSphere[/url] was not surprised IC was being run by white people. Nor was s/he surprised by the ‘fierce backlash’ from those s/he describes as Negro Pseudo-intellectuals, black people who are busy criticising white folks using big words in order to appear enlightened but really they sit back and do nothing.

‘Social media is their playfield. This is the arena they dominate because it’s where they can easily find an audience of like-minded arrogant ideologues, who view social media as a vehicle to be critical of what others are doing. They would never think of utilising it as a springboard to social activism. The primary objective of social media for the Negro Pseudo-intellectual is to sprout pseudo-intellectual and hyper-moralistic political rhetoric, as well regurgitate their played out 1960s Black revolutionary conspiracy theories, so as to appear intelligent and enlightened. It’s not to utilise social media as a tool to ushering in social change today for the benefit of others, especially African children.’

Alatentou admits not knowing the people at IC but applauds them merely for doing something, unconcerned he ends with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt. Well if it had been Frederick Douglass or Sojourner Truth, I might have been a little less scathing. Instead I find myself searching for words to describe black people who are satisfied with some white people as long as they appear to be doing something to save other black people – no matter what damage being caused is! Reducing the argument to white folks and black folks is tiresome. Mind of Malaka hardly fares any better as she too brings it down to white folks here and black folks there using the rather unfortunate comparison of shit and chocolate having the same properties because they are the same colour!

Can I speak plainly, reader? I am SO SICK of Black people and their twisted dogma concerning the ‘White Savior’ Syndrome. Oh, you haven’t heard of it? It’s the belief in certain circles of the Black intelligentsia that because Black folk can’t do for themselves, White people have to come in and do for them, or more specifically, solve our problems for us. In the case of Joseph Kony in particular, one rather prolific individual on Twitter summed up the Kony2012 (and implied White savior campaign) movement by saying that ‘the world exists simply to satisfy the needs – including, importantly, the sentimental needs – of White people and Oprah’.

It gets worse – Black people hang your head in shame! This is followed by a rant against African leaders, Blackberry users and our failures to support Save Darfur and wipe Kony and his despicable murdering cronies off the face of the earth. Like AfroSpear, Malaka has bought the narrative of IC and other saviours that Africans are doing nothing to solve their own problems. There are no queer activists acting, just White saviours from London and New York. There are no African doctors or governments for that matter working to end FGM and provide women with much needed medical care, just Raelians and their flying saucers. There are no Africans campaigning against Shell oil in Nigeria or providing support to rape survivors in the DRC. No Africans campaigned against Charles Taylor to end the civil war – it was all done on the back of EuroAmericans. What is really disturbing about Invisible Children is, if a group of Africans had made this film would it have gotten the publicity from around the world? Would they have been able to raise the funds to make the video and carry out the research?

The supply lines of information – Twitter, Blogs, Facebook are full of distortions, misinformation, truths, assertions and counter assertions. Entry points to all of these data bits are often random and unconnected just as they produce moments of hyper-activity. The speed of travel and sense of urgency leave little time to reflect such that unless one spends all hours of the day on guard, it is impossible to truly grasp what is happening at any one time.

The Metropolis is not just this urban pile-up, this final collision between city and country. It is also a flow of being and things, a current that runs through fibre optic networks, through high speed train lines, satellites, and video surveillance cameras, making sure that this world keeps running straight to its ruin. [‘The Coming Insurrection’ - pp 58]

In the case of Invisible Children and Kony 2012, social media is the Metropolis and the collision is not between black / white, city / country or north / south but between visions of what the world can and needs to be if justice is the purpose rather than banal emotional experiences of privilege. (full text).

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