Everyone knows what “The White Savior Complex” is whether they’ve heard it in those terms or not.
The White Savior Complex happens when white people “help” others, usually POC, and act like they’ve saved these people from “terrible, miserable lives.” Without the white savior these people would be nothing in the “savior’s” eyes, and would have sad lives. A prime example is seeing a picture of a white teenage girl on Facebook surrounded by children usually in South America or Africa with a caption talking about how sad their lives are. Because without her five days of white guidance these people couldn’t possibly survive.
There’s a difference between actually helping people because you want them to have a better life, and “helping” because you want to feel good about yourself. Religious groups that do mission trips that last a few days to a few weeks are often are filled with these kinds of people. They’re so narcissistic that they think others would be lost without them. The White Savior also rarely listens to the people they think they’re helping, doing things like trying to “liberate” muslim women who wear hijab who are perfectly happy and don’t need or want any “help.”
The White Savior is always about having an emotional experience for themselves. Talking about how life changing speaking to a homeless person is, and using the one time they went to a soup kitchen on their college resume. Their volunteering is based in personal gain, rather than how they can be of service to others.
While mission trips and volunteering can be and often are good things, we need to examine our motives and attitude towards helping others. Getting involved somewhere that you can volunteer long term is always best! I also think we should call out the White Savior complex and call it was it is: racism.
What are your experiences with the white savior complex? What do you think about it?
P.S. Sorry to the guy in my header, I’m sure you’re a nice dude, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I laughed for far too long looking at the photo in this context