It is already a cliché: the tourist visits a very poor village in Africa and takes a photo carrying a black child on his lap to post on social networks and create an aura of altruism about himself. But the question remains, what message are these photos really sending?
We know that it is difficult not to be moved by the drama of children living in poor villages in Africa, exposed to extreme poverty, hunger, lack of basic sanitation, health, the minimum to survive with dignity. And there is a great desire to try to make them smile, even in the midst of so much adversity. But there is something to keep in mind: They are not a trophy to be used in order to attract likes on Instagram! Don't take a random child on your lap just to force them to take a picture with you!
The discussion surrounding this increasingly routine practice on social media, especially among celebrities, was sparked recently, when British documentary filmmaker Stacey Dooley made an Instagram post, showing her holding a Ugandan boy in her lap, with the following caption: “ OB.SESSSSSSSSSSSED ”and a broken heart emoji.
So many other people have already done the same thing that many sympathized with Stacey Dooley when British Labor MP David Lammy quoted her after pleading for the end of the "white savior" complex.
People's response to David Lammy can be interpreted as a reminder that common sense is extremely unusual. Angry white men across England came to Dooley's defense, accusing the black deputy of being the true racist in history (!) For not appreciating the wonderful work Dooley is doing for daring to go so far in the great African jungle. Someone even tweeted: “This world needs more‘ saviors ’, no matter what the color.”
And honestly, how can we argue against that? Being against superheroes is like being against the good of humanity. You would have to be crazy! So, let's be clear: saviors are great. They save things that need to be saved.
But the concept of "white saviors" does not refer to this. It is a very specific need by the West to portray Africa as a place in ruins, with red soil, flies and children who do not even know it is Christmas time. This reinforces the view that Africans can never be the solution, that they are powerless, without any agency of their own, and that the sun and hope only arise when wrapped in the warm and bright embrace of someone with white skin.
If you were confused about how to proceed without being accused of racism, just ask yourself the following question: How would I act in a homeless shelter in my own city? Would you ask everyone to stop what they are doing to pose for a photo in which you are the protagonist? When you see a child playing, would you take him in your arms and hold him up like a trophy? It is presumed not to. So just keep that in mind.