David Lammy is right to call the narrative the "white savior" – if Comic Relief understood that


"Poverty porn" -exploiting the poor to gain attention or sympathy for a charitable cause-is a relatively new term for such an old phenomenon.

Most of us grew up watching the ads of poor African children with flies on their faces, or were forced to resist a number of versions of "Do They Know It's Christmas Time?" focused on the lives of fans. the poor, and even more about what the West can do to "save" them.

If, somehow, you are not familiar with pornography of poverty, all you have to do is go to Instagram and you will be able to find at least one example of a white person surrounded by a group of black children with a legend that refers to how their experience in Africa "changed their lives".

Or just go to Stacey Dooley's profile.

Labor MP David Lammy recently criticized the investigative journalist for reinforcing the stereotype of "white savior," after Dooley posted a picture of her holding a child from Uganda while working with Comic Relief.

He said: "The world does not need more white saviors. As I said before, this only perpetuates tired and useless stereotypes. Instead, we will promote voices from across the continent of Africa and have a serious debate. "

Lammy's comments come a year after Comic Relief vowed to face the stereotype of white savior. As Liz Warner, CEO of Comic Relief, said The Guardian: "You'll see that the movies we put in Sports Relief are a step to … change." People speaking in the first person in their own voices, with local heroes and local heroes talking to us about the work they're doing. celebrity standing in front of people talking about them. "

But it is clear that more work needs to be done to deal with the problem, which Comic Relief does not seem to understand yet. In response to Lammy's criticism, the charity claimed that they had approached him to make their own "Film in Africa", highlighting even more his inability to understand what the problem was in the first place.

What the people who came to Dooley's defense did not understand is that Lammy is not saying that white people should not help or travel to Africa, instead of being tired of the old messages that Comic Relief is reinforcing.

Having a celebrity for these developing countries puts more emphasis on their "hard work" and suffering, than on the local people. Celebrities like Dooley are far from the lives of ordinary people in their home countries, and when they venture to appeal to charity, their "bravery" tends to overshadow the real problem in question.

Predictably, since Lammy's decision to oust Dooley, there has been a setback, and Dooley and his followers remain ignorant of Lammy's detailed explanation of Comet Relief's power to frame Western narratives about Africa.

He essentially argues that the role that Comic Relief plays is vital and must use its platform to give people a more differentiated view of African countries. Simply showing people images of poverty means that we only see Africa in a negative light. But still, Dooley replied to Lammy's tweet with a reductive one: "David, the question is, should I be white? (Genuine question) … because if that is the case, can you always go there and try to raise awareness? "

Images of white people – especially white women – with black children, with no indication as to whether or not they had the consent of their families to take and share their pictures, are everywhere. So much so that there is even a parody profile of Barbie Savior replicating the trope. But people do not need these images as an influence factor to repay to charities. Nor would they need to accept the imperialist idea that the West is the only way for Africans to escape poverty.

Dooley covered several topics in his BBC documentaries, many of which were in developing countries. You might suppose she would have unlearned the idea that the west is the saving grace of the world now. You would also think that she would know the importance of representation and how specific images tell different narratives. That is why it is disappointing that she does not understand how, as a white person, she contributed to dated narratives on the continent.

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For many children, Comic Relief is their first meeting with Africa. As a black British, the way Africa is represented had a profound effect on me. The white children at school would ask if there is electricity in Africa and whether or not we have water – which made me question my own view of the continent until I started to talk more with my mother about Africa and began to read more about my heritage.

As an African from the Democratic Republic of Congo, I have not yet visited my country, but I was lucky enough to spend some time in Ghana two years ago. This experience completely changed the way I viewed Africa and myself. Being there reminded me of how the general western representations of Africa are bad – usually with cabins, starving children and nothing more. Because what I lived in Ghana was so far away. Some parts of it still looked more like places I saw in Europe.

That is why it is important to have people in developing countries tell their own stories, rather than someone with limited knowledge about the specificity of their experiences. As Lammy stated earlier: "The people of Africa do not need a British politician to make a film. I want Africans to speak for themselves, not the British celebrities who act as tour guides. "

Appeals like Dooley's should not take place in the charity sector. Instead of going to these countries to provide services that they misunderstand, whites should be educating themselves about how these developing countries have become poor in the first place.

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