The White Savior Industrial Complex

Poverty in South Africa

I am not one to like Twitter, especially as misused by the Trumpf as a way to short-circuit rational discourse. Sometimes, it is good to have one’s ideas overturned, in this case by a talented writer/photographer named Teju Cole. Although born in the U.S., Cole was raised in Nigeria and returned to this country to attend college. The following is a series of Tweets written under the name @tejucole that were published by The Atlantic in 2012. The subject? The White Savior Industrial Complex. Here are the tweets, min order:

1- From Sachs to Kristof to Invisible Children to TED, the fastest growth industry in the US is the White Savior Industrial Complex.
2- The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening.
3- The banality of evil transmutes into the banality of sentimentality. The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm.
4- This world exists simply to satisfy the needs—including, importantly, the sentimental needs—of white people and Oprah.
5- The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.
6- Feverish worry over that awful African warlord. But close to 1.5 million Iraqis died from an American war of choice. Worry about that.
7- I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on it, for you know it is deadly.

Teju Cole

These seven Tweets showed that the medium has the capability of carrying on discourse rather than just shutting it down. But then, not everyone is as witty and perspicacious as Teju Cole. I will write more about him as I investigate his books and photography.