Memoirs of a White Savior

Last year, a student came to my office hours to discuss her post-graduation plans. She said she wanted to travel, teach, and write.  “How about joining the Peace Corps?” I suggested. She grimaced. “The Peace Corps is problematic,” she said.  I replied the way I always do when a student uses that all-purpose put-down. “What’s the problem?” I asked.  “I don’t want to be a white savior,” she explained. “That’s pretty much the worst thing you can be.” Indeed it is. The term “white savior” became commonplace in 2012, when the Nigerian-American writer and photographer Teju Cole issued a series of tweets — later expanded into an article in The Atlantic — denouncing American do-gooder campaigns overseas, especially in Africa. His immediate target was the “KONY 2012” video of that year, a slickly produced film — by a white moviemaker — demanding the arrest of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. But

Thank you for reading!

To continue reading this article you must be a subscriber and be logged in to this site. If you already have a subscription, please log in now.