Stacey, go home
No offence to Staceys but as far as names go it must be one of the whitest of snow white names. Oyinbo status certified by the 2003 hit song by Fountains of Wayne “Stacy’s Mom”. So it’s no wonder a Stacey got slammed this week by partaking in one of the white of snow white acts: the white saviour.
After the documentary maker Stacey Dooley visited Uganda for Comic Relief and shared pictures with children and women on her Instagram, Labour MP David Lammy accused her of perpetuating “unhelpful stereotype” of being “white saviour” in Africa.Dooley hit back at Mr Lammy saying: ‘If the issue is that I’m white… you could always go’ – while Comic Relief revealed the politician had ignored their offer of a trip to Africa to support the charity.
The Labour MP for Tottenham responded that Stacey’s comments showed she had failed “to educate herself”, adding on BBC News’ Victoria Derbyshire show: “Her Instagram conveys the age-old trope that is her as the heroine and the black child as the victim and we have to stop it.”
He added: “The image is a perpetual image of people who are impoverished, who need white celebrities. It keeps the continent of Africa poor. It keeps people in their place.”
Writing on social media, Mr Lammy said: “The world doesn’t need any more white saviours. As I’ve said before, this just perpetuates tired and unhelpful stereotypes” and added, “Let’s promote voices from across the continent of Africa and have a serious debate.”
Addressing Dooley directly, he said: “This isn’t personal and I don’t question your good motives. My problem with British celebrities being flown out by Comic Relief to make these films is that it sends a distorted image of Africa which perpetuates an old idea from the colonial era.”
Lammy then went on to say, “Imagine Black African celebrities coming to the U.K. holding up a mirror to our problems- Homelessness, drug addiction, abuse and asking people to sit back and give without context or discussion. It wouldn’t happen because power and colonialism don’t work that way!”As the debate raged for over two days in the UK media, Lammy’s comments completely went over the heads of Dooley and Comic Relief’s communications team.
As Comic Relief went on defence on social media showing support for Dooley and explaining they had asked Lammy to “work with us and make a film ‘in Africa'” but he hadn’t responded, the politician hit back with:”My job as a politician is to raise the issue. The people of Africa do not need a British politician to make a film. I want African people to speak for themselves, not UK celebs acting as tour guides.”
While many who shared their views on social media and in the comment sections of online news have seen this as yet another attack on a young woman on the rise, there are also many who appreciate Lammy’s stand.
The fact that it seems to have escaped not only Dooley but the PR team at Comic Relief is the most frustrating example of white privilege blind to its own privilege. Dooley showed us just how blinkered her world view is when she made the argument about the colour of her skin, oblivious to the essence of her argument.
Regardless of how much has been raised Comic Relief is shamelessly stuck in a blinkered, one dimensional view of Africa, or anywhere else that’s considered in the Western psyche as “third world”. The charity has previously come under fire for parachuting celebrities into some of the poorest corners on Earth single handedly encouraging the narrow minded view of these places as “backward” and the “natives” as hapless “savages” that don’t know any better and need rescuing by the “white saviour”.
Poverty porn is the sickening result of white privilege, as is voluntourism. In her ill-advised Instagram posts and her response to Lammy in the ensuing debate she doesn’t come across any smarter than 18-year-old Stacey from down the road in Maidenhead spending her gap year saving orphans “in Africa.”
Also the same Africa where Bono led the white privileged masses in the ’80s to believe that “nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow” and where people may not even know it’s Christmas perpetuating decades of stereotypical, blinkered views of Africa.
In recent years as such outdated views of Africa are challenged and ridiculed with satires that have gone viral such as a scathing film of Africans launching an appeal to send radiators to snowy Norway, and an Instagram site called Barbie Saviour filled with images of the well-dressed doll cuddling babies, Comic Relief’s blueprint of celebrity hobnobbing with the “natives in Africa” is even more grating.
There are of course international aid agencies that get it right and remind us that they are not there to spoonfeed the needy but to work with the community to implement initiative the governments are too weak or corrupt to implement for their people. I’d encourage you to watch Islamic Relief’s Saving Lives isn’t Easy campaign video which ridiculed kind-hearted by clueless Westerner’s “white saviour” mentality showcasing aid is more than visiting a disadvantaged village with a box full of goodies and a selfie stick.
Stacey, little African babies are not props, dancing African women are not backdrops so you get to show the world how wonderful you are and get to polish your halo. Much like you wouldn’t see the homeless in even the most upmarket parts of London not being visited and given aid by African celebrities with a camera crew and reporters in tow.
They are human beings, like you and me, equals. They have the skills and wherewithal to do better and at worst they’ve been failed by corrupt governments. There are many young, agile, forward thinking Africans you or Comic Relief haven’t bothered to meet and talk to – who are educated, urban, professional – doing their part to advance those who are not as fortunate. My guess is they just wouldn’t make your feed look as exotic and make you feel as holy.
They would be the first to remind you they are our equal, they do not need our aid or hand me downs in shoe boxes. They would tell you we need honest, open discussions on international platforms to hold their aging and corrupt leaders accountable. They would say you need to get over yourself and your colonial mindset. Or perhaps, knowing how some of my Naija folk are, they’d tell you to simply pack your load and go back home.
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