In Hollywood, there’s a sub-genre of movies derisively referred to as “White Savior films.” The storyline is always the same: A group of noble savages faces persecution, a native prophecy foretells the coming of a “savior,” savior turns out to be a white guy from the very race that’s persecuting them. Yeah…here’s looking at you, Dances with Smurfs.
While these films ostensibly carry a noble enough message (one that’s certainly preceded by the ultimate White Savior, Jesus), an undercurrent of White Superiority does run through all of them. It’s the message that says “Fear not, blue Savages! The powerful and wise WHITE MAN is here to save you!”
Or, as The Atlantic’s Teju Cole put it:
[box type=”shadow”]“The White Savior Industrial complex isn’t about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.”[/box]
Even so, there are times when ONLY a person of a particular race can do the job, and those times almost always happen in matters pertaining to conversation with the persecuting race. Because here in the real world, people of a particular race generally listen most sincerely to other people of the same race. That’s how we’re wired.
However, It’s not our job, right or our privilege to save those mahogany savages from battles they have the right to fight. Doing so would be the definition of “validating privilege.” But it IS our job to put our own people in their place when need be, when we’re the ONLY ones who can do it. That’s not playing the savior…it’s just knowing your role, and playing your part.
That this woman’s sister stood up for her doesn’t make her a “hero” exactly — anybody would stand up for their own family. But she does give us an object lesson: With her words (combined with even the MENTION of white skin and blue eyes) she puts is in our place in the war on racism.
And, really, ask yourself…could anybody else have done it?