FEATURE: Hilarious ‘Barbie Savior’ parodies savior complex of some White NGO volunteers in Africa
April 19, 2016
Oh, boy. I’m just going to speak for myself when I say that every time a white friend travels to a poor brown country in Africa to spread White Jesus™, I roll my eyes. It’s not that philanthropic work is ridiculous, it’s that there’s something a little too exploitative and self-serving about a picture of a white face grinning amongst a sea of impoverished or disenfranchised black and brown faces. Lucky for us, I’m not the only cynical asshole out there! Some lovely (super funny) folx created an Instagram account, modeled after the now defunct Socality Barbie, that parodies the social media feeds of white volunteers in Africa. @barbiesavior was created by two white women who describe themselves as former “white saviors” and used their own experiences as volunteers on the continent as inspiration for the account. “We were never as ‘savioresque’ as Barbie Savior, but we did things back in our White Savior days that we regret,” the creators told The Huffington Post.
This isn’t to say that volunteers who spend time and money in order to help disadvantaged communities are horrible, self-serving creeps trying to make a case for their spot in heaven. But the account does make commentary about the ‘savior’ factor that’s embedded in white, predominately Christian, “mission work” culture which fetishizes Africa, her people, and their struggles. “The attitude that Africa needs to be saved from itself, by Westerners, can be traced back to colonialism and slavery,” says the makers of Barbie Savior. “It’s such a simplified way to view an entire continent.”
By Erin White*, AFROPUNK contributor
*Erin White is an Atlanta-based writer and AFROPUNK’s editorial and social media assistant. You can follow her on Tumblr or friend her on Facebook. Have a pitch or an inquiry? Shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.