Tags: culture, discourse/language, inequality, knowledge, media, race/ethnicity, colonialism, neocolonialism, postcolonialism, privilege, rule of colonial difference, white savior industrial complex, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: The broad claim that certain groups have power over others—that racism, sexism, and classism exist—is hardly controversial. Yet mention privilege and tempers flare. But privilege is simply the other side of the power coin. Just as some racial groups are systematically oppressed and marginalized, other racial groups are systematically privileged, and just as forms of oppression vary, so too do forms of privilege. For instance, a white privilege might simply be living in a world where one can count on being paid more on average than Blacks or Latinos. While pay gaps may be easily quantified, forms of privilege that are less amenable to statistical analysis exist as well. Consider the male privilege of being immersed in a media environment that consistently depicts men as important and powerful. Or consider the white privilege of living in a media environment that assures audiences that white heroes are nearly always capable of transcending adversity. The above clip is from "Africa for Norway" and parodies the narrative typically deployed by Western charity organizations in their campaigns to secure funds and drum up support. It draws attention to a kind of Western privilege, a privilege both forged from and bound up with the experience of colonialism, the application of the rule of colonial difference (i.e., representing the 'other' as inferior and radically different), and Western racism. Whether it is the Kony 2012 campaign or the 1985 song "We Are the World," the story being peddled to publics is of a compassionate West saving the 'other' from unbearable poverty or some other grave injustice. Author Teju Cole famously named this dominant cultural narrative and the practices it calls forth the white savior industrial complex. While the components of the narrative can be spotted in the viral videos of these NGOs, Cole points out that it can also be found in countless Hollywood films, such as Out of Africa and The Constant Gardener. Time and again, moviegoers and YouTubers are asked to consider a rather narrowly defined hero. He's a compassionate white westerner, who stands apart in his uncommon ability to recognize the basic humanity of the many black and brown foreigners he has encountered while on his journey through an unfamiliar land; and against the advice of civilization, he heroically commits himself to the mission of saving these people from their plight. Although the perception that it is a criticism against charity will likely be a point of contention with viewers, the real critique, which is aimed at neocolonialism and the privileges it supports is incisive. It is a peculiar kind of Western privilege to be able to wade through the media pool each day, soaked by the various incarnations of this narrative, a day full of subtle reminders of one's intrinsic goodness and extraordinary abilities.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
3/26/2013 01:16:07 am
I don't see the link to the clip. Am I missing something?
3/26/2013 01:23:50 am
Tim, the clips can always be found in the "Access" field above. In this case, it is the YouTube link.
5/30/2013 08:32:18 pm
What's so bad about being privileged? There is no such thing as "unearned" privilege. That's just something lefties use to rob people of their achievements. All privileged groups got that way either through collective supremacy or simply outcompeting rival groups. Why was this person more privileged because he/she was born into this group? Because his/her group earned it.
7/8/2013 05:21:50 am
"outcompeting rival groups" should be nothing to be proud of. It's true that the Europeans "beat" Africans and South Americas by destroying their civilizations militarily, but is that a good thing? The Mongols "beat" just about everyone in the world circa 1200, but we wouldn't argue that this was a moral action or that to the victor belongs the spoils. The extension of that, and not a very long extension, is might makes right.
7/8/2013 07:02:05 am
I'm sure rich, white, heterosexual men earned their group's privilege. Historically, this group is what we call the colonizers. People in power who constantly work for maintaining the status quo and repress the rest of the world. There is no privilege without oppression. What's so hard to understand about that? Or are you one of those who are taught to believe in survival the fittest and there is a natural hierarchy to where people belong to?
7/24/2013 06:35:06 am
It's very naive to reason as if conscious will are the only variables at play in the history of the universe. During some periods of human history--during times of war, and during times of colonial conquest, especially, rapists and psychopaths reign "superior". But during most times, in most circumstances, those with these traits will be judged and punished for their actions.
5/3/2018 12:09:56 pm
suck a dick
7/8/2013 05:25:15 am
I understand the complain that this sort of "White Man's Burden" neocolonialism can be arrogant and obnoxious. But the question must be raised, who else has the ability? The West has an ungodly amount of wealth (often obtained by exploiting the Third World), and isn't it our moral responsibility to help those in terrible situations we've helped to create? The manner in which these exploits are framed may often be racist and neocolonial, but there is nothing arrogant about using one's wealth and privilege to help those without.
7/22/2013 12:10:45 pm
I think the problem with this attitude is that it does not empower the oppressed to overcome said oppression. When this happens it tends to be more of a bandaid fix, rather than actually fixing the problem itself.
7/22/2013 03:51:37 pm
I so agree with your comment. We need to stop analyzing and nitpicking and get to the task at hand. Lives are at stake. Let's not philosophize, analyse and procrastinate life necessities for the brothers and sisters that share our global village. Without the world village we are doomed. Arrogance or not, who the hell cares, just step up to the plate and let's do our part to save the world as we now know it!
2/21/2014 12:57:21 am
But if the intent is so good, why can't it be done in a non-racist or non-neocolonial way? That's the problem with utilizing colonialist forms of "help", they do nothing to address the roots causes of the continent's problems. If help can't be given in a non-racist or non-neocolonial way, then no matter how good the intentions are, they will never solve the problem because the "solution" will only reinforce the ideological infrastructure that allows the exploitation of Africa to occur.
7/22/2013 03:59:30 pm
My above comment was directed at Adam who expressed my thoughts completely.
7/22/2013 11:10:59 pm
I agree we must help all around the world with actions. Writing about it helps to make statements but we have to participate in doing something.
8/19/2013 07:01:13 am
Perhaps accusing whites of "privilege" is the wrong approach, since it alienates our allies, for innocently inheriting more property, respect and freedom than us. We should instead accuse discriminators, hate criminals and brutal police of the offenses I just named, instead. I agree that charities should build African infrastructure and fund small businesses, for future independence, along with their present soup kitchens and missionaries.
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