Leah Farmer

Personal perspectives on faith, literature, and life.

Day 18: White Saviorism

…the phenomenon of well-intentioned white missionaries traveling to countries to help rescue BIPOC

My dad was a pretty overt racist. He and my brothers told racist jokes openly in our home and I was called out as overly sensitive when I asked them to stop. My dad would often end the argument (at least in his mind) by saying “How can I be a racist? I spent a good portion of my best years in Africa and Central America preaching the gospel to those in need of Jesus.”

At a very early age, I had no idea how to argue with his words. He had indeed gone to those places. Living in poverty with his family to do so. And I knew him well enough that he did believe that “they” were in need of saving and he had the information to help.

What I didn’t recognize then…and therefore perpetuated years later when I myself did “Inner City” ministry…was white saviorism. The belief that I in all my white christianity had something that they did not and they needed me to step in to help and save. God it’s embarrassing to say or think of…so childish and so misguided. I’ve seen churches, companies, theaters, and other organizations do this over and over, all without understanding the context and history in order to ensure proper participation.

I need to think about how this lesson impacts our diversity in hiring going forward. I need to consider and learn what it would mean to be real and not token or savior seeking.

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