The white savior complex is a pernicious & insidious mind set with a profound impact on how US foreign policy is perceived. What else can explain the call for US humanitarian intervention in Bosnia, Syria, & elsewhere after 170 years of US colonial wars? It is appalling that Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” is not understood as a, if not the, preeminent & pioneering work of the white savior genre but is considered an anthem of antiracism. Whites & even some Black scholars & writers do not see Twain’s racism but the book became an issue when Black schoolchildren were traumatized by reading it. It isn’t just Twain’s flagrant use of the n-word but that a white juvenile delinquent saves an adult Black slave, that Twain makes minstrel language the vernacular of that Black man, & that the book has stronger elements of a farce than a merciless condemnation of slavery. It is the epitome of white saviorism, not antiracism.
The author of this piece, Sahar Ghumkhor, is an Afghan woman now living in Australia. She takes a hardheaded look at the Oscar winning documentary “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone” about young girls in Afghanistan. She situates it as part of that feel-good white savior genre which masks ‘war on terror’ justification for the US-NATO occupation of her country & helps to assuage our discomfort about the war. She wrote an equally uncompromising piece for Al Jazeera on the hypocrisy of Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand (long before Ardern came out as a supporter of the lockdown of Kashmir) & a piece on how Muslims are required to prove their humanity as ‘good Muslims’ versus terrorists.
The white savior mind set permeates literature & film, not to mention our understanding of US military & political policy. We need more writers like Sahar Ghumkhors to expose the insidious character of the white savior complex & give it no respect whatsoever.