Several years ago, a Black schoolteacher in the US set off a furor over Mark Twain’s 1885 book “Huckleberry Finn,” which was part of the core curriculum in elementary school. In teaching the book to Black children, he saw they were traumatized by the book & not just by its use of the n-word.

To most white readers, Huckleberry Finn is an inspiring, anti-racist book & the furor completely threw many of them for a loop. Once you understand it as one of the earliest examples of white savior literature–along with Rudyard Kipling’s 1888 novella “The Man Who Would Be King”–the book’s artistic problems are clarified (in particular its odious ending); Twain’s racism becomes evident; & the book develops a distinct malodor. It speaks to the cognitive disorders of white supremacy that white readers are not immediately repulsed, as the Black schoolchildren were, that a puckish white street kid would save an adult Black man from slavery.

This controversy has not abated cinematic outpourings of white savior films which usually involve leading white & Black actors. Accidental & reflecting the racism of Hollywood? Or intentional social control to inculcate racism & supremacy?

This comes to mind because one TV station just showed two films about the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa & in both a white savior is the leading character & Black anti-apartheid activists merely props to showcase white nobility.

The genre clearly appeals to whites. It must be deconstructed & undone.