Of White Saviorism and Other Unpleasantries
So I decided to get off social media for a while, especially Twitter and Facebook, because I feel like the two networks have become a garbage site for toxicity, and I use them a lot, so I wanted to take some time off and not deal with them. However, I tend to check my Facebook once a day because of the Free Food @ Penn page (I GOT FREE INDIAN FOOD TWO DAYS AGO AYEE). But of course, me opening the website means i’ll have to scroll through my feed at least a little and today I came across a blog that just reminded me of why I needed to get off social media in the first place. So, this blog is a documentation of a bunch of kids(mostly white) from my school who are going to one of the biggest refugee camps back home to do some film thingy. I remember seeing this program a few months back on a school website and I half though of applying for it but I was so busy with finals and all those nasty things we have to do during the semester. In hindsight, I thank God(LOL) that I didn’t apply for it and get in.
Honey, this blog is a messssssss. First of all, the students themselves were writing the blog posts, hence you can imagine the violence of the language used just because they speak from a place of ignorance and privilege. They discuss Kenyans like we are concepts, instead of people; a cool idea for a film/documentary project instead of living, breathing human beings. Especially with refugee camps like Kakuma, its so easy to be a Western white savior, than it is to not be one. An excerpt from one of the posts reads:
One of the themes over the past few days has been the importance of the chance of resettlement existing. Even though it’s like winning the lottery for refugees, and the chance of winning is practically nonexistent, it is so important psychologically to have at least the dream of coming to America. We are the largest supporter of international humanitarian aid, and taking away the opportunity for resettlement squanders whatever good will that this built.
I mean, its not that I want the people living in Kakuma to live there forever and never resettle elsewhere, but c’mon, let’s be real. The odds of a Kakuma refugee heading to the US or another Western country is like 10,000 to 1. I am not that well versed in refugee psychology or similar material but I hardly think that them pining for something that will almost never happen is healthy. This short statement is an extremely problematic mindset to go in with, its plays directly into the white supremacist and colonial school of thought that America is this land of milk and honey that all Africans, especially the vulnerable ones should and must want to attain. As I said earlier, I’m not a master of refugees, and refugee psychology so I cannot speak with authority over this. Considering as well that I grew up in a middle class home in Nairobi, i’m privileged and people like me play into the very factors that oppress refugees, either directly or indirectly (This a disclaimer btw) I’m just here to speak on observations I make and how they relate to my experiences and the experiences of my friends, family and acquaintances I have made over my short(long?) life.
Anyways, back to the matter at hand, the blog. The first few blog posts are about how they were in class, here at Penn, being introduced to Kenya, etc. They had Swahili lessons, given by a white teacher(I was on campus LOL I would have taught them, made that white savior CASH) They had about seven instructors who briefed them, they all had one thing in common, they were white and had Western backgrounds. They even had this prof I had for a writing class speak to them, and this lady is nice but she is white af and her teaching an African class was a mess, so i’m wondering about what ‘tips’ she gave about living and navigating a Kenyan refugee camp(She’s going around Africa, writing about Coca Cola, so i’ll let you think about that)
They also discussed the Kenyan elections(I MEAN HOW COULD THEY NOT), and here is another excerpt:
I knew nothing about Kenyan politics so this was very interesting, particularly the discussion of the 2007 election and the violence surrounding the results, as I wasn’t politically aware enough at the time to remember anything about the riots. I wonder what it says that Kenya is considered one of the most stable countries in Africa by far, and yet they still have corrupt elections that result in ethnic violence and protests that result in tens of thousands of deaths? In response to those protests the Kenyan’s have rewritten the voting rules so that the winner must also win a majority within a certain number of districts or something convoluted like that. I can’t help but think a run off is much simpler but I’d guess that the Jubilee party felt that that works to their disadvantage. For all this I can’t help but find it hilarious that for all their trouble, Kenya still has a national holiday so that everyone can vote, whereas we vote on a normal work day.
Can we talk about that last line first, maybe I might be reaching cause i’m me, but does he think that the US is better that Kenya because we have a national holiday on voting day and the US doesn’t? Instead of focusing on the complex power dynamics that exist in politics, dynamics that were borne and evolved shakily from an even more corrupt colonial government? But you know, who got time for that? Westerners really like to focus on things like election violence, things that, as amazing black feminist Guilane Kinouani put it, are deemed to be sexy and important, that forever fix us in the white gaze as passive recipients of benevolence and white pathos.
I really did not finish reading the blog because I realized that it was a waste of my time and energies, but I do wish the team well in Kakuma(like I don’t hope they die) But I did feel that it was necessary for me to put my feelings down here because its kinda cathartic, and it lets all my ideas and thoughts out in a way.
So, again, no more Facebook and Twitter for me, i’m done for a while. I’m not done with Medium(and writing) anytime soon though. Lots of love, xoxo