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Who Needs More White Saviors?

Very few people in need care about the color of the skin of the people who direct the organizations helping them. If the goal is to help those living in extreme poverty, we need all the saviors we can find.

PRINCETON – Comic Relief is a British charity that raises money for disadvantaged people both in the United Kingdom and overseas. Every two years, it holds Red Nose Day, when supporters wear red clown noses. The day culminates in a TV extravaganza featuring comedians and celebrities. This year, Red Nose Day raised £63.5 million ($83.5 million) – a lot of money, but down nearly £8 million from two years ago.

Two weeks earlier, David Lammy, the Member of Parliament for Tottenham, had criticized Comic Relief for flying Stacey Dooley, an English television presenter, to Uganda, where she was photographed holding an African child. Lammy, who is black, tweeted “The world does not need any more white saviors,” adding that the image “perpetuates tired and unhelpful stereotypes.” Instead, he suggested, we should “promote voices from across the continent of Africa.”

On British television, Lammy granted that charity is a good thing, but said: “Comic Relief is a 20-year-old formula that asks comedians to perform and sends celebrities – most often white – out to Africa, and that image evokes for lots of ethnic minorities in Britain a colonial image of a white beautiful heroine holding a black child, with no agency, no parents in sight.”

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