The White Savior Complex is something that has been around for decades, and although the intent might seem pure, it is actually much more sinister than it appears. Seen in the real-world and portrayed in movies, I’ve seen this topic being discussed more since the Black Lives Matter movement where people are starting to critically analyze society. So what is The White Savior Complex and why is it harmful? Well, it is a white person’s desire to help a Black person in a self-serving way. Now, when you hear this, the first thing that might come to mind is mission trips to countries in Africa, or when White celebrities pose with African children. That is a perfect example of the white-savior complex.
Although, you might think helping people in impoverished countries is a good act and well-intentioned, it actually is much more harmful. The white-savior complex exists for many reasons: to somehow prove that the White person isn’t racist, to boost their own ego, and most alarming, to attempt to “save” people of color and get them out of unfortunate circumstances. This leads me to the discussion of the White-savior trope in film. This is a narrative seen in film where the White character helps the Black characters get out of difficult situations. A prominent example is the movie The Blind Side, which is about a wealthy White family who helps a homeless Black teen named Michael, give him shelter, school, and get him involved in football. However, in the film, Michael is not the person in charge of his fate. It is the White family who takes him in, that “fixes” him. Michael could have very well gotten his life back on track without the White family’s “charity”. It seems as though films that are supposed to be about Black people and their experiences, are often centered around White people. Black voices should be the ones telling their own stories, without the need for White people trying to take the limelight. This leads me to an important question: Where do we draw the line between White people genuinely wanting to help others and White saviorism where it is done in a self-serving manner?