Kony 2012: An Observer’s Perspective

As of right now, I have remained a sideline observer of the Kony 2012 initiative. I have read countless facebook status updates, tweets, and quite a few articles from everything from news sites to blogs on Invisible Children and the make Kony famous initiative. I have been apprehensive about deciding whether I am for or against Kony 2012 for a few reasons, most of which are about the racial issues about it.

A few of my concerns are highlighted in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=KLVY5jBnD-E

Although it is only one person’s review of the Kony 2012 video, I think that it is worthwhile to consider. Rosebell speaks about White Western intervention in Africa as a recurring narrative. This idea of White people helping out people of color goes back to colonial times. It is reminiscent of the White Man’s Burden.

On the first day of class, Connie brought up one of the racial “zeitgeists” of the past, where White people feel that they need to reach down and help the poor Black people. Some people might ask what is wrong with helping people. Agency is a huge part of what is problematic about “helping” people. In the Kony 2012 video, a White male is telling Jacob’s story. Jacob is stripped of the opportunity to tell his own story. This is concerning, because it reinforces the idea that the Western people are saviors, while at the same time keeping the Northern Ugandans as inferior. It does not give the Northern Ugandans the opportunity to help themselves.

“If you are showing me as voiceless, as hopeless, you have no space telling my story—You shouldn’t be telling my story.” Rosebell

This begs the question, who is allowed to tell the story? How do we offer help without taking away agency? Do we have the right to intervene?

I urge all who are interested in Kony 2012 to do more research than just watching the Kony 2012 video. The situation in Uganda is far more complex than a 30 minute video allows. There is no denying that Joseph Kony has committed atrocities, but what our roles as outsiders (especially in America) are, if we have any role, is very unclear.

2 thoughts on “Kony 2012: An Observer’s Perspective”

  1. I was glad Nashalys wrote about this; when I first watched the video my initial reaction appealed to my gut reaction to want to “reach down and help the needy,” the “zeitgeist” as Nashalys referred to. Then once I took a step back and talked with people, I thought about why I just had that reaction and what that represents. Similar to The Blindside, it gets at “White guilt” and the ideology that, as privileged Whites, we should be the shining White knight to step in and save the disadvantaged. However, this perspective allows us to be blinded by what’s really going on. As Nashalys indicated, a horrific event was told entirely by a White male—taking the voice and agency away from those who actually experienced it. This was especially relevant when Ugandans began talking about their own experience and how this problem was not only outdated, but also wasn’t addressing other more pressing issues. It also enables individuals to endorse the idea that oppression happens outsides the U.S to specific, essentialized cultures. At the same time the Kony video went viral, the Trayvon Martin incident was occurring, although it wasn’t picked up for at least 3 weeks. Why is it that we’re so willing to play the role of the saviors so quickly in other nations, but have a hard time identifying injustice within our own community?

  2. How do we toe this line? This is a really huge issue and a really difficult one to solve. Is there truly a problem with bringing light to a situation that many people didn’t know existed? I can honestly say I don’t have a huge problem with people becoming aware of the atrocities that Kony has committed and I don’t have much of a problem at all with people recognizing that a lot of people may be in grave danger.

    What’s really interesting is thinking about this as a call for white people to reach down and help poor black people.

    I’m having trouble really viewing this as a racial issue as such. What’s really causing me a sort of mental headache is that I honestly don’t know what else could be done to bring light to a situation that (at least according to the video) really needed to be illuminated. The only thing I could think of is if the videographers had made a choice to have the video narrated and have the stories told from the perpective of a Ugandan. Maybe the video could have included more of the notion that the Ugandans are a strong, joyous people who happen to be in a desperate situation. But I don’t know if either of those solutions solve the issue completely or if the these issues take away the validity or necessity of the video.

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