In the 14th century, Roman Catholics sent missionaries to spread their beliefs throughout Asia, Africa, and the Far East. They believed that the religion already practiced in those countries wasn’t as good as theirs. At the time, they believed they were saving the souls of these people, but now we see that in fact they were obliterating the culture.
In our modern times, much like these missionaries, organizations such as Teach for America come to help minority children break the cycle of poverty and drugs. An organization I am a part of, The Intersection, is ran by someone of a different race than I am. The Intersection is a student-empowerment and advocacy group. Yes, sometimes we get other races, but its 99% African American. They believe these young people are faced with two options, death or jail. And while these are serious problems, shouldn’t it be their African-American counterparts rising up to lead and motivate? Instead, communities are subjected to outsiders to help fix what’s broken in a community who are here to do their required two years of public service and then go off to law school. Because they don’t know the struggles of Baltimore, often they make more damage than what they mean to. Putting in a garden and painting the side of a school will not motivate or change the perception people have of their neighborhoods or break the vicious cycle of poverty.
These American missionaries are part of what writer Teju Cole called the White-Savior Industrial Complex. He wrote in the Atlantic “The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds [black] charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening…The world exists to satisfy the needs-including, importantly, the sentimental needs- of white people and Oprah.”