http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/

Excerpt from Teju Cole’s article published in The Atlantic: “The White Savior Complex”

Cole: It’s only in the context of this neutered language that my rather tame tweets can be seen as extreme. The interviewer on the radio show I listened to asked Kristof if he had heard of me. “Of course,” he said. She asked him what he made of my criticisms. His answer was considered and genial, but what he said worried me more than an angry outburst would have:

A Response to Cole: There has been a real discomfort and backlash among middle-class educated Africans, Ugandans in particular in this case, but people more broadly, about having Africa as they see it defined by a warlord who does particularly brutal things, and about the perception that Americans are going to ride in on a white horse and resolve it. To me though, it seems even more uncomfortable to think that we as white Americans should not intervene in a humanitarian disaster because the victims are of a different skin color.

Ultimately, I do recognize the “White Savior Complex”. This blog post coming from a more personal note, I really do know a lot of individuals who yearn to be missionaries of their god’s word and spread the ‘good news’ or help build houses or share the wealth (all without really ‘sharing’ the wealth) or hug little starving kids in third world countries and then post photos of themselves doing ‘good’ on whatever social networking site will create the most buzz for them.

Now, I can’t tell if these opinions spewing out of me are only because I am slightly (and subconsciously) somewhat bitter because I have not yet traveled in the name of any humanitarian efforts. But I do know that there is a fine line that I am walking on with the  strong words I’m saying about all of the people who do what they see fit in order to “help”….but by placing themselves in a position to “help” the other, they are adhering to a power relationship between one in a position of dominance and the ‘other’, one who must be given aid or help. I do think that it’s good to help where you can or donate time or money to what you see fit as a ‘good cause’ to invest time or money into, but there comes a point when all of the aid and attention to one group of people or culture only further oppresses them.

I think that this is where Haiti may still lie. 

After the earthquake in Haiti, I personally know of multiple individuals who flew into Haiti and brought medical supplies or food and donated their time and money to aid those who they saw struggling. While I do appreciate this effort and I do think that global support is especially important to a struggling nation, I must point out and can NOT ignore that in situations like this is where the image of the “White Savior” comes to play. This “White Savior Complex” only perpetuates tension and awards power to those White indivuals and inadvertantly lessens the power that those ‘in need’ hold.

Maybe the White people just truly do want to help, but the fact that they must fly in and impose upon a preexisting culture and then highly publicize their efforts (see KONY2012 effort or the multitude of Facebook albums of people who have gone on mission trips to the Caribbean), but regardless of what their intentions are, they must recognize the power displacement they cause.

I know that this post may sound very jumbled and be offensive, but at the moment my eloquence has slipped away.

-SNS

(via Where is the Relief Money for Haiti? - COLORLINES)
Commentary
Where did this money go? It really makes you wonder - do relief organizations help as much as we’d like to think? Who handles the money? Why is Haiti still hurting when so much has been donated?
In “Ayiti,” Roxane Gay uses her writing to illustrate some of the more painful scenes in Haiti in regard to Haiti’s incredible poverty. And yet, Haiti is not depicted as a statistic in her collection - it is a country of life, history, revolution, and of people who have been assaulted with natural disasters and the repercussions as such, but they are not broken.
While it is important to understand that Haiti is still not receiving the funds that have been donated, it is also important to understand that Haiti is NOT just an impoverished country in the Caribbean. Haiti shouldn’t be seen as a charity case (which, I would also like to point out, isn’t what this chart is trying to do, but there are plenty of others that do). It is a very difficult task to represent what is and has happened in Haiti without doing so, and I’m still not sure how one could do so effectively.
For more reading, look into this article  from January 2010.

(via Where is the Relief Money for Haiti? - COLORLINES)

Commentary

Where did this money go? It really makes you wonder - do relief organizations help as much as we’d like to think? Who handles the money? Why is Haiti still hurting when so much has been donated?

In “Ayiti,” Roxane Gay uses her writing to illustrate some of the more painful scenes in Haiti in regard to Haiti’s incredible poverty. And yet, Haiti is not depicted as a statistic in her collection - it is a country of life, history, revolution, and of people who have been assaulted with natural disasters and the repercussions as such, but they are not broken.

While it is important to understand that Haiti is still not receiving the funds that have been donated, it is also important to understand that Haiti is NOT just an impoverished country in the Caribbean. Haiti shouldn’t be seen as a charity case (which, I would also like to point out, isn’t what this chart is trying to do, but there are plenty of others that do). It is a very difficult task to represent what is and has happened in Haiti without doing so, and I’m still not sure how one could do so effectively.

For more reading, look into this article  from January 2010.

30 gourdes. 
Gourdes = Haitian money.
30 gourdes = $0.73
The image of Haitian currency reminds me of Roxane Gay’s story “You Never Knew How the Waters Ran So Cruel So Deep” in her collection Ayiti. 
In the story, the main character identifies himself in logistical manner and attaches himself to a monetary value. The format of the story is in a chart form and has a very straightforward and informative quality to it, as the narrator pens in the steps included in his journey to the United States. The narrator includes the cost, oftentimes in Haitian Gourdes, of his boat passages or secret truck rides which reduces his life to a monetary value that denotes his worth as a man found between two cultures: Haiti and America.
The narrator includes measurements of money in the form of Haitian Gourdes as well as in American dollars; this only perpetuates the notion that he is caught between cultures and therefore his identity lies upon the material goods and the money held to his name.
I think that this story is an interesting commentary on the struggles that an immigrant from Haiti, or anywhere for that matter, might face as they battle to find where their identity lies.
-SNS

30 gourdes. 


Gourdes = Haitian money.

30 gourdes = $0.73

The image of Haitian currency reminds me of Roxane Gay’s story “You Never Knew How the Waters Ran So Cruel So Deep” in her collection Ayiti. 


In the story, the main character identifies himself in logistical manner and attaches himself to a monetary value. The format of the story is in a chart form and has a very straightforward and informative quality to it, as the narrator pens in the steps included in his journey to the United States. The narrator includes the cost, oftentimes in Haitian Gourdes, of his boat passages or secret truck rides which reduces his life to a monetary value that denotes his worth as a man found between two cultures: Haiti and America.

The narrator includes measurements of money in the form of Haitian Gourdes as well as in American dollars; this only perpetuates the notion that he is caught between cultures and therefore his identity lies upon the material goods and the money held to his name.

I think that this story is an interesting commentary on the struggles that an immigrant from Haiti, or anywhere for that matter, might face as they battle to find where their identity lies.

-SNS


They fuck us from behind with our hands and cheeks pressed against the burning rocks. They fuck us behind the market or against the fence beyond the thick line of lush palm trees. They never take long. They never say thank you. The Americans, however, always come. — Excerpt, “The Harder They Come” from Ayiti  by Roxane Gay (via mensahdemary)
thephotocollector:

Photojournalism Entry #4- Tyler Hicks; Haitian child stands what once was her home after the Tsunami in Haiti, in 2011. The tsunami was formed by a 7.0 category earthquake, which destroyed many homes and killed at least three people during.

Commentary
The beautiful landscape of Haiti was ravaged by the tsunami of 2011. Is this Haiti completely foreign to tourists, who instead go to the ‘other’ Haiti for their vacations? Would they even think this exists?

thephotocollector:

Photojournalism Entry #4- Tyler Hicks; Haitian child stands what once was her home after the Tsunami in Haiti, in 2011. The tsunami was formed by a 7.0 category earthquake, which destroyed many homes and killed at least three people during.

Commentary

The beautiful landscape of Haiti was ravaged by the tsunami of 2011. Is this Haiti completely foreign to tourists, who instead go to the ‘other’ Haiti for their vacations? Would they even think this exists?

"Wade Davis, a Harvard ethnobotanist, presented a pharmacological case for zombies in two books, The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (1988). Davis traveled to Haiti in 1982 and, as a result of his investigations, claimed that a living person can be turned into a zombie by two special powders being introduced into the blood stream (usually via a wound). The first, coup de poudre (French: “powder strike”), includes tetrodotoxin (TTX), a powerful and frequently fatal neurotoxin found in the flesh of the pufferfish (order Tetraodontidae). The second powder consists of dissociative drugs such as datura. Together, these powders were said to induce a death-like state in which the will of the victim would be entirely subjected to that of the bokor. Davis also popularized the story of Clairvius Narcisse, who was claimed to have succumbed to this practice.

The process described by Davis was an initial state of death-like suspended animation, followed by re-awakening — typically after being buried — into a psychotic state. The psychosis induced by the drug and psychological trauma was hypothesised by Davis to re-inforce culturally-learned beliefs and to cause the individual to reconstruct their identity as that of a zombie, since they “knew” they were dead, and had no other role to play in the Haitian society. Societal reinforcement of the belief was hypothesized by Davis to confirm for the zombie individual the zombie state, and such individuals were known to hang around in graveyards, exhibiting attitudes of low affect.

Davis’ claim has been criticized, particularly the suggestion that Haitian witch doctors can keep “zombies” in a state of pharmacologically induced trance for many years. Symptoms of TTX poisoning range from numbness and nausea to paralysis — particularly of the muscles of the diaphragm — unconsciousness, and death, but do not include a stiffened gait or a death-like trance. According to psychologist Terence Hines, the scientific community dismisses tetrodotoxin as the cause of this state, and Davis’ assessment of the nature of the reports of Haitian zombies is viewed as overly credulous.

Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing highlighted the link between social and cultural expectations and compulsion, in the context of schizophrenia and other mental illness, suggesting that schizogenesis may account for some of the psychological aspects of zombification.”


This passage was taken from a source that addresses the concept of zombies (pronounced ZAHHHN-BI in Haiti). When I read Roxane’s “There is no ‘E’ in Zombie”, I honestly didn’t realize that the powders, the “coup de poudre” from the poisonous skin of a pufferfish, were actually real or used as a means to control human beings- putting them into a near-death trance because of the TTX in the poisonous powder.

Wade Davis, this Harvard ethnobotanist (ethnobotany is the study of the relationships between culture and botany, or plants) who studied this “zombie” culture in Haiti during the 1980’s and 1990’s has since influenced the production of “The Truth Behind Zombies” by National Geographic. 

This description of Wade Davis and of the actual act of zombification is meant to provide a greater background for some of Gay’s short stories. As I read through “There is No “E” in Zombi Which Means There Can Be No You Or We” which is a story about the process of zombification by a woman to her male lover. In the end, she makes her lover completely dependent on her and has in essence, turned him into a zombi. When I began reading this story and the narrator provided a recipe for zombification (“You need a pufferfish, and a small sample of blood and hair from your chosen candidate”, page 25) I honestly read it as complete fiction. Little did I know, that zombification is a real thing that exists and is practiced sometimes on the farms or labor intensive areas in Haiti as a means of controlling the workers or employees.

-SNS