No More White Saviours
No more white saviours
Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ll know that David Lammy (and in fact many people) have accused Comic Relief of peddling the same, tired, offensive model of publicity and fundraising by using a picture of a famous, smiling white woman holding a black baby. They are referencing reporter Stacey Dooley sharing a picture of herself on location recording a documentary for the charity.
People have criticised Dooley and Comic Relief, raising various points, including:
· “We don’t need any more white saviours”
· The tone and approach of the picture is outdated: people should be enabled to tell their own story
· Comic Relief’s executive team is all white; it should be more diverse and include people with lived experience
· The international aid sector has a high proportion of white people; this needs to change
· There is underlying discrimination between white and black people within the international aid sector and its model of delivery
Admittedly we don’t need any more “white saviours”, what we do need, however, is for people of all ethnicities and from all backgrounds to work together to tackle social and environmental issues.
Whilst I agree that Comic Relief ought to improve the diversity of its executive team and board and the international aid sector needs to empower people to tell their own stories, we should be mindful of the fact that the picture was posted on Dooley’s personal Instagram account. It wasn’t promotional material from Comic Relief or fundraising.
Of course, I understand that by using a high profile celebrity their social media will by virtue support the fundraising effort. My point is that many people have conflated various issues here – all important and all requiring open discussion and resolution but using this picture to raise all of these issues is, I feel, unfair.
Celebrity engagement with a cause can raise its profile and encourage funding. Stacey Dooley’s Instagram account alone has over 693,000 followers. As a credible documentary maker and mainstream celebrity, Comic Relief were spot on to have her front part of their appeal.
There’s rightly a big push for more diversity in the sector, for example with the Institute of Fundraising’s Change Collective. We do also need to up our game with regard to a more diverse workforce: and by that I mean people with real lived experience, in order to inform how we work internally and with the people our organisations are there to support.
Above all, I hope that when the documentary that Dooley has made with Comic Relief airs, it shows people telling their own stories in their own way.
Beth Crackles is a charity strategy and fundraising consultant . She also produces the Cracking Charity Chat podcast. Visit her website bethcrackles.com