I rest my case.
I was really excited when I saw that The Kristof wrote a column about the good work done by Catholics in Southern Sudan. My research is about how community organizations - including churches - respond to state weakness by providing public goods. I've spent a lot of time with Catholics in Africa who work hard to provide education, health care, democracy education, and other services when governments stop doing so. They ensure that children get educated, help mothers deliver healthy babies, and maintain a sense of order and basic decency in the midst of really difficult situations. "This is great!" I thought. "Kristof's going to tell us about people like that.
Then I read the column.
I should've known better. Of the six Catholics mentioned in Kristof's Sunday column, all are Westerners. Three are American and three are Italian. All of them seem to be white. None of them are from Sudan, although one has lived there for thirty-plus years.
There's not a word in the column about local Catholics, about what they were doing before the missionaries arrived and what they will do after they are gone. Nope. In typical Kristof fashion, the column focuses only on the outsiders who have come to save the poor black Africans.
In the wake of last week's discussions about the 1 Million T-Shirts project, this week, I'm going to focus on an idea that is increasingly prevalent among many Americans. This is the view that Africa needs saving, and that Westerners are the ones to do it. I'll be thinking about where this idea came from, why many Africans react against it while others support the notion, and how we can balance the needs of those giving with those who receive.
As longtime readers of this blog know, my main issue with Kristof's reporting is that he gives an incomplete picture of what life is like in the world's poorest places. Yes, there are many outsiders who selflessly give of themselves on the African continent - and who mostly ignore Vatican shenanigans in favor of caring for those who need help.
But there are also Sudanese, and Congolese, and Kenyans, and Somalis, and people all over the African continent who make extraordinary sacrifices to care for their fellow human beings. They do not need saviors; they need support. And their stories deserve to be told.
Labels: the kristof strikes again