Did the Africans benefit from white supremacy?

Reaching out at eye level: Development cooperation or a new form of colonialism?

by Virginija Lickunaite

"Buy this! It's from your country! ”I heard as I strolled past the market square in Takoradi, Ghana. A woman with second-hand clothes on her shoulders and hands tore me from my thoughts. Repeatedly, I have had the negative effects of one white Helper syndrome demonstrated. I just stammered an embarrassed "No, thanks".

I came to Ghana with the best of intentions and a naive belief in the meaning of development volunteer work. After a few days I broke off my alleged commitment to justice and began to question: What is actually going on here?

Volunteers, some of whom have just graduated from high school, give lectures to the local population on human and children's rights and explain the advantages of education for their children. Volunteers from Germany, Denmark or the Netherlands teach English without being native speakers or having any pedagogical qualifications. Volunteers who fly around the globe and emit tons of CO2 to do something about the environment. Volunteers who spend thousands of euros to play with children for a few weeks that could probably finance some classrooms.

The fact that the reverse is by no means possible in Europe illustrates the problem with the superiority of whites. For example, would someone in Germany have their children taught by someone who has no qualifications whatsoever? No. Not even every foreign school leaving certificate is recognized in Germany. So why should that be acceptable in an African country? Probably all attempts to enable young people from the global south to do an internship in Germany would fail because of visa regulations or for financial reasons.

Such projects should be a great opportunity for mutual cultural exchange and intercultural learning. However, the exchange remains one-sided, because only privileged young people from the global north get an insight into the world of other countries, while the benefit for the receiving organizations and local communities in the global south is marginal. Even if white If people with the best intentions decide to volunteer, it tends to reinforce existing racist prejudices and thus solidify colonial thought patterns.

This criticism is particularly loud in relation to the commercial offers known as “voluntourism”. The voluntary tourism industry benefits from the fact that the tradition of the presumptuous missionary claim of whites against blacks at the time of colonialism and the White Savior Complex be maintained. This million dollar industry has been booming for years, as if it were the critical discussion about White Privilege or White supremacy never would have existed.

Critical objections to voluntourism come primarily from professional development organizations that present themselves as serious and cooperative. At least at first glance, your concept looks like a "win-win situation". They say goodbye to traditional development aid. Now it is called development cooperation, the focus of which is no longer the missionary commitment, but in addition to the implementation of an aid project, the exchange between “cultures” and working methods. All of this at eye level and sustainably. In other words, an equal partnership.

Working as a development worker in development cooperation requires much more than just social commitment. The requirements of the organizations are high and more and more academics or specialists are in demand. In addition, helpers are placed for at least twelve months and only in regions where help is really needed.

There are also volunteer programs for young people without training. They should just not present themselves as rescuers who bring about change on site, but above all as learners who benefit from the intercultural learning processes during their stay. Mostly in search of meaning and with a social streak, often with racism and colonial thought patterns in their luggage, the young people with relatively limited life and work experience become committed "experts" in sometimes extremely complicated contexts.

An important part of a professional development service is that it is precisely this problem that is reflected on. So are preparatory seminars on the topics White supremacy or White Privilege, Anti-racism and anti-sexism mandatory. The participants get the chance to take a not always pleasant and unmasking look in a mirror - the mirror of a non-white View of their whiteness. Films like “Fuck White Tears” [1] are shown to stimulate critical self-reflection and the unjustly distributed positions of power between white and rethinking black people. Is that the desired effect that you still decide to do voluntary service? Does mere reflection and reflection on the privileges of being white make the motivation for volunteering legitimate? You have reflected, so you can have a clear conscience white Follow rescue instinct and white Legitimate superiority thinking.

That doesn't sound like a commitment to a fairer world. Rather, it is an investment in the qualification of young, meaning-seeking people from the global north. Hopefully they have all been moved, though, with their own white Identity, with the social characteristics whiter To deal with supremacy and to deal intensively with personal and social change. But most of all, they've done something that looks good on their own résumé.

Compared to voluntourism, professional voluntary service seems to be at least reflective and critical. But at the same time they pursue the same idea that you know something better than the people in countries of the global south. Both concepts adhere to neo-colonial structures in order to pursue their own interests. The concept of development aid therefore remains at least problematic even after it has been renamed development cooperation.

The community activist and founder of the "Black Nation in Babylon-Germany" Senfo Tonkam used in his lecture on January 12, 2021 about the global consolidation of white Privileges clearer words. He describes the concept of development cooperation as the smartest weapon the whites have ever invented to enforce their hegemonic interests. Billions in aid programs and the use of volunteers are intended to make African countries more dependent instead of independent. The black people continued to be oppressed and determined as free people. Development cooperation suggests that people in Africa cannot help themselves, they will Abilities to act agreed and no conflict resolution skills are expected.

According to Senfo Tonkan, the "clean word" of "development policy" only conceals the actual intentions of the supposedly selfless helpers, namely to maintain control over the resources of the African continent. Without the voluntary helpers continuing to be stylized as active do-gooders and Africans remaining passive recipients of aid, that would white exploitative system collapse.

For years, Africa has been helping out under the guise of development cooperation. Without any notable success. Is that what you want? Yes, says Senfo Tonkam, because Europe needs Africa more than ever before. Because Africa is rich in natural resources. Whether coltan or cobalt, coffee or cocoa, bananas or flowers - the world depends on Africa's riches. And the former colonial rulers still benefit by legitimizing a new form of colonialism under the name of development cooperation.

A post-colonial and critical discourse on development cooperation, its necessity, its legitimacy and its principles are essential. Tonkam's words are clear. It demands a radical rethink. Above all, it is time that we finally listened to the people we want to help out, not only critically reflecting on our racist patterns of thinking and trading, but finally advocating a change of perspective.

In “Fuck White Tears” one of the rightly angry interviewees * Ncedisa Mpemnayama presents what he thinks is a particularly apt observation of the white Author Heinrich Bohmke: "Is it the act of loving blacks that whites create them as eternal k ***** s?"

Now at the latest we whites should flinch and feel an urge to get away from it white Helper syndrome to want the global South to reflect on its own strengths, on ours white To renounce privileges in order to finally be able to break away from the racist and neocolonial system.


[1] "Fuck White Tears" (D 2016) is a short film by Annelie Boros. The filmmaker travels to Cape Town with the intention of making a film about student demonstrations in South Africa. There she experiences rejection. The students do not want her, as white, to make a film about the mainly black protest movement. Annelie Boros makes the film anyway. A film that actually cannot exist.

[2] In South Africa, "k *****" means the worst possible racist insult against black people. It was used to insult and humiliate black people during apartheid times. This term is now used very carefully and "The K-Word" is said when talking about the term.

Posted in BiMaRa Essays on by corneliaspringer. Leave a comment