White Savior Complexes


World is become global village due to fast means of communications, transportation and the free media. Worldwide, news channels, social media, Internet are popular means of information among people. Most of the time news of the developing countries is full of miserable events, corruption, terrorist attacks, injustice and suffering of ordinary people on the daily bases. Which may be a reason many people from developed world have a soft corner for people from developing world and one of my professors is also among them. My dear white professor can understand if I am not able to get new terminologies and theories in class or I am not aware of how to use different instruments in science labs. Therefore, my professor time and again makes me realize that it is okay if I am not good at science because I am from developing world where we don’t have enough facilities, it is not my fault if I am not able to handle microscope. Without knowing that, am I really not able to handle that microscope? Trust me I have used the same microscope in my 7th grade. Before taking lab class I was confident, but when time and again I was realized that I didn’t get enough facilities to study science in my home country, I start to believe that I may have studied science labs improperly in my school. Here it reminds me of Bell Hooks’ who says in her book, “Teaching Critical Thinking,” “Imagine what it is like to be taught by a teacher who does not believe that you are fully human” (Hooks, 2) in my case it was something like this, imagine what it is like to be taught by a science teacher who does not believe that you have ever seen a science lab in your life. I agree we people from developing world don’t have enough facilities, but do my dear white professor know that, what we have and what we don’t? The intention of my professor was to help me and to encourage me, but in reality it was very discouraging and very sad moment for me. This is what; I can say is a savior complex which I faced here at school.

Hooks claims that mainly the challenges faced by a black female teacher in white community is because people have internalized from white supremacist society that female can’t be a good professor and especially black people are not as intellectual as white people. A similar kind of stereotype is also found at school. Many of students believe that western professors can teach better then Asian professors. One such example from my last semester, when students saw two different professors are offering the same course, one of them was Professor Nadia: Asian and other was David: western.  We rushed to register to Professor David’s class because most of us have this concept that here at our school western professors teach better than Asian professors. One reason may be that, to attract students our school very proudly claims that we have well qualified international professors. From there may be students have internalized that western professors are better than Asians or local professors. Now, students are competing to register to western professors’ courses without knowing anything about professors. I think this is another way our school is perpetuating savior complexes.

Furthermore, Examples during lecture are meant to make things easier and clearer, at our school from science to arts to humanity to philosophy, many examples are taken from west and ironically most of the time these examples make things more complex. For instance, in Philosophy class to understand the ideologies of different political parties we discus democrats and republicans. It is difficult to understand such example for a student like me who knows nothing about these parties. I wonder why we study such example about which most students have very limited knowledge. Is it because examples from west are for everyone and examples from Asia are just for Asians? Like Hooks highlighted the issue that children books with images of white children are for everyone and books with images of black children are just for black communities. Or it is because our school is an international university for Asian students; therefore, so called international examples should be discus to give students international level of education? Whatever can be reason it seems to be a savior complex because trying to be international we are making things difficult. Other than that if we talk about courses, theories and philosophies taught at school many of them also focus on west. For instance, we study feminist movement which is a great topic to learn about, but we very hardly talk about any feminist movement in Asia and about Asian feminists. Further, we study about women writers, such courses are very important to know about intellectual women of our society and to challenge the stereotypes about women especially in patriarchal societies like ours. Ironically, Asian University for Women hardly teaches its students about Asian female writers, feminists, scientists, and about other Asian intellectual women. I don’t mean that our school is only focusing on west, but I think issues related Asia should be given more space in our courses so that students can easily understand things without any complexes.

One of the objectives of our school is to make its students critical thinkers. So that students will able to identify and criticize issues like savior complexes and on the other hand it is perpetuating the same issue. Here what we can notice is the lack of application. I am grateful to my school for providing a platform for young Asian women to learn things critically. I think it will be more helpful when we and our university will able to apply these things in our daily life.


8 thoughts on “White Savior Complexes

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  1. This is a very interesting thing to think about in my opinion.

    When a person from a rich country gives charity to a person from a poor country, he or she is doing two things at once.

    1. Offering assistance to someone who needs it.
    2. Demonstrating that the weaker person is, in terms of ability/power, inferior.

    Charity is, if thought of this way, emasculating. It’s a form of condescension. It’s also necessary in many cases.

    1. Yeah you are right. My opinion is that we should help others according to their needs not according to our understanding and interpretation of their situation. 🙂

      1. That’s a tough distinction to make.

        BTW, if your foreign profs are only talking about Republicans and Democrats, they’re being REALLY lazy.

        Thanks for the article. I look forward to reading more.

  2. It’s mighty encouraging to know that no matter how foolishly some people apply the teaching of that wonderful concept of Critical Thinking, there are still students like you who manage to think critically enough to understand just how foolish those others are! It sounds circular, but really isn’t. 😉 Good for you, that you don’t just automatically accept whatever a “teacher” says as correct simply because he or she is supposedly the authority in the room. Only by questioning the validity of such concepts and the demonstrable expertise of the supposed teacher can we learn to trust, interpret, and improve the world around us. And if we assume that the teacher or his/her information is more trustworthy based on race or sex or political party or religion or any other unrelated or external status, then we have failed to be educated and won’t make the world any better. Nobody is automatically worse or less intelligent based solely on those characteristics, but neither are we automatically better or smarter because of them. We all have to work to be good and improve ourselves, not to mention the world. I am so glad there are people like you who care enough to try to do just that.


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