Why is Togo poor?
I haven’t written here about my philosophy of development because it is conflicted, contextual, and changeable. I don’t like going on public, permanent record right now about something that can be described as such. But I’m going to make a request, so it behoves me.
You all are so giving and so supportive of everything I do that I could probably raise money just by posting the link on Facebook, no long-winded explanation necessary. But. It is really important to me that you understand my philosophy, more important than receiving money for a project, actually.
To summarize, I don’t like hand-outs. I like working with people on projects that they have identified, things that they are motivated to do in order to improve their lives. If I’m involved in Togo, I want to be a supporter, not the engine driving the change. Even in my home community, I need to realize that my whiteness privileges my voice above others, so I need to step back and find ways to be a part of the process without directing it.
Oh, it feels really good to come into a community poorer than your own and donate a bunch of stuff. You’re a hero, for a bit of expendable income you’ve made a big difference to someone. Problem is, if the recipients didn’t take part in bringing about this aid, whether financial or material, it might not even be what they need. If it is, now they don’t know how to get it for themselves. Worse, they can fall into the illusion of thinking that it came about because of the donor, and they are powerless to bring about change and development themselves.**
(n.b. **I should say here that acute disasters like a tsunami or flood are different. In that case, give. Give a lot, and quickly. Give money and not stuff. Give to a centralized organization that has already been working on the ground in the impacted area prior to the crisis.)
Worse still, this happens all around the world, all the time, and it is often, no, it is usually, divided along lines of race, with white “saviors” parachuting in help poor black people. This is the opposite of empowerment, and it reinforces the deep grooves of white supremacy and internalized racism imprinted on society. Gross.
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