Bob Geldof and yet another case of white saviourism

Around a month ago, I was one of a number of people who spoke with Barry Malone of Al Jazeera about our thoughts of the latest (sigh) Band Aid single. Given that it’s now mere hours to the announcement of the Christmas Number One (please tell me it’s not going to be this), I wanted to post what I wrote in response to the questions we were asked:

Do you know it’s Christmas?
Well, self-important celebrities are getting together to do a charity single latching on to the issue of the day to raise money for “those poor people over there” so I guess it must be. But given everyone I know is thinking and talking about politics and forthcoming elections in Nigeria, or the latest fight on Twitter, Christmas seems very far away.

What do you think of Western charity songs like this as a response to African emergencies? 
It’s yet another classic sign of white Western saviourism, in this case with celebrities swooping in to “save” the people of Africa. Not only does this take away the agency of people living in African countries who are the ones who actually lead and make change happen, but it perpetuates stereotypes of conflict, poverty and disease as the single story of the continent.

This is likely to exacerbate the discrimination of Africans as potential Ebola-carriers that we have already seen. It is also a manifestation of increasing celebritisation whereby every possible topic has a famous musician or actor attached who become “experts” listened to at the expense of the actual people whose lives are affected. Darfur has George Clooney. Ending poverty has Bono. Now Ebola has Bob Geldof. Research shows that it’s the celebrities and their image not the causes that benefit the most.

If the purpose of Bob Geldof and others is really to help the Ebola response rather than burnish their own profiles as modern day saints, they would donate money behind the scenes. The money that will be raised through this Ebola single could easily be raised by these rich musicians having a whip round among themselves and their friends.

You can read what the others thought here.

Ugh, I’m so fed up of celebrities and their extractive and self serving attempts to harness other people’s poverty and marginalisation for their own purposes. I am really disappointed in all those charities that have hitched themselves to the Band Aid bandwagon and supported the single.

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