Remember the television commercials with jarring pictures and videos of children and women of color looking sad with dirth on their faces and flies around them; then a white male or female voice will come on, asking you to give a penny a day to save their life and village.
I am not gonna lie those commercials were effective as fuck, effective in making you (and me) eager to give the least you can.
These commercials still come on, but a lot more people are aware that they are damaging and fraudulent; but do we have a deep understanding of WHY those commercials are damaging, so we don’t support another wolf in sheep’s clothing? Here is a list I’ve put together to help, right on time for Giving Tuesday.
Do not act out of pity. Commercials like the one described above feed
on pity. It is an effective marketing
strategy because pity is a characteristic of superiority, and we have
been indoctrinated with a superiority complex. Pity is the feeling caused by the suffering
and misfortune of others. Unlike empathy,
pity does not seek to understand; it is a feeling that begs for a reaction that strips power away from the sufferer/misfortuned.
Instead root your activism/giving in the power and the expansion of power of the group/person in need. This would involve you believing that the people are innately empowered, it is a change in perspective that leads to learning, understanding, networking etc. But this is not an action item you can easily check off your to-do-list, it is an ongoing process of digging deep into your ignorance, motives and feelings so that you can learn and unlearn.
Most people in the U.S. are in debt, and I am not talking about student and bank loans, most people in the U.S. are indebted to families of color, so the giving to them should never be in pity but in gratitude and in attempt to understand the debts accrued by past, present and future generations.
2. Check the power. Look at the board of directors, the leader(s) etc. If an organization is working “for” indigenous people or people of color, the majority of the leaders of the organization should be indigenous/people of color, no exceptions.
Instead expand your knowledge of Black/Indigenous people who work together for their community and support them.
3. De-westernize Solutions. Support groups/organizations whose main goals are not to bring people into the United States and not to take western products/standards to the communities they are supporting.
A lot of organizations use a process and system that is much like the missionaries/colonizers and it is not always intentional, that is simply the only process/system they know. But their good intentions supports oppression and marginalization.
An example is the
movement to bring sanitary products to girls in Africa, Haiti, India etc
because they cannot afford them and are staying home during their menses
instead of going to school. The problem itself is rooted in ignorance and
pity and the solution is usually spearheaded by western women/businesses. The girls may not be able to afford
disposable pads but they have indigenous ways of caring for their body during
their menses, it could be using cloth or digging a hole in the ground under a
shaded tree on their family land to sit and let it flow. Whatever their method is, they definitely
have a means and a power to care for themselves that is being marginalized and
inferiorized with western products.
So what’s the solution in this case? To learn more about decolonizing this type of women’s right activism, click the link I share below for us to grow together.
Moving away from the western/white supremacy exemplified in commercials like the one described above involves self-reflection and discomfort. Letting go of characteristics of superiority (and inferiority) is a lifetime process that touches on all aspects of our lives from how we eat to how we parent.
If you are still reading this, you should definitely join the list of people I email when opportunities to decolonize your activism come up, let’s grow together. Join here.
Here are 4 opportunities for you to support Black/Indigenous community leaders and healers.