Opinion: Nigeria, Ebola and the Myth of White Saviors
In a 2012 article published by The Atlantic, Nigerian writer Teju Cole exposed the white saviour industrial complex for what it is: a pathology of white privilege.
According to Cole, white saviours fundamentally believe they are indispensable to the very existence of those on the receiving end of their “interventions”. Like some potted plants, they tend to bloom in “exotic” environments far removed from their natural habitats.
At the height of Ebola, the myth of the white saviour has resurfaced again and again, framing Africans as infantile objects of external interventions. The white saviour complex has placed a premium on foreign expertise, while negating domestic capabilities.
We’ve been assailed with images of mostly white foreigners flown out of the Ebola “hot zone” with the promise of expert care abroad. As spokespersons for the thousands “left behind”, they have been catapulted into the heady limelight of overnight stardom.
We’ve been bombarded with a cacophony of non-African “expert” opinions about how to “save” Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone from Ebola. Yet, Ugandan and Congolese specialists, who contained the virus repeatedly in their own countries, have been sidelined in the mainstream international press.