David Lammy MP and Stacey Dooley have become embroiled in a disagreement on social media after Lammy accused Dooley of being a “white saviour”.
“White saviour” is the term for a white person who acts to ‘save’ a non-white person. The term usually relates to public adverts depicting a suffering African child without full context of the situation. These adverts are usually accompanied and narrated by a well-known white celebrity and the narrative may inadvertently present a negative stereotype of the continent.
Lammy - a Labour MP - took exception to Dooley’s recent trip to Africa to help with Comic Relief projects. The Tottenham MP took to Twitter and said: “The world does not need any more white saviours. As I’ve said before, this just perpetuates tired and unhelpful stereotypes. Let’s instead promote voices from across the continent of Africa and have serious debate.”
He continued to clarify that he did not question Dooley’s motives; instead believing her actions to send a “distorted image of Africa which perpetuates an old idea from the colonial era.”
Dooley, who recently won BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, has since hit back at Lammy’s criticism. The Luton-born journalist has been in Uganda and said she has witnessed the good work that Comic Relief is doing firsthand.
Stacey Dooley (middle) was the winner of Strictly Come Dancing 2018.
Replying to Lammy’s tweet, Dooley said: “David, is the issue with me being white? (Genuine question) ...because if that’s the case, you could always go over there and try [to] raise awareness? Comic relief have raised over 1 billion pounds since they started. I saw projects that were saving lives with the money. Kids [sic] lives.”
Comic Relief weighed in on the debate, offering a statement in light of the recent controversy stoked by Lammy’s tweet. The statement thanked Dooley for her work and claimed that they have previously asked Lammy to help in the production of a film about Africa.
Lammy retorted by saying that he is “not prepared to become part of a PR exercise”, adding that Comic Relief films have fallen short of educating and promoting racial equality in the past.
Plenty of people have added their thoughts to this debate since Lammy and Dooley exchanged blows on social media. Several were on the side of Dooley, defending the journalist’s work and her intentions to do good.
David Lammy’s tweet has made my red blood boil! This world needs more ‘saviours’, no matter their colour. Should only black people try to bring Africa’s issues to the public? What a racist suggestion! @StaceyDooley is a great journalist and deserves an apology from you, David.— Cheryl Baker (@Cherylbaker) February 27, 2019
the world needs as many “saviours” as it can get, white or otherwise, to make up for the billion or two who do absolutely nothing— Tommy Dunn (@tommyjd12345) February 27, 2019
Thank god for Phillip and Dr Ranj, speaking sense! Stacey Dooley has done nothing but use her platform for good, yet this is what she gets for it! #ThisMorning— Taylor✨ (@tdunn1298) February 28, 2019
Why should it matter on the colour of Stacey Dooley’s skin, she is helping raise awareness, surely by saying that she is being labelled a white saviour is being racist towards white people? #thismorning— Natalie Cole (@natilius) February 28, 2019
Exactly and like all your documentaries you don't look on these kids as whether they're black, white, brown, yellow, purple, green or whatever. They are simply kids. Human beings. In need of help & support. Keep up the good work— Kev Lennon (@kevlennon1) February 27, 2019
You wanna debate when people are dying of starvation. Typical!— DOUGIE (@LittleDeeMusic) February 27, 2019
Go over there and help ur self
But others jumped to Lammy’s defence, arguing that the “White Saviour” depiction of Africa should become a thing of the past.
The issue is the positioning of wealthy westerners at the centre of “hero narratives” (exoticising culture, using non-white children as props, ignoring our role in under developing these countries in the first place.) “is the issue with me being white” is.. just not the Q at all.— beth mccoll (@imteddybless) February 28, 2019
I think David Lammy has a valid point. It’s not a criticism of you in particular. It’s the ‘charity’ approach that helps but doesn’t empower the people who live there enough.— eileen (@athighbury) February 27, 2019
Are people intentionally misquoting David Lammy? Nobody is upset about Comic Relief raising money. It's the use of poverty porn and lack of continental Africans telling their own story that's the issue.— ijeoma⚘ (@IJE_0MA) February 28, 2019
It’s funny this seems controversial. The entity of a homogenised “Africa” to be ‘saved’ is such an old trope from colonialism it’s time to get rid of it. Stacey Dooley is a fabulous journalist but @DavidLammy’s point is one that has been made by many social scientists for years.— Mother Rahxon (@rahxons) February 28, 2019
I am a massive Dooley fan. I think Stacey is one of the most interesting people we have seen on our screen for a long time but @DavidLammy has a point. This is a charity issue that needs to be addressed— Karen Helle #FBPE (@Karen_helle) February 28, 2019
Comic Relief does some great work, it also perpetuates harmful stereotypes about Africa in its marketing. Its a brave and needed step for poverty porn to be called out. I personally love Stacey Dooley but African voices promoting the reality of their continent is much preferable. https://t.co/Dyinu8DgpR— Christina (@ChrissieBM) February 27, 2019
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