The Great White Savior Complex

The “great white savior” complex – now a modern stereotype with accompanying propaganda and rhetoric – has been with us in the new world since Europeans first made their way across the Atlantic, resulting in the destruction of hundreds of American Indian tribes across North America. However, this nefarious brand of white entitlement and self-righteousness extends as far back as the Crusades. The white-washing of the Eastern hemisphere, along with other non-European regions, is exemplified in the social theory of Orientalism – the depiction of non-European cultures through a very literal white-washed lens.

This complex is a bipartisan problem. Both the intersectional social justice warrior and the alt-right evangelical have the self-righteous fervor of being the enlightened “great white savior” to the less fortunate. Of course both have their own narratives – narratives tailored to fit and promote their world views. And, as I have stated in many a blog post, it is often the upper echelon of both the Right and the Left – the plutocracy the Bernie Sander’s campaign opposed – who benefit from unethical adoptions.

Unethical adoptions, or forced/coerced adoptions, is adoption trafficking – a type of human trafficking. Money exchanged and profit made on the selling of a human being is the definition of human trafficking. These children lose their genetic history and family identity just as African Americans lost their individual, familial, and cultural identity because of human trafficking/slavery. Birth certificates are legally sealed or altered. A new birth certificate may be issued completely. In a number of states, it could take years of cutting through red tape for adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificate, if it even exists at all. And it is even more difficult for international adoptees.

Human rights international non-governmental organizations and The United Nations list adoption trafficking as a human rights violation – in violation of innate parental rights and family values, as well as anti-motherhood and anti-woman. The very missionaries of both conservative and liberal persuasions do exactly what they claim to be against – destroy the nuclear family and trample on human rights.

Author and award-winning journalist, Kathryn Joyce, exposes the adoption trafficking committed by the religious right – the evangelic missionary adoption industry. Interviewed by Laura Barcella of Salon, Joyce explains the perversion of the term “orphan.” How the term is expanded to include children of single parents – including widows. This new defining of “orphan” isn’t representing the Anne of Green Gables of the world. Instead, it operates as a racist, colonialist excuse to seize children from impoverished second and third world countries:

In the course of researching and writing this book, was there any piece of information you learned about adoption that shocked you most? 

There are so many, from the way orphans are defined both in the U.S. and overseas; [“orphan” is] a term that’s now been expanded to include children of single parents, whether it’s single mothers in the U.S. or parents who are widowed in international countries.

Also, the realization that adoption means different things in different cultures, so it’s impossible to have a conversation about that and have that be an ethical conversation unless everybody is aware of the various definitions of these terms, and the different traditions you’re coming from.

Another thing I was a little shocked by is that agencies are not always required to stand by the information they’re providing to families. Agencies can pass along bad information, incorrect ideas about where a child is coming from or what their back-story [or] their family situation [is]. They have no responsibility for making sure that [information] is accurate. It puts a lot of people in kind of an impossible situation — not having the tools to understand whether they’re engaged in an ethical process.

In a blog post from 2015, Marshallese “Adoptions” = Newborn Trafficking, I addressed the trafficking of Marshallese children by American private sector agencies and adoption attorneys. The accounts and sources I quoted exposed the gross misunderstanding of the term “adoption” by the Marshallese. Adoption doesn’t mean the same thing in their language, nor does it translate well. As I reported, trafficking agencies and attorneys, as well as third party profiteers, used this to their advantage. And they manipulated and used the law to do so.

Joyce also clarifies a much abused statistic used by trafficking agencies:

The [UNICEF] estimate, which was [created] for purposes of estimating amounts of aid, has been picked up by adoption advocates as something that relates to the number of children who might need [to be adopted]. And that is just a serious misapplication of that number. I’m by far not the first person to make that argument; lots of people have pointed this out. These numbers have taken on a life of their own and they get repeated and amplified; people [hear that] there are hundreds of millions of orphans in the world, so how could there be a shortage of children available for adoption? It’s beyond apples and oranges; it’s a completely misapplied statistic. Of course, there are children in need of adoption, but they usually don’t happen to be young, healthy children. They’re often children over 5, children with more time-intensive medical, mental or psychological needs. That doesn’t quite match up with the demand from the U.S.

And the great white savior complex preys on less fortunate families and countries slammed by natural disasters, famine, and poverty:

After big natural disasters, you definitely see an urge to address it by adopting. After the Indonesia tsunami in 2005, there was a scandal when [WorldHelp], a Christian organization based in Virginia, wanted to take a couple hundred children from a Muslim community back to Virginia. They put a stop to that; it was extremely controversial, especially because of the place of adoption in Muslim culture [Indonesia had regulations in place before the tsunami requiring orphans be raised by people of their own religion]. But we also saw it after the tsunami in Japan, which is a very wealthy country; what orphan children were left after the tsnumai, it’s very unlikely they would have been in need of international adoption. It happened after the genocide in Rwanda; it happened after the very long brutal civil war in Liberia, Sierra Leone.

But there’s also this sense that countries can pop up as a hot-spot adoption country — it can seem kind of random at first. Like Guatemala — everyone was very concerned about the children there, and then it was Ethiopia, and everyone was wearing T-shirts about Ethiopia and selling Ethiopian coffee at their fellowship hour at church. That can appear random, but I think it has a lot to do with where adoption agencies are finding it easiest to set up and start performing adoptions.

Adoption internationally often functions as a boom and bust system; you’ll see a big boom in one country and oftentimes, after a boom, you start hearing about unethical things taking place; families that were coerced, families that were misled, money changing hands where it shouldn’t have been. And there starts to be a slowdown — sometimes the adoption program is suspended, sometimes it’s shut down. And then adoption agencies, even though most are non-profits, make more money and stay in business by performing adoptions, which are very expensive. They need to go to another country and find a new source for adoptable children. I know it sounds crass to speak in market terms, but really, this does become a boom and bust industry in a lot of these countries. If Ethiopia is a hot spot, a lot of people start hearing about it and signing up, then it starts to slow down and people start turning their attention to Uganda. The attention seems to follow the money, which follows where the agencies can afford to do business.

Joyce concludes her interview with an astute observation that will make many uncomfortable, to say the least:

It’s hard not to notice that this movement, like many movements right now, is [made up of] a lot of white, often Southern evangelical Christians adopting many children from countries in Africa. It can create this system, as one of my sources told me, where the diversity in the church becomes a sort of imported diversity. So these churches that were traditionally white seem to be becoming more multiracial, but they are becoming multiracial not by attracting adults of color or families of color, but by their white members adopting many children of other ethnicities.

White evangelicals are uncomfortable inviting different ethnicities into their places of worship, but they will covet and purchase a child under the age of five taken from a poor African, Asian, or South American family. The complete disregard and denial of family rights and values to non-white peoples across the globe is horrific, even more so that child snatching propaganda is propped up by the cross and wrapped in the American flag.

As I’ve previously stated, the left is not much better. Liberal women and the LGBT community feel entitled to a less fortunate girl’s or woman’s uterus and baby. The coveting eyes of limousine liberal left are guilty of marginalizing the poor, often reassuring themselves that they are “saving” a girl’s baby from “white-trash” rural areas. As seen in recent cases involving the infamous agency, Adoption Rocks, of Mobile, Alabama, single motherhood is demonized by local conservatives. This is The Scarlet Letter mentality that still haunts much of the South. Liberals of means and standing have no qualms about taking advantage of this disturbing flaw in southern culture. Privileged white women tell themselves they are “saving” a baby from a “white trash” culture.

Where is feminism on the subject of forced adoptions? They largely do not care. Just as they put the maternal mortality rate on the back-burner, a poor girl of any color isn’t important enough to intersectional feminists. After all, intersectional feminism has social studies issues with which to be concerned, therefore, human rights violations are trivial to the average intersectionalist. Not only are women of color often victims of dishonest missionaries and a lucrative international adoption industry, but intersectional feminism – supposedly a women’s rights movement – is guilty of using women of color as shields and props its own agenda, often denying the individuality and personal autonomy of women of color:

Intersectionality, by undervaluing shared human experience and rights — universality — and personal autonomy and distinctiveness — individuality — and focusing intensely on group identity and intersectional ideology, places individuals in a very restricted “collectivist” position previously only found in very conservative cultures. ~ Helen Pluckrose, “The Problem with Intersectional Feminism”

And as reflected in the maternal mortality rate of the United States, women of color especially suffer from this insidious “white savior” mentality.  According to a study by the American Medical Association: “In the United States, black women are 2 to 6 times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy than white women, depending on where they live.” (source: The National Institute of Health) Why is intersectional feminism unconcerned about this alarming rate in women of color, especially black women??? Could it be that intersectional feminism, which claims to be inclusive and all intersectional, is inherently racist in the silencing of individual voices and experiences of African American woman? Apparently, intersectional feminism has a white savior complex all of its own.

Perhaps the best and most popular example of an entitled, wealthy white woman is Angelina Jolie.  The Daily Mail reports in “Please just let me speak to my daughter”: Biological mother of Angelina Jolie’s adopted girl Zahara, 12, demands access from Ethiopia after Brangelina love split, how Jolie’s adopted daughter’s mother pleads to have contact with her child. Jolie is the perfect example of seemingly a well intended, liberal, white savior. Twenty years ago, no conservative would have approved of Jolie adopting any sort of baby, yet today conservatives use Jolie as an example. Her wealth and status motivates conservatives to overlook Jolie’s single motherhood, quirkiness, and liberal beliefs.

The rate of mothers dying in childbirth may have dropped globally in recent world history, but we are not out of the woods yet:  “Globally, an average of 216 women die for every 100,000 live births, according to data from UNICEF.” Roughly two hundred plus mothers out of one hundred thousand die in childbirth or from complications from childbirth in our century. Why would any woman, any person, want to use a mother to procure a newborn for a client of money and privilege?