Who’s the kid?

Here's a nice little profile piece from the paper's ultra-local weekly "Crossroads" section.

MattIt's a Local Boy Makes Does Good story, about a young man from the area who is serving as a missionary with OMS International, helping to train local church leaders and working in the agency's local schools and its medical clinic. If it will help to keep the comments thread here from veering off into a discussion of the legitimacy of missions, then just think of him as working for an NGO to strengthen Haitian civil society.

My problem here is with the photos. Specifically, it's with the captions for those photos: The top photo here pictures two people, the bottom one pictures nine. But only two of these 11 people are identified by name.

The copy editors did their best to write around the missing information, and the paper's diligent online copy editor (ahem) tried to mitigate the problem by inserting "(right, …)" and "(center, …)" to clarify which person in each photo is the one named in the caption. That may not seem to matter much, since readers of the print edition, in which those parenthetical identifiers are absent, probably won't be confused as to whom the captions refer. Those readers have seen hundred of photos like this and they're accustomed to the American convention of only regarding white people from the first world as worthy of identification.

StacyIt's that convention — and not Matt and Stacy in particular — that I want to talk about here. We still see this all the time. The implication is clear: Here is a picture of a person and several non-persons or sub-persons. That's abominable.

I used to rent a room from a former World Vision executive who told me about a study that agency did.

World Vision is a large and impressively effective evangelical relief and development agency. A lot of very poor people in this world have access to food, water and medicine because of World Vision. They're good people.

World Vision sees it as their responsibility to use their resources as efficiently as possible, so they conducted a study to measure what sort of fundraising appeals would be most effective. What they learned was this: Americans are most likely to donate when the visual components of the fundraiser pictured a smiling, middle-aged white American male surrounded by smiling, dark-skinned poor children.

To their enormous credit, World Vision's response to this finding was to say, "OK then, what's the second-most effective visual component for our appeals?" They refused to try to treat the disease by reinforcing one of its causes.

You can't empower poor people by portraying them as powerless sub-people.

  • Ray

    I know what you’re saying, but there are also lots of photos like this
    http://www.berkeley.edu/news/features/2002/clinton/slideshow/11.html.jpg
    where only one person identified by name, and its not because the others are non-people.
    (And in the photo on this page
    http://www.seacoastonline.com/1999news/7_10index.htm
    the named person is “less” of a person than the unnamed people also in the frame)
    The photo problem comes from the way the story is framed. If the story was “Haitian town gets clean water”, some of the Haitian people getting clean water would be photographed, and named. That story isn’t going to be written. The story that would get published is, as you put it yourself, “Local Boy Does Good”, and for that story you just need to photograph the Local Boy.

  • ajay

    The article’s about Matt and Stacy Ayars. It’s just normal style not to name all eleven other people in the shot – reasons of space apart from anything else; the caption would have to be eight times as long. The names of the other people just aren’t important in an article that’s not about them.
    And shame on World Vision for putting their own irrational guilt ahead of their duty to do their jobs most effectively. I’m just surprised they didn’t send out mailings reading “GIVE US MONEY, YOU RACIST, NEO-COLONIALIST BASTARDS” and really bask in the glow of their own moral superiority.

  • Grey Duck

    I’ll second Ray, above. I, too, agree with the meat of what you’re saying, but at the same time, as an Education major, I’ve read many, many articles where the caption of a teacher and several students reads “Sally working with her students.” I don’t read those captions as making the schoolchildren sub-human, nor do I read them as making them property of Sally. Additionally, there are occasionally issues with people not wanting their names released.
    But, yes, White America definitely has a “those brown people don’t really count” problem…

  • the opoponax

    “and for that story you just need to photograph the Local Boy.”
    yes, but journalistic conventions are such that, if the Local Boy appears in a photo with someone else (regardless of age, race, sex, etc.), you also name that someone else and designate who’s who in the picture. obviously if there are 20 people in the picture, this gets complicated and exceptions can be made. but there’s no excuse not to identify the boy in the top photo. and in the bottom photo, you identify everyone or no one. or you use a photo of the girl with fewer people. and you try, in your coverage of local volunteers do-gooding in foreign countries, to portray things in a sensitive light and not come off as some kind of “white man’s burden” kind of bullshit.

  • Ray

    That’s just not true. That’s not the journalistic convention when you photograph a politician at a meet and greet, or visting a school. Sometimes if the politician is talking to a specific kid, the kid will get named, but usually not – for the same reason as in the story above. The important thing is that *person the story is about* met *someone from this category*. The individual in the category is relacable – if doesn’t matter if the politician meets Biff, Buck, or Buzz, the story wouldn’t change, so they aren’t named.

  • The Navigator

    Part of it, also, I think, is that the unidentified Haitians all (without clicking to enlarge the photos) appear to be kids. I think it’s considerably more common not to identify children, especially when the accompanying article is about the two adults who are depicted.
    That said, I think it speaks very well of Fred that he picked up on this point, and even tried to do something about it.

  • Raka

    I’m siding with ajay, GreyDuck, and the other agents of the Patriarchy above. The subject of the article is identified in the picture, and the collective object is not. If the subject had been meeting with a high-up politician, then that politician’s name and position would have been relevant, and probably listed. If the story had been about how the subject came to teach and ended up studying himself under some local wise elder, the local wise elder would almost certainly have been identified. But if the subject is speaking before generic European dignitaries or providing assistance to local villagers, then the individual identities of the objects are not relevant to the story. The objects aren’t sub-people; they’re just not who the story is about.
    There is the issue (largely unaddressed in the above comments) of the lack of parenthetical identifiers in the original captions. That is a bit more loaded, but again probably forgivable. Two adults from a predominantly white community travel to a predominantly black community to help children. There is a picture of a white adult surrounded by prepubescent black children. The assumptions that go along with naming but not locating the subject of the piece are just as much statistical as they are cultural. If the picture had been of a greying man in a uniform draped with medals standing shaking hands with a smiling young woman in a crowd of enthusiastic civilians, would you object to a caption that simply said “General Bombasto the day before the coup”? Does that make the smiling young woman a sub-person?
    Isn’t World Vision’s donor audience predominantly white? Is it so egregious for white donors to respond favorably to an ad that makes it easy for them to project themselves into the role of someone making children happy? This seems like pretty basic marketing psychology, not something to be ashamed of. Positive ads (showing the happy result of the product) have consistently been shown to draw a better response than negative ads (showing the dire situation that creates a need for the product).

  • The Navigator

    Ajay,
    The article kinda is about the kids, isn’t it? The point of the article is that Matt and Stacy are working with kids in Haiti. The top photo here shows Matt with a dark-skinned child. Without a caption, we have no way to know who this is or where this photo was taken. There are dark-skinned children in the Delaware region; there are dark-skinned children in Haiti, too – but Matt’s not working with all of them, or most of them. He’s working with a specific bunch of kids in a specific part of Haiti. The point of a caption is to give you relevant information. Identifying information about precisely who this child is highly relevant, and the child’s name would be one part of that relevant information. Somewhat less relevant to the story than Matt’s identity, I’ll grant, but still quite relevant.

  • David

    On Fred’s side, though… wouldn’t it be more typical for the caption, even if it doesn’t identify every individual by name, to acknowledge that there are other people in the picture? If the story is about Matt helping Haitians, and he’s posing with one of the children, wouldn’t it at the very least be more common to do what it seems like Fred had to do after the fact: have the caption say “Matt, with a Haitian child” or in some other way acknowledge that there are children in the photograph (since that seems to be kind of the point of the article, that he’s there helping other people — this was evidently at least important enough to feature photographs that included some of these other people, so even if we don’t know their names we can at least acknowledge their presence).

  • ako

    And shame on World Vision for putting their own irrational guilt ahead of their duty to do their jobs most effectively.
    What do you think they’re trying to do? Do you think their main goal is to give food, water, and medicine, or to see that people get food, water, and medicine?
    Because if the point is to see that people have food and water, then Worldvision did right in considering the impact of their message. There’s a trade off between working on the immediate stuff of getting a kid fed and vaccinated, and long-term stuff like infrastructure, trade, and helping the people get into a position where they can pay for their own food and doctors. And deciding to make sure their efforts to provide clean drinking water doesn’t tell Americans “Look at the people we’re helping! They’re poor brown children who need a big white grown-up to take care of them,” is reasonable. Direct efforts to build up the economy, civil society, and infrastructure don’t need someone strenghtening the perception that those people are passive generic childrend who can’t look after themselves. So deciding that your effort to help won’t weaken other efforts makes sense if you’re interested in seeing that people get better living conditions.
    Of course, if your main priority is to be the one giving help, then by all means play up the dependency stereotype. People will toss money towards providing a fish that they’d never put towards fishing poles. And you can ensure steady work for yourself by giving hand outs instead of a hand up, providing a bowl of soup for the hungry but no efforts to help them into a position to buy food, handing out pills and prescriptions for health but no information on how to keep themselves healthy, and making sure with your ads that any donors you have are devoted to the idea of a big white daddy helping the little foreign children. But I’d consider someone doing that to be basking in their own self-righteousness, not someone who remembers that hungry and diseased bodies have human minds and (metaphorical, at least) human spirits, and that worrying about their dignity isn’t a waste.

  • Beth

    If the subject had been meeting with a high-up politician, …. If the story had been about how the subject came to teach and ended up studying himself under some local wise elder, …. But if the subject is speaking before generic European dignitaries or providing assistance to local villagers, ….
    That’s kind of the point though. The ‘natives’ are never important or valued for themselves, they are merely the objects of the white person’s beneficence. The caption may not be the problem, but it is a symptom of the problem.
    Is it so egregious for white donors to respond favorably to an ad that makes it easy for them to project themselves into the role of someone making children happy? This seems like pretty basic marketing psychology, not something to be ashamed of.
    Then the question is: is marketing charity as if it were just another luxury commodity something to be ashamed of?

  • ako

    Is it so egregious for white donors to respond favorably to an ad that makes it easy for them to project themselves into the role of someone making children happy?
    Are all the white donors middle-aged men? If not, why do they identify with them so much, and is that something World Vision wants to encourage? And do these organizations only work with children, or do they think no one wants to hear about the adults who helped dig the well, learned how to maintain the pump, and built a fence to keep the goats away? Also do they only help brown people, or is dark-skin visual shorthand for foreign? Isn’t there something basically wrong in that images of socities and cultures working to build themselves up with some outside help doesn’t sell, but Big White Daddy standing in for the Americans and poor dark-skinned children smiling gratefully standing in for people from developing countries does?

  • Raka

    the perception that those people are passive generic children who can’t look after themselves
    Okaaaaay, that’s one interpretation of that image. But I hardly think it’s the only valid one. No one’s questioning that these people need help. So we’re not supposed to portray the people who receive the help OR the people providing it? I dunno; maybe their dignity is more fragile than mine is, but smiling people working together doesn’t immediately scream “paternalistic neo-colonialism!” to me.
    Also, why are you assuming that smiling-white-man is just providing the fish, rather than the fishing poles? I’m not particularly familiar with World View’s work, so I can’t say one way or another. But it seems a bit knee-jerk to leap to the “big white daddy” conclusion based on nothing more than we’ve seen here.

  • the opoponax

    i think part of the problem isn’t so much whether the other individuals were identified, but the way the captions themselves were written that is sort of culturally icky. the captions in general are poorly written, and the photos themselves are odd choices.
    not to mention that the whole thing reads like these guys handed in only these 4 photos (which are actually just their own snapshots) and gave very little information. so the writers had to make up a bunch of b.s. to cover the fact that they actually had nothing to write about these pictures, other than to identify that these are the people the story is about, and yes, you can see here that they are in Haiti.

  • David

    ako:
    Thank you. Your comments were exactly what I wanted to say, but I hadn’t posted on those aspects of it because I couldn’t figure out how to get the point across :)

  • David

    why are you assuming that smiling-white-man is just providing the fish, rather than the fishing poles?
    He didn’t assume — first he was talking about the earlier post criticizing World Vision for not doing anything necessary to maximize short-term donations regardless of what long-term images and stereotypes they encouraged. And then he was talking about how a smiling white male surrounded by smiling brown people is far more effective than, for example, an image of brown people who (for example) thanks to help from a certain relief agency, have built a sustainable sanitation system that will prevent disease and provide water for their entire town. The latter is more indicative of real substantive improvement, but the former is more effective. This is (or should be) an incongruity, if we’re talking about a relief organization trying to help people.
    Which is where Beth’s point about charity as a luxury good comes in — if it’s more effective because we can somehow identify ourselves with the white person in the picture that all those smiling brown people are so grateful to, then we aren’t really trying to help people because they need to be helped (or the more substantive, sustainable activities would be preferable), but because we can imagine how smiling and grateful all those poor people will be because of us. It is precisely a luxury good in the latter case, a pleasant action we add to our lifestyle rather than a sacrifice we make for the long-term good of other human beings.
    Not that charity should never be pleasant, of course — but when we value the pleasant feedback more than the real results, there’s a problem.

  • Steve

    And shame on World Vision for putting their own irrational guilt ahead of their duty to do their jobs most effectively.
    Huh? I for one, as an occassional supporter of World Vision, appreciate their intent. Its not about irrational guilt, its about deciding to not necessarily exploit the easiest stereotypes as a way to raise money. Its not only important *what* they do, but *how* they do it.
    As a white male director of an urban non-profit that serves a predominantly minority, female population, I wrestle with this all the time. There are some stories I’d love to tell, and that would generate heartfelt response, but I never want our clients to be forced to be in the spotlight, or in a position they don’t feel comfortable being in.
    Must get back to working on sensitively written client testimonial article for our newsletter for which client will have editorial/approval powers…

  • David

    Or, to point out another incongruity: If it’s really just “it’s easier for us to empathize” in that sort of picture, why is it particularly essential, for maximum effectiveness, that the white person be surrounded by black people? Wouldn’t any brand of poor/suffering people work just as well?
    But other colors evidently don’t work as well. There is more going on here, and it’s not very flattering (to white American culture), and I don’t think we can just make simplistic excuses to explain it away.

  • Raka

    The ‘natives’ are never important or valued for themselves
    Hogwash. I’ve read articles aplenty about individual ‘natives’ who are behind newsworthy educational or entrepreneurial endeavors, or who turned their suffering into an effective crusade for change, or what have you. They are pictured and named. Are there too many stories about missionaries and not enough about ‘native’ folks bootstrapping themselves? Maybe; I don’t have any statistics to hand. Thing is, news articles don’t pretend to show a holistic view of the world. A local paper is much more likely to run a story on local people going far away than it is to run a story on something happening far away with no direct connection to the local community. There are multiple reasons for that that I hope should be self-evident and not particularly objectionable. When a news outlet does manage to get ahold of a story about co-op microcredit or someone like Mukhtar Mai, there’s no urge to photoshop a paleface into the story.
    is marketing charity as if it were just another luxury commodity something to be ashamed of?
    Uhhhhhh… no? What’s that comparison supposed to mean? Marketing is a just as much about psychology and communication as it is about Evil Commercialism. How do we best convey our message to people? How do we draw and hold their attention while imparting some information? With limited space and time, how do we best convince the audience to support us? Sure, this can be seen as intrinsically manipulative, but it’s no more so than the writing techniques you’d learn in freshman-level Composition class. Does the purity of the subject demand a more spartan presentation? Perhaps a one-line small-font sentence tucked in a corner of some page, saying “People need help. You should contribute. 555-1234.”.

  • Raka

    opoponax: well, yeah. The captions were kind of creepily forced and fumbled. No argument here.

  • LL

    I think they should have named the kid (if possible from their info) in the photo with only 2 people; in the other one, naming all of the kids is probably not doable, just from a spacing standpoint (esp. online).
    I really haven’t observed this “not naming non-white people in photos” policy at work in the local papers I read (Dallas Morning News, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, a few free weeklies). They usually name everyone in a picture, and sometimes even include their ages (in the case of children, which is sort of weird, come to think of it).
    Maybe this is just a Yankee thing.

  • LL

    Just kidding about the “Yankee thing” comment.

  • Raka

    David, I understand your point about charity as a selfish luxury, but I think it’s a bit simplistic. While “look at these people happy because of me” may not be the most noble impulse, and it certainly can be taken to destructive and narcissistic extremes, I don’t think that warm fuzzy feeling is somehow sinful or undesirable in and of itself. It’s also not the only interpretation of white-person-surrounded-by-black-persons. Your example of an “image of brown people who … have built a sustainable sanitation system” might be less effective because it lacks subconscious cues that encourage a sense of involvement on the part of the audience. They might see it and consciously think “well, that’s a very good thing there!”, but not get the internal leap that says “…a good thing that I can/should be a part of, even if only by sending money”. Or one of a dozen other hypothetical explanations; frankly, we don’t have a really solid model on how decision-making works inside human heads. Persuasiveness is not just a matter of coldly pragmatic logic, nor should it be.
    why is it particularly essential, for maximum effectiveness, that the white person be surrounded by black people?
    Okay, that’s an interesting point. Since I don’t know any particulars about the study, I can’t be sure that the other options included “white person surrounded by happy poor other white/asian/speckled people”. If it did, then that is a concern. My assumption (based on a totally factless first-reading of the Fred’s post) was that the pictures were actually of their work, which apparently includes providing aid to regions inhabited predominantly by black people. Assuming I’m wrong, that does reveal something in the heads of the audience that deserves attention.
    Even if so, however, that’s no reason to avoid such images. Say the racist preference really does exist in their audience’s minds, and say that 50% of World View’s work (yet more factless speculation on my part!) is accurately depicted by pictures like the one in question. I agree that making 100% of their ads out of that picture would then be dealing with the devil. But making 0% of the ads would be excessively sensitive self-censorship. A knee-jerk “protection of their dignity” can be seen as rather patronizing, too.

  • Beth

    “The ‘natives’ are never important or valued for themselves”
    Hogwash. I’ve read articles aplenty….
    Perhaps I should have made it clear that I was referring to marketing materials, not articles. Even so, it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not, in my experience, a big one.
    “is marketing charity as if it were just another luxury commodity something to be ashamed of?”
    Uhhhhhh… no? What’s that comparison supposed to mean?
    I thought David explained it well in his comment. It’s about selling charity based solely on how giving will make you feel, without any concern about how it affects the recipients.
    The rest of your comment appears to be a rash of misplaced anger with no connection to what I actually wrote.

  • Raka

    Beth: yeah, had I seen David’s interpretation (not one that had occurred to me) before writing my response, I would’ve reacted much less strongly. Sorry.
    Still, I think it’s a very unwarranted leap to assume that the image works only because it’s “selling charity based solely on how giving will make you feel, without any concern about how it affects the recipients”.

  • Claire

    1) Thank you, Fred. This is a really relevant point. And the nice words about World Vision are well-deserved – I lived for six months in a World Vision project area in Honduras and they are a capable and intelligent organization. (People may be interested to know that the U.S. Peace Corps tends to place its volunteers with World Vision, especially civil engineers and health specialists.)
    2) Why are we assuming that U.S. people are the only ones who would see these hypothetical promotional materials? I don’t know about other places, but in Honduras, “locals” work in (and run) the NGO offices, see NGO materials, use or know someone who uses the internet. What kind of tone does it set when Honduran or Haitian or Chilean World Vision cooperants – who are the people running the clinics and the nutrition programs, hauling the adobe to build the improved houses, walking for two hours to go to classes on health promotion – see foreigners get all the credit? An unproductive, dependent, if-it-didn’t-work-it’s-Whitey’s-fault, please-send-us-more-foreign-experts tone, that’s what. I have seen this play out in some fairly destructive ways.
    3) Several years ago, there was a hullabaloo with an organization I’ve worked/traveled with in Nicaragua. Someone (not a staff member) had taken pictures of a bunch of factory workers in Managua and posted them on the internet with an article about sweatshops and exploitation. One of the factory workers stumbled across it. (I don’t know and can’t say if management had something to do with this.) Now, this _particular_ factory had some of the best wages and conditions in Managua. It had a stack of ISO certifications. Most of the people in those photos quite liked their job, and some of them were DEAD FURIOUS that they’d wound up on the internet as some nameless icon of exploitation. I’ve always kept that story in mind when taking pictures in other places: People are not symbols unless they ask to be.

  • ako

    So we’re not supposed to portray the people who receive the help OR the people providing it?
    By all means show the people needing help and the people providing it. But look again at the specific image that got the most wallets open:
    …a smiling, middle-aged white American male surrounded by smiling, dark-skinned poor children.
    Now I was in the Peace Corps, where I met a lot of aid workers and saw a lot of aid projects. And the ones where people were helping others didn’t always, or even usually look like that. There wasn’t usually the all-white, all-foreign staff, hardly anything just served children, and there usually wasn’t the absolute divide between helping and being helped. The projects that did fit this picture were usually damaging. They tended to involve a group of foreign professionals swooping in, bestowing services, and either leaving people with an unsustainable burden, or setting up a permanent system of handouts.
    Anything where you see a white male surrounded by happy brown children isn’t necessarily bad, but what makes that image preferable above all others is.
    I dunno; maybe their dignity is more fragile than mine is, but smiling people working together doesn’t immediately scream “paternalistic neo-colonialism!” to me.
    I’d love it if they did smiling people working together. That’s not the picture described (unless someone’s leaving out a major detail of what the children in the picture are supposed doing). I’ve been in a number of pictures touting the benefits of aid programs showing the white American working together with the locals to develop an aid project. I’ve been in pictures promoting aid that involved the white foreigner and some local adults working together to help the smiling brown children. I don’t object to that.
    It’s when you leave out the local adults and the work put in by the community, the competent third-world nurse providing vaccinations, the dark-skinned carpenter helping to build the local school, and decide that you’re going to show and keep showing the image of the white male American as THE helper (no offense to white male Americans, but you’re not the only ones helping) and THE representation of the helped will be dark-skinned children that it gets bad. Which is what World Vision rejected. Good for them.
    Also, why are you assuming that smiling-white-man is just providing the fish, rather than the fishing poles? I’m not particularly familiar with World View’s work, so I can’t say one way or another.
    I don’t think that’s what World Vision is doing. I don’t know, but from the sound of it, they’re better than that. And the smiling white man doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s just providing fish instead of poles; but I’ve seen a very strong correlation between the two approaches. I have, however had a few white male friends who got roped into pictures like that because when they were representing their highly sustainable, community-driven, long-term solution, fishing-pole type development project to some distant official or donor, that was the image that sold the project.
    So not every effort with the white guy surrounded by dark-skinned children is like that. And it’s not the worst thing to take that picture because it’s what people want. But even if that’s not what you’re doing, that’s what you risk selling. Images send certain messages, regardless of the intent, and that image supports certain assumptions likely to be made by the American watching the commercials and reading the pamphlets. Again, it’s not the absolutely worst thing an organization can do, but it does damage, and I admire how a large, relatively influential organization is willing to focus on the big picture, not exclusively on the immedate need.

  • Jeff

    I have a totally different experience with World Vision than some of you. My company was asked to set up their sales data-base. As a result, we got to see some of their sales material. A LOT of it was geared toward getting WV named as executor (if not prime donee) in wills.
    My favorite was a brochure that had a picture of (Caucasian) Jesus with the question: “When Jesus was in the world, what was his prime concern?” Inside was the answer. Love? Nah. Faith? Forgedaboutit. Charity? You have got to be kidding. Every theology student (even this agnostic Jew) knows the anser is Money.
    Did I get a hoot out of that! (We weren’t there long. The culture clash was nothing compared to the fact that our salesman had oversold the account.)

  • Amanda

    This point started out well, but …
    2) Why are we assuming that U.S. people are the only ones who would see these hypothetical promotional materials? I don’t know about other places, but in Honduras, “locals” work in (and run) the NGO offices, see NGO materials, use or know someone who uses the internet. What kind of tone does it set when Honduran or Haitian or Chilean World Vision cooperants – who are the people running the clinics and the nutrition programs, hauling the adobe to build the improved houses, walking for two hours to go to classes on health promotion – see foreigners get all the credit? An unproductive, dependent, if-it-didn’t-work-it’s-Whitey’s-fault, please-send-us-more-foreign-experts tone, that’s what. I have seen this play out in some fairly destructive ways.
    Wait, wait, wait. The reason that these materials might be harmful, being distributed beyond just the US, is that it “sets a tone” of “unproductive, dependent, if-it-didn’t-work-it’s-Whitey’s-fault”? The problem is, what, our good names might be tarnished? Those ungrateful brown people just don’t appreciate the burden we carry for them?
    How about an “our work isn’t appreciated” tone for the Hondurans, Haitians and Chileans? “We aren’t getting credit for the hard work we put in”?
    White-centric much?

  • Darryl Pearce

    …thank you, Fred. That’s why I keep coming back to the church of slacktivist. You give this free-thinking secular pilgrim some …reassurance. Or should that be “assurance” (of things unseen).
    Keep up the good work!

  • Matthew Boyd

    Man, if I came back from a story and I had a picture with unidentified people in it, my editor would have had my head.

  • Steve

    A LOT of it was geared toward getting WV named as executor (if not prime donee) in wills.
    Can’t discern your tone…is this a problem? Many charities promote the idea of giving through your estate. It is a way to leave a legacy to an organization you value, and can also help with taxes. And yes, sometimes people need an executor. Keep in mind these brochures are usually targeted to long-time and/or large donors who have shown a significant committment to the organization already.
    My favorite was a brochure that had a picture of (Caucasian) Jesus with the question: “When Jesus was in the world, what was his prime concern?” Inside was the answer. Love? Nah. Faith? Forgedaboutit. Charity? You have got to be kidding. Every theology student (even this agnostic Jew) knows the anser is Money.
    So what did they list as the answer?

  • ajay

    Man, if I came back from a story and I had a picture with unidentified people in it, my editor would have had my head.
    Good job you never cover rock concerts.
    “30,000 fans gathered at the Anytown Arena last night as local band Serdar Argic opened for Green Day. Pictured are Serdar Argic lead singer Bob Howard (24) and drummer Ron Davis (23), and fans James Bruce (17), David Weiss (16), Marie Kroger (23)…[caption continued pages A3 through A324]“.

  • Claire

    no, Amanda, I did’t write that particularly well. I was doing a lousy job of trying to express exactly the opposite sentiment. I was trying to say that when NGOs set up a dynamic where “experts” come from somewhere else, have a lot of resources, and act like they know all the answers, it creates this wierd dynamic where people who are _from_ (and knowledgeable about, and active in) targetted communities can get dispirited after years of being told that they should do things the way foreigners say to and not argue. When projects built on this dynamic fall through, it seems like the reaction of the community is not “Hey, that didn’t work, how can we and our foreign cooperants avoid these problems in the future” but rather “goddamn foreigners screwing up again.” And that’s an 100% fair critique. But after a long time of being told to hush up and let the foreigner fix it, communities seem to really loose faith in their own abilities. At that point, some groups in the community seem to wash their hands of the whole damn business: things will get better if foreigners get it right, and worse if foreigners get it wrong, but the future is pretty much dependant on the foreigners. And that’s a really awful thing to do to a community, convincing them that they aren’t capable of handling problems for themselves.
    I’m not saying NGOs shouldn’t bring resources! I’m not saying it’s bad to supply an agronomist where there isn’t one! I’m not even saying that it isn’t Whitey’s fault. I’m just saying that underestimating community leaders, educators, and organizers, and treating them like they don’t count, is a REALLY BAD PLAN.
    It also does seem to produce some anti-foreigner sentiment, but I think in most of the Global South there’s already plenty of reasons for that, bad NGOs or good NGOs.
    If things get better in a community, it is usually because of the hard hard work of people _from_ that community. NGO resources have to be met by determination on the part of the community to see those resources well-used.
    This is just my own personal observation, and the content of several lengthy diatribes community leaders have aimed at me while I’ve been wandering around being a Big Dumb Gringo Student. A lot of international organizations try really hard not to screw up in these particular ways, and a lot of them succeed admirably.
    So yes. I said that wrong. I was kind of trying to translate out a rant delivered to me last June, and I substitued “Whitey” for “Gringo” and apparently didn’t give enough context. Alternately, I could just be bad at explication.
    ::shrugs::

  • Jeff

    So what did they list as the answer?
    You’re kidding, right? I thought I had made it clear that their answer was “Money”.

  • Matt and Stacey Ayars

    “the kid” is Mikimbae

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Boom; thanks for helping me unpack a new corner of my invisible backpack; I’d never realized this before but of course, there it is.

  • Carstonio

    Americans are most likely to donate when the visual components of the fundraiser pictured a smiling, middle-aged white American male
    surrounded by smiling, dark-skinned poor children.

    (nods sadly) I suspect that the tactic is similarly effective in many European nations to some degree, given their own histories of imperialism. The “white man’s burden” is the ethnic equivalent of the hero mentality of many male chauvinists, the valiant knights protecting the fair damsels. Both premises reduce the rescued people to objects to be exploited.

    I would love to see one of those photos reversed just to see the reaction. Perhaps a scientist from Nairobi volunteering in Mississippi to help educate white children about evolution.

  • SergeantHeretic

    I do not believe there is any limit o nthe amount of money I would pay to see a smart well spoken scientist from Nairobi or any other African nation who speaks better english, more clearly and with better diction than the borderline illiterate Po’ white trash populating an average Deep South small town who all think of themselves as being “Better” than the smart well educated, African man who is worth twenty of them in terms of real personal quality.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    …the borderline illiterate Po’ white trash populating an average Deep South small town who all think of themselves as being “Better” than…

    People who think themselves better than another group are just awful, aren’t they?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001112204188 Gabe Nichols

    I’m sure we all agree that we ought to love one another, and I know
    there are people in the world who do not love their fellow human beings —
    and I hate people like that! 
    - Tom Lehrer


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