So I was on Facebook yesterday (and those who know me know that I am actually surprisingly productive on it, meaning that I use Facebook as a venue for posting interesting articles and theoretically stimulating interesting and provocative discussions among my friends) and I came across this image:


Anyway, it really resonated with me for several reasons:

  1. Whenever I’m walking out of the grocery store or whatnot, and someone comes up to me asking me to donate to XYZ cause. Usually I’ll take the information they pass me and then look into it, but after all of the controversy surrounding The Salvation Army and their anti-gay tendencies, I want to make sure that if I do choose to donate somewhere, that it isn’t supporting something that I’m actually against. So I do want to make it clear that I think that there’s nothing wrong with donations (as a matter of fact, I believe very strongly in supporting causes that need funding, i.e., family planning clinics or domestic violence shelters), per se, but that brings me to my next point.
  2. That being said, I think the problem with charity is that often, people think that it’s sufficient to just throw money at a problem, clap their hands, and consider themselves having fulfilled their civic duty. And that’s something that I think is a serious issue. Often, problems arise because of systemic inequity and cannot be solved purely through money. While money can be a short term solution, as I cited above, the focus should also be on prioritizing these issues so that they no longer exist. So back to the clinics/shelters–my hope is that we’ll be able to become a culture that values bodily integrity and autonomy and treats domestic violence as a serious issue, thus rendering the dire need for funding moot, because everyone will care about the issue and take more active means to promote comprehensive sex ed or prosecute batterers.
  3. Whenever it’s an international issue, stereotypes abound. The typical “white savior complex” appears. In particular, a recent, salient example comes to mind: the “Kony 2012” campaign. I know that my friends (predominantly, though not solely, white) who reposted the image/links or donated did so out of a genuine intention to help. But the problem is stil that at the end of the day, what really happens?

As a teacher, I’d like to think that I’m in the trenches and exhibiting solidarity, and charity. I’m with these kids because I believe that they can succeed and I can help them do so–and that it’s not enough that I’m just “there” in the classroom.