Documentary filmmaker and former Strictly contestant Stacey Dooley has hit back at MP David Lammy’s criticism that we don’t need “any more white saviours” creating “poverty porn” in Africa.
Responding to his comments about her trip to Uganda for Comic Relief, Dooley highlighted the charity’s work in saving kids’ lives and suggested: “You could always go over there and try to raise awareness.”
Comic Relief has also stepped in to defend Dooley, saying it “makes no apologies” for sending her to Uganda to “discover more about projects the British people have funded there.”
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The row began when Dooley posted this photograph…
… And the response wasn’t entirely positive.
Commenting on an article about how Dooley has been “trolled” for her “white saviour complex,” MP and Windrush campaigner Lammy wrote on Twitter: “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 added: “Hi Stacey Dooley. This isn’t personal and I don’t question your good motives. My problem with British celebrities being flown out by Comic Relief to make these films is that it sends a distorted image of Africa which perpetuates an old idea from the colonial era.”
Citing rising life expectancy in 37 African states and the growth of GDP, Lammy continued: “Comic Relief has a huge platform and privilege and it is the first and major way children learn about Africa. If they only show Africans as helpless victims to be pitied, children miss the broader picture of huge progress in Africa.”
It’s 2019! This way of raising money is tired and outdated. I wish they would change the record and realise all it does is perpetuate an age old colonial troupe that encourages supine Westerners to give but continue in total ignorance of what’s really happening in the continent. https://t.co/6u3jKiVjs8
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) February 28, 2019
Lammy added: “Many black Brits feel deeply uncomfortable with Comic Relief’s poverty porn. It’s my job to represent their views however uncomfortable. They want their children to have rounded views about Africa and these types of campaign woefully fail to do that.”
The issue hit a nerve, and Lammy was quickly invited to appear on Victoria Derbyshire.
There, he described the photo as evoking “a white, beautiful heroine holding a black child with no agency, no parents in sight… completely supine, and I’m afraid it perpetuates an image.”
He explained: So it’s not that the charity isn’t good, but Comic Relief is doing very little to educate its public… the image is a perpetual image of people who are impoverished, who need white celebrities.
“I’m afraid despite the fact that Stacey Dooley is popular, and has done some fantastic journalism, the image that she wants to tweet conveys an age-old trope that’s her as the heroine, that’s the black child that’s a victim, and we’ve got to stop it.”
Dooley responded by asking if Lammy took issue specifically with her being white, and suggesting that the MP could visit Africa and raise money himself.
David, is the issue with me being white? (Genuine question) …because if that’s the case, you could always go over there and try raise awareness? Comic relief have raised over 1 billion pounds since they started.
I saw projects that were saving lives with the money. Kids lives. https://t.co/pPgez9OxN8
— Stacey Dooley (@StaceyDooley) February 27, 2019
Lammy has not responded directly to Dooley’s comment, instead replying to a message from one of her defenders by re-iterating his point…
The history of colonialism in Africa means race is important. Stacey’s instagram posts continue a very long established trope of white female heroine with orphan black child with little or no agency or parents in sight. Comic relief do this because it makes people give money. https://t.co/0oLx3F0ZNx
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) February 28, 2019
Comic Relief said in a statement: “We are really grateful that Stacey Dooley, an award-winning and internationally acclaimed documentary-maker, agreed to go to Uganda to discover more about projects the British people have funded there and make no apologies for this.
“She has filmed and reported on challenging issues all over the world, helping to put a much-needed spotlight on issues that affect people’s lives daily.
“In her film, people working with or supported by Comic Relief projects tell their own stories in their own words. We have previously asked David Lammy if he would like to work with us to make a film in Africa and he has not responded. The offer is still open.”