BYU Honors Program will host lecture on avoiding white saviorism

BYU history professor and Africana Studies coordinator Leslie Hadfield said people need to act on their desires to help those in developing nations in a better way. She will address avoiding white saviorism in an Honors Program event Feb. 19. (Dazzle Jam/Pexels)

The BYU Honors Program will host a “Chocolate Chat” focused on avoiding white saviorism on Feb. 19.

BYU history professor and Africana Studies coordinator Leslie Hadfield will speak on the topic at noon over Zoom. She said she will share stories and explain what white saviorism is, how people can recognize it in themselves and how they can avoid it. Honors program advisor Emma Webster said the event will also include a discussion on the issue.

“It’s interesting to hear from somebody who has a background in these important subjects,” Webster said.

The Honors Program’s “Chocolate Chats” previously included chocolate treats but because of COVID-19, the treats are on hold. The chats have covered a variety of subjects in the past according to Maddy Howard, an exercise and wellness student who works at the Honors Program office. She said the events do a good job helping students gain new perspectives.

As Africana Studies coordinator, Hadfield said she has been trying to work on having people at BYU engage with Black people from Africa in a more sophisticated and equitable way.

White saviorism is not a new topic for her, as the Africana Studies program held an event last year called “So, you want to go to Africa?” with tips for avoiding the aforementioned issue.

She also wrote a book about the Black Consciousness Movement in 1970s South Africa, which she said helped her see that there is more to helping developing countries than just good intentions. The book, “Liberation and Development: Black Consciousness Community Programs in South Africa,” was published in 2016.

“We have to equip ourselves with knowledge and skills before we help,” she said.

There is a knee-jerk reaction sometimes surrounding white saviorism, and people may assume discussions on the issue are shaming white people, Hadfield said. She clarified that white saviorism doesn’t mean white people shouldn’t help. “We’ve just got to do it in a better way.”

She encouraged people to listen in to the chat and see what they think and to keep listening to other people. “It might take time for you to figure out your own thoughts and what to do about it, but it’s good to start somewhere.”

Although she said the lecture will most benefit those interested in international development, Hadfield said she hopes it will help people feel empowered to be more constructive in their actions and look into things they can do in their own communities.

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