No surprises: Nicholas Kristof prefers “white saviors”

The New York Times columnist and savior of sex workers in the developing world, Nicholas Kristof, is at it again. Last week he announced that ‘over the next several days’ he will ‘… be responding to questions submitted via YouTube from readers.’

The first question:

Today’s question asks Nick why many of his columns about Africa seem to portray “black Africans as victims” and “white foreigners as their saviors.

In his response, filmed in Israel, Kristof basically concedes that in his reporting he favors the “white foreigners as saviors” approach. His rationale: that without the white saviors as “bridge characters,” his potential readers wouldn’t read his columns. So Kristof is proud to admit that he is no different than a bad Hollywood movie.

That’s why I don’t read Kristof’s columns.



Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

  1. Kristof certainly has been fond of the white savior in Africa over the indigenous success stories. I agree with Texas in Africa when she writes that “answer is just another variant of the “good intentions are enough” mindset. It excuses stereotyping in the name of awareness, while assuming that Americans are too parochial to be able to recognize, relate to, and applaud the work of people whose names sound different from ours.” However, I just want to give Kristof credit for hosting such a YouTube Q@A, which not all notable journalists are willing to do and for addressing the question honestly (however parochial his answer may be). I think the world of journalism would be much better is all professional journalists participated in such self-critique.

  2. I don't know that it's quite 'good intentions are enough.' Another take is that it's the economics of his profession. He becomes a popular, well-known journalist by telling people what they want to hear, which portrays white Americans as saviors. If he could make the money and fame telling a more complex story, he says he would be willing and happy to. So to his mind, it's the audience that's the problem.

  3. It amazes me that such an open, clear, and balanced response by Mr. Kristof draws so much ire. The first question any writer needs to ask is "who is the audience?" Kristof has clearly always been writing to Americans who make up the vast majority of the readership of the New York Times. It's pretty obvious that you don't read his column, because you clearly don't know what you are talking about.

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