The Power of Whiteness: Racism in Third World Development and Aid

The Power of Whiteness: Racism in Third World Development and Aid

The Power of Whiteness: Racism in Third World Development and Aid

The Power of Whiteness: Racism in Third World Development and Aid

Excerpt

Our defeat was always implicit in the victory of others; our wealth has always generated our poverty by nourishing the prosperity of others …

Galeano, 1973, p12

Our lives were worth less than those of machines or animals
We were like stones, like weeds in the road

Marcos, 2001, p109

The aim of this book is to examine the way in which much ‘Third World’ aid, far from contributing to the prosperity of the recipient countries, in fact serves to shore up relations of domination and subordination. My argument is that the whole panoply of development and aid contributes to the creation and perpetuation of global inequalities.

Having worked as a volunteer in a ‘Third World’ country – in my case Nicaragua – I have spent many subsequent years ruminating on my experiences, and questioning both my motivation and the effects of my intervention. I have come to the conclusion that my contribution – as is the case with so many other aid and development workers – did nothing to improve the lives of Nicaraguans. The work I undertook was situated within a much bigger pattern of power, which meant that my good will – though this in itself could be called into question – was irrelevant, since the overall effect of my work was the reinforcement of western superiority.

In particular I have come to see the whiteness of power – I was able to go off to a country about which I knew very little, and there to fairly quickly assume a position where I was giving out advice and assistance, because my whiteness was a badge of superiority. The more I have reflected on my experiences, the more I have realised the crucial role of notions of white superiority in the maintaining of the whole structure of global inequality. The aid industry is deeply implicated in these structures.

This book is an attempt to share my reflections and theorisations with others. My aim is to use my own experiences, and those of many of my colleagues, together with my subsequent reflection, and reading . . .

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