Ask ARP: Does giving to World Vision-type organizations square with anti-racist ideals?

Dear Anti-Racist Parent:

I was wondering how you feel about programs like World Vision where you can sponsor children in other countries to help with their basic needs. Obviously providing resources to children in need is a good thing, but a part of it feels paternalistic to me. (ie. Here are the white people again rescuing the poor colored children.)   It is important to my husband and I that we are participating locally and globally in important causes both financially and by volunteering our time. We have an almost four-year-old (biological) child and are waiting to adopt domestically. Our adopted children will most likely be African American.  We want helping others to be an obvious part of all our children’s lives but I want to do it without reinforcing negative divisions.  What are your thoughts?

Amanda R.

From the Editor:

Whether giving to World Vision-type organizations squares with your anti-racist ideals depends on 1) your motivations and 2) the organization you choose. Only you can search your heart and determine whether your desire to give is motivated by feelings of privilege and superiority, altruism, or a bit of both. And if you find some bits of “white (wo)man’s burden” in your motivation (no one is perfect), I’d say that’s not a reason to stop giving to those in need, but to do more work on your internal biases.  

Of course, before you give to any organization, you should do your research. You want to know that the funds you send actually make it to the neediest people and aren’t absorbed by red tape and buracracy. But you also want to ensure that you give to organizations whose ideals match your own. For instance, I would have a hard time giving to an organization that proselytizes and continues the colonialist practices that have caused so much suffering for people of color around the world. I think that accepting a Western, Christian notion of God shouldn’t be a condition for getting the help one needs to survive. You and your husband need to clarify what you believe and find a reputable organization that fits with those beliefs.

Lastly, thank you. I mean it. It is always a good thing to want to give. Even better to want to give thoughtfully. And even better to want to pass that ethic on to future generations. It makes the world better for everyone.



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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek,, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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