Power of ‘White Privilege’ to Confuse

On an online social and professional networking platform, in which I am a member, I sent a ‘friend request’ to a person of foreign origin to Uganda and Africa, a foreign guest (FG), currently living in my homeland, Uganda.

The FG immediately accepted by ‘friend request’ and took the initiative to engage me (ON) in an online conversation. I share here below our conversation.

FG: Hi, Norah what is CPAR?

ON: It is a not for profit development organisation. Read more here 

FG: OK, thx. I’m not such a fan of NGOs (Nothing Going On). NGOs successfully prevented any substantial development in Africa and created dependencies for the last sixty years. But they good. Some even very good.

ON: It is interesting for me that you are persuaded that NGOs are the root player and not the governments of the nation states.

It is also interesting where you begin your analysis of the role of NGOs preventing substantial development. Is it pre-colonisation or post-colonisation?

I wonder which role you assign to transnational corporations in the big picture.

I wonder if you consider all NGOs the same – of indigenous ownership and of exogenous ownership.

I wonder which empirical findings you base your strong conclusions.

I wonder what your definition of sustainable development is.

Interesting indeed that you give NGOs such huge credit.

FG: Please don’t take it personal, just my observation 😉

I travelled trough Africa on a bicycle and got many opinions about NGO work from simple people affected by it. There was not a single positive result I heard about. But of course all post evaluations gave a report of full success.

I learned one thing: the most important thing to have NGOs in a country is beer and girls. If one is missing, (nearly) no NGOs are found, at least I do not stumbled about any.

The second thing what I observed was, that not a single NGO regarded the philosophy that built modern Europe, speak the method as described first by Descartes. All science bases on it, all technology and development in Europe bases on it. Now it is (deliberately) left out in Africa. Any to close approach to the problem is omitted. Instead “obvious” mechanism from Europe get copied despite or because they can’t succeed. There are enough scientific works which about it.

I witnessed in Ethiopia that project managers got removed as soon as there was any hint of possible success. No one wants to make his own job obsolete.

There exist enough publications about it. As example I recommend: Brigitte Erler’s “Deadly Help” and generally Axelle Kabou.

ON: Currently I am reading Tori’s book “Beyond Good Intentions” and in the past I have read several others including “Dead Aid”, etc. etc. and on my ‘to-read-list’: Karlan and Appel’s “More than good intentions.” I trust you know where I am going with this.

You personalised your critique of the work that I do even without taking the time to visit our website and social medial sites.

You did not even, I think, bother to Google me to find out more about my work and my intentions as an individual Ugandan African Woman, who is a scholar, activist, social entrepreneur and practitioner. Read more here.

If you did visit our website and social media sights and if you did Google me and find out more about me and still made the comments that you made, then I take personal offence with your insensitive comments, which in my view you have made on the basis of insufficient knowledge.

I am weary of people who claim good intentions, but in reality who enjoy privileges that accrue from the very industry that they critique, including but not limited to the benefits of white privilege and cultural imperialism; and such people who consequently are oblivious of their tendency to patronize others.

Perhaps you may find it interesting to read my most recent analysis – my thoughts on a workshop by the Review of Africa Political Economy (academics) and also watch the video of the interview that I gave at that workshop. Here is the link to the analysis and the video.

Yes, I continue to wonder at the audacity of our FG. Our FG seems to to equate NGOs to foreign aid agencies and seems oblivious of a multitude of indigenous owned NGOs, some of which are not dependent on external aid. The FG sees us as “simple people.”

I wonder the route of the FGs bicycle ride, along which the FG was not able to see or hear about a “single positive result” credited to NGOs. And at the same time was able to deduce that NGOs are set up on the basis of the presence of “beer and girls.”

And in our FG’s bicycle-ride-informed-opinion, Africa should be developed on the same philosophy on which Europe was developed. How might this work I wonder. Does our FG really appreciate and understand the philosophy of how Europe developed?

In retrospect, and if our FG responds to my last comment sent to the FG, I will recommend that the FG familiarises with and reads Hoschild’s “King Leopold’s Ghost.” And I will ask our FG how King Leopolds’s method might be applied to develop Africa as King Leopold used terror and murder of Africans to develop Belgium and therefore Europe.

What do you think? Is the FG being insensitive, racist, imperialistic, patronising or all four? Or is it just me who is overly sensitive?  Or perhaps the FG is oblivious of the fact that his mind is seemingly colonised by the FG’s internalisation of ‘white privilege’.

Image Credit: Amazon

7 responses to “Power of ‘White Privilege’ to Confuse”

  1. I don’t know why you bother!!! FG not a native English speaker although I have no idea what that portends. Glad you got the two books which have been sitting idly in my book shelf which I have now cleared out and transferred them to Makerere’s libraries (Biology and Main).


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