If you've ever browsed someone's social media account or used a dating app then you've probably seen the obligatory "selfie on vacation" posts.
It's usually a white person taking pics with people in a village somewhere talking about how "inspiring" the experience was and how "humbled" and "touched" they were by the lives of those they spent time with overseas.
It's become such a trope that there are social media accounts dedicated to skewering this practice by satirizing the kinds of "basic" posts people post online in an attempt to "humanize" themselves, or whatever.
2016. What a year! It was my first year taking up residency in the country of Africa. Some may say I have done good, but there is still so much to do and so many to save! I am excited to share my New Years resolution with you all. By the end of 2017 I will love on 153 million orphans. It's a lofty goal, but I believe I am up for the challenge. #5down #152999995togo #theyaremorethannumbers #buttheyaremostlynumbers #oneorphanatatime #wheredemorphansathough #imnotactuallyaresident #waitafricahasimmigrationlaws? #illegalsavior #newyearsamesavior #butnewhashtags #4christ #hereistobeingmoreoffensifabulousin2017 #orphanworkout #swolsavior #youarehighandliftedup #andmysoulsingshallelujah #tome #datorphanhigh #2016wasntTHATbad #itbroughyouME! #africadidnotkillmein2016 #toosoon? #saviorcelebritiesdontdie
There are plenty of campaigns and some hilarious videos out there calling for an end to this practice but let's be real: it'll never stop. People are going to use the "suffering" of others and will continue to use snapshots of brown and black children in a foreign country for likes.
And some are saying that's exactly what TV personality and comedian Ellen Degeneres did when she uploaded this obligatory "poverty picture" from her recent trip to Rwanda.
Something that offended a lot of people online, who were hurt that, in their opinion, she only added to the library of disenfranchising, "white savior" photos that are everywhere.
It started a conversation on why it's so harmful to share these kinds of pictures.
Others said that snapping photos like this of children in Rwanda isn't doing much to help the perception of the country and that people aren't going to America's homeless shelters while they travel abroad to take pictures. Which honestly, would be pretty awesome in a "see-how-it-feels?" kind of way.
Some really laid into Ellen for the upload.
She pointed out how insulting it would be if she went around to another country and snapped photos with poor white children, with her in the middle, using them to get likes.
I’m going to start going around England taking pictures with white children. Possibly handing them a cube of Maggi.— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) June 6, 2018
She even pointed out the dreaded "citizen of the world" dating site photos you inevitably come across.
Dating sites are full of pictures where white people have dragged some unassuming Black child to pose with them while they visited “the country of” Africa.— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) June 6, 2018
It doesn’t make you look cool or well travelled, you just look like a dickhead who is deeply committed to their White Saviour Complex.— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) June 6, 2018
She also has a gripe with people who can't wait to tell her that they visited the continent where her country of origin is located, because, honestly, who cares?
Some white people almost give themselves high blood pressure as they wait with bated breath for the suitable opportunity to tell you that they’ve been to Africa.— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) June 6, 2018
Oh wow really? Well remember to not take millions of us as you leave this time.
Maybe my next project will travelling to rural areas of England and just taking pictures with random white children. Not telling them where it’ll be posted.— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) June 6, 2018
I’ll caption the pics with “so lovely to meet Billy. So happy despite the lack of seasoning in his life. Inspirational.”
Dear White People,— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) June 6, 2018
I am Nigerian. Stop telling me about your trip to Kenya. It means literally nothing to me.
It’s like you telling me you’re from England and I say “wow. I was in Finland. The people are so lovely!”
She's just tired of the whole practice.
Stop taking pictures with little Black children. They do not automatically make you seem like a kind person.— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) June 6, 2018
You look like a prick.
My tweets will upset some of you because I know you “really felt something” when you met those children and that’s why you took the picture BUT in your own country they criminalise Black children and you don’t “feel something” then.— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) June 6, 2018
But she capped off the entire Twitter rant with a joke about the purported lack of seasoning traditionally absent from "white people's" cuisine.
A lot of people do these things because they want to feel alive from doing some good.— Kelechi Okafor (@kelechnekoff) June 6, 2018
Start with your chicken.
Some, however, didn't feel like the backlash Ellen was facing was all that fair.
Ellen's pic with kids as part of her birthday trip to Africa is catching heat because, viewed in isolation, that is the image of Africa that gets repeatedly exported around the world by visitors.— Andrien 🔜 E3 (@EscoBlades) June 6, 2018
Primarily because that wasn't the only photo or type of photo she uploaded from her trip to Rwanda.
After all, she went there with the intent of going on vacation and setting up a wildlife reserve with her wife.
That image - solitary white person, posing with kids, with no mention of the location beyond "Africa" - isn't particularly helpful or cute. That said, she went out there to set up a wildlife fund, and, celebrate her birthday with her wife.— Andrien 🔜 E3 (@EscoBlades) June 6, 2018
So if you look at ONLY that image, then sure, its a white saviour trope all over again. She did post a bunch more images of the work she was doing on her IG, so i can't be overly mad tbh.— Andrien 🔜 E3 (@EscoBlades) June 6, 2018
What do you think? Was Ellen at fault? Or are people overreacting and taking the photo out of context?