The syndrome’ is when a white person

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The film I will
be discussing is called ‘Freedom Writers’ written and directed by Richard
LaGravenese. Freedom Writers is based on true events and focuses on a young,
white and newly-qualified teacher called Erin Gruwell. Erin is faced with students
from ethnic minority and economically disadvantaged backgrounds described as
being ‘at-risk’. The film begins with a disruptive start however as the film
progresses we witness various moments on how the students are slowly adapting
to Erin and eventually have been ‘saved’/ rescued
from the stereotypes they were labelled with. Based
on the entire film my essay will advance the idea
that / my essay will bring forward how LaGravenese has purposefully
presented Erin’s character as a ‘white saviour’ which is deceptive as it may
seem like a good thing but I don’t think this is the case. To explore my
argument firstly the terms white saviour and white ally will be defined and
analysed then I will discuss which term Erin is most associated with. This will
be followed by the four scenes I have chosen which depict how Erin has been
portrayed as a white saviour and will also be supported by various articles and
literature. The essay concludes that Erin’s character is a white saviour.

simplest definition of white saviour “refers to a white person who acts to help
non-white people” (Wikipedia). However, it is important to establish some other
terms that are very closely linked with the general meaning of white saviour as
I will be referring to these throughout my essay. For example, the ‘white
saviour syndrome’ is when a white person guides people of colour from the
margins to the mainstream with his or her own initiative and kindness. White
saviours also have the tendency to help people of colour since they are seemingly
incapable of helping themselves, people of colour have little to no capacity to
want change hence any progress, success, escape of poverty or ignorance
achieved comes from the aid of the white individual’s intelligence (Cammarota,
2011). Additionally, Teju Cole a Nigerian-American novelist had coined the term
‘white saviour industrial complex (WSIC)’ which he describes as “the White
Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big
emotional experience that validates privilege.” Surely this was the case for
Erin? It was evident that Erin’s experience as a White teacher was very emotional
not only for her but to us as the audience too. Especially towards the end of the film when she seems
overwhelmed by the change her students embark on which realistically is because
of her concealed guidance (by stating
concealed I believe the film attempts to hide Erin’s white privilege and instead
displays her guidance as being benevolent.) Ultimately as Cole states it comes
down to the validation of her privilege and white saviourism as the dominant
end result.

Categories: Events


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