A new docuseries
This week HBO released Savior Complex, a three-part documentary series that follows Renne Bach: a White evangelical US national and her missionary work in a food distribution and health clinic. What makes her story newsworthy is how her Whiteness compensated for her lack of medical experience and allowed it to go unquestioned. Although the health of most patients improved, at least one hundred children’s deaths are believed to have been preventable had they been treated by a professional.
What this docuseries reveals is how deeply internalised the legacy of colonialism remains. Through the lens of White Saviourism, Whiteness symbolises prosperity and authority, whilst Blackness symbolises the deprived and unenlightened. The trust that both Ugandan authorities and professionals granted Bach was a product of this history.
White Saviourism denies people of colour agency. For example, the mothers of the victims who died under Bach's care were the last people to be questioned about whether they believe her participation was an overall source for good. This perpetuates the infantilisation of Black Africans by denying them participation over issues that directly affect them and instead centres around Bach's actions.
As a result of the scandal, the clinic was shut down. But it’s difficult say whether this is a cause to celebrate. Only four of the mothers of children who died in the clinic received any compensation, and the continued reliance on these clinics shows just how much developing countries are dependent on Western aid.