White saviors have been called out for decades, but in 2012 the descriptor sprinted around Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and the media after Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole wrote a series of tweets that struck a nerve. Cole had just seen what was the most viral online video of the time, Kony 2012.

The short documentary introduced audiences to Jacob Acaye, a Ugandan boy who was abducted alongside his brother by the Lord's Resistance Army. Acaye saw the army kill his brother violently. The Kony 2012 website crashed briefly as the video racked up over 100 million views within days. Kony 2012 pulled at viewer's heartstrings and its white creator, filmmaker Jason Russell, attempted to bring the world together to arrest the Army's leader and Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.

But Cole argued on Twitter that Russell's work was yet another example of what he called the "white savior industrial complex." Americans could be disturbed by Acaye's story and yet turn a blind eye to harmful policies and corrupt systems. White saviors are more interested in their own emotional validation than helping others, Cole tweeted.

Commentary on white saviors continues to ebb and flow out of internet consciousness. Google search interest for "white savior" jumped again in June 2020 amid the backlash to hashtag activism as Black Lives Matter protests picked up around the world. While it's taken a backseat more recently, it's still important to understand the concept as we continue to combat systemic racism. How we dismantle those barriers matters; even if one may have acted like a white savior in the past, there's room to grow.

Here’s how to avoid practicing white saviorism.

Read the full article about white saviors by Siobhan Neela-Stock at Mashable.