This past June, I wrote an article for the Huffington Post titled Jeffrey Sachs' Misguided Foreign Aid Efforts. A big message I wanted to drive home was the importance for so-called "do-gooders" wanting to "help" Africa to stop thinking about what makes them feel good, but rather start focusing and respecting the needs and desires of the very people they claim to care so much about.
To this day, I am pretty amazed at how this need to have a role is so important for people. Don't take me wrong, I too want to have a role, but there are many ways to have a role other than the patronizing role.
Below is an insert from a great article from a unitarian universalist minister that corroborates my own feeling and gives a good analysis why people fall easily into the patronizing role.
"Defining someone as a victim is one of the most brutal and demeaning things we can do to them. This was, remember, the reason liberals lost permission to speak for the Black Power and Women's movements: they wisely chose to define themselves as survivors and warriors. That left liberals without a necessary role to play. It also shows, perhaps painfully, that the reason we define our token groups as victims is so that we can give ourselves a necessary role to play. The salvation story of political liberals requires victims. That's why it's such a dehumanizing myth"