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Pet Sins July 2005

The 'natural' role of white Westerners as global leaders and peacemakers?

If all one ever reads about is the ethnic conflict in Iraq, Rwanda, Myanmar or {insert non-European country], it would certainly seem that non-whites are more likely to kill people of different ethnicities than to help them. Of course, we only need to remember of recent ethnic cleansings in the Balkans, the Jewish and Gypsy genocides perpetuated by European whites, and the lynching of blacks in the American South to realize that non-whites are not the only offenders. Yet a belief has arisen among some Asians that white Westerners have moved beyond such atrocities by virtue of their cultural supriority, and that virtually all non-Europeans lag behind in their human rights record because of their cultural inferiority.

Certainly the West has a global lead in many aspects of government, education and science. Undeniably, there are a good number of non-Western countries which are torn by civil strife or repression, and not exactly poised to embrace democracy and human rights. And these are the very points that some non-white believers in the 'natural order' of Western ascendency will bring up to justify their beliefs. The same individuals ignore any examples that run to the contrary - non-Western individuals or countries who take a leadership role in aspects of world politics, non-Western countries living in wealth and peace while retaining their non-Western culture, or non-Western countries which have exceeded Western countries in their level of education or technological achievement. Individuals use this tried-and-true tactic of comparing their worst against our best without even realizing that is what they are doing. Truly, some non-Westerners seem more emotionally vested in the idea of Western superiority than many Westerners themselves.

While the world should not discount the stories of hate crimes between non-whites, and while non-whites should take responsibility for their own racism, it is also only fair to ask that people put as much focus on stories of positive cross-cultural interactions between non-Europeans as it does on the stories of positive cross-cultural interactions between Europeans and non-Europeans.

Here are some examples of non-Western individuals and organizations with whose visions go beyond the boundaries of their own nations or communities. These are entities who take initiative and even leadership roles in aiding people of ethnicities other than their own:

Tzu Chi Services

This Taiwanese Buddhist charitable organization has offices in 20 countries. It runs international relief projects all over the world, in locations such as mainland China, Bangladesh, South Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Nepal, Rwanda, Chechnya, Azerbaijan, Outer Mongolia, Ethiopia, northern Thailand, and Cambodia. For more on the work of Tzu Chi, see Official Tzu Chi website

Japan International Cooperation Agency

JICA is a Japanese government organization with the mission of serving as a bridge between the people of Japan and developing countries, and advancing international cooperation through the sharing of knowledge and experience. For more on JICA, visit the website of their Malaysia office.

Dr Musimbi Kanyoro, World YWCA General Secretary

Kenyan national Dr Musimbi Kanyoro is the General Secretary of the World YWCA, a global movement of 25 million women and girls in 109 countries. The General Secretary is the highest office in the YWCA. For more information, see Dr Kanyoro on wikipedia.

William Henry Sheppard, the first African American missionary in the Congo: 1890-1910

William Henry Sheppard worked in Central West Africa from 1890-1910. In the book "Black Livingstone: A True Tale of Adventure in the Nineteenth Century Congo", Pagan Kennedy described how Sheppard's work in bringing Belgian abuses in the Congo to international attention was a factor in changing the Foreign Missions Board policies towards Black missionaries, who were thereafter "discouraged from applying for jobs in Africa." Kennedy wrote: "Only a few decades before, black missionaries were considered politically irrelevant; now many whites regarded them as revolutionaries. The Belgians barred most black Americans from entering the Congo,"

For more information on William Henry Sheppard, see:

Black History month: Christian missionaries
Review of 'Black Livingstone: A True Tale of Adventure in the Nineteenth Century Congo' on San Francisco Bay View.

School children in Singapore raise funds to help children in Vietnam

According to the Singapore Ministry of Education's Metro-RJC-SIF Fund Raising Project page, Singapore students are raising money to donate to organisations in Vietnam that care for homeless or poor children and women.

Asian Americans and Ethiopian Americans raise money for Ethiopian hospital

In 2004, the Business and Engineering Activists Network (BEAN) of Seattle, a group comprised mostly of Asian/Pacific Islander Americans, teamed up with the local Ethiopian community to raise funds for Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia. (See Local Group rallies to help treat Ethiopian women who suffer trauma during childbirth by Ian Dapiaoen, International Examiner, April 7-20, 2004)

Chinese American church raise funds to help free slaves in India and Cambodia

Students at the Chinese Baptist Church in Anaheim, CA, launched a "Raise 100K to Free 100" fundraiser in 2004 to benefit International Justice Mission, an US-based charity which works to free women and children illegally forced into prostitution. So far, IJM's work in freeing sex slaves occured primarily in India and Cambodia. "Raise 100K to Free 100" is still ongoing in 2005 and aims to raise $100,000. [Source: The Justice Briefing - News and Information for friends of International Justice Mission, Volume 1, Issue 4, 2004]


The list above is only provided with the intent of showing the initiative or leadership people of color can take in social projects outside their own ethnic groups. We typically only see images of Europeans in 'international' leadership, or hear stories of European-descent people going into 'other' communities to provide aid. Rarely does the face of the 'outsider' providing aid belong to another person of color. The fact is, people of color in roles of international leadership and as donors in cross-cultural exchanges do exist, although they get little face time in Western media.

Disclaimer: ColorQ.org is not associated with any of the above organizations and do not endorse their work or subscribe to the validity of their claims. We have no control over the contents of third party sites and make no warranties as to their accuracy.