Late at night, when nothing’s on and syndicated shows dominate the TV listings is when we see them. Dark-skinned but with the whitest, brightest of eyes. Some with protruding bellies, others devouring bowls of meal-like substances while oblivious to the flies on their faces. Many of them never have a name, until now, when we encounter Michael.
When you watch Michael, you will laugh…and that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. See, Michael plays the stereotypical role of the African child asking for charity. Except, this Mike is a little more well kept, he’s not emaciated from lack of food and his English is up to par. If Benjamin Button were young, black and gifted, Mike would be him. And Michael’s funny as shit, too.
Apparently, Michael is a young actor working with the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund and the Rusty Radiator to create change in the way aid is perceived. Here’s part of their mission statement:
“Hunger and poverty is ugly, and it calls for action. However, we need to create engagement built on knowledge, not stereotypes.
“Do you remember the first time you heard about people starving? That initial feeling of shock, and then after having seen the same pictures on TV over and over again, it turned into little drops of apathy.
“Stereotypical imagery is hurting both the cause and the people being portrayed. It’s taking away people’s dignity and agency, while creating apathy instead of action amongst people in the rest of the world.
“We like aid. It often works. Still, aid in itself is not enough, and fundraising campaigns rarely reflect upon this. Fundraising ads give you the impression that a few cents is all that is needed. This simplifies the issue of poverty. At the same time it distracts attention away from how western countries policies can have a negative impact.
“We need to change the way fundraising campaigns are communicating issues of poverty and development. This is why we are awarding creative fundraising campaigns with the Golden Radiator Award, and stereotypical campaigns with the Rusty Radiator Award.”
Now, that’s a serious initiative worth researching more at RustyRadiator.com. But before you go, have a laugh at the expense of Michael and the so-called activists trying to help him.