What Do We Really Mean by "White Savior?": A Little Due Diligence is the Minimum Requirement
Thiessen, Taylor A.
Washington and Lee University, Shepherd Poverty Program
English language -- Usage
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Capstone; [FULL-TEXT FREELY AVAILABLE ONLINE.]Taylor A. Thiessen is a member of the Class of 2021 of Washington and Lee University.In this paper, I will engage in a comprehensive discussion of the meanings of "white savior" and provide a critical response to the ways in which it is misused. First, I will provide a genealogical trace of the term, "white savior," and its corresponding meanings to show the changes in its usage. This will illustrate its broad and loose nature as a blunt instrument. Second, I will introduce an alternative approach to defining "white savior" through pragmatism in philosophy of language. This will clearly define and unify the loose meanings of "white savior" based on the ways that the phrase is used and the commonly understood meanings that are attached with each use. Rather than describing what a white savior is, this approach will describe what "white savior" means. Third, I will describe consistently recurring patterns in the use of the phrase to show which patterns in its meaning are most commonly understood, resulting in a pragmatic definition. Fourth, I will describe the inconsistently recurring patterns in the use of the phrase, "white savior," in order to acknowledge many of the common uses that are important but do not extend as universally as the consistent patterns. Fifth, I will distinguish between correct and successful use of the term, using the consistent patterns to clarify how it could be used accurately. Sixth, I will describe three general ways that common utterances of "white savior" fail to communicate helpful and meaningful thoughts about the situation to which the term is prescribed. [From Introduction]Taylor Thiessen