Ellen DeGeneres shares photos from Africa trip, and people accuse her of exploiting poverty
For Ellen's 60th birthday, her wife, Portia de Rossi, surprised her with a birthday gift on her talk show. One of Ellen's heroes is Dian Fossey, a scientist who studied gorillas in Africa, and founded a research center to protect them. So, Portia founded The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund to support global conservation efforts for endangered species. The thoughtful present brought the talk show host to tears.
The first initiative of The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund was teaching gorillas how to dance. Just kidding. The first initiative was setting up a permanent home for mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Last week the couple made their long-awaited trip to Africa, which proved to be an unforgettable experience. On Instagram, they shared photos and videos spending quality time with the primates.
Ellen documented the whole trip on social media, sharing photos of herself with elephants, giraffes, and all the amazing people she met on the way. Her conservation efforts are commendable, and it looks like the journey was a life-changing experience.
However, one photo she took with local children was harshly criticized on social media. Some Twitter users felt like she was exploiting poverty. "A trip to Africa is not complete without the trademark poverty porn photo op." "Africans don't travel to your country to take pictures with your half-a-million homeless people. Please do better." "You landed at a nice airport and stayed at a lovely hotel before your trip to find poor African children to take pictures with."
Kelechi Okafor, a London-based Nigerian actor, broke down why he felt Ellen's photo was offensive. "Dating sites are full of pictures where white people have dragged some unassuming Black child to pose with them while they visited 'the country of' Africa. It doesn’t make you look cool or well travelled, you just look like a d--khead who is deeply committed to their White Saviour Complex."
That might seem like a cynical way to look at Ellen's photos. It's clear from her heartfelt captions that the trip meant a lot to her, and she wished to make a positive impact. But Okafor helps us understand his point of view, by imagining the reverse situation:
"Maybe my next project will travelling to rural areas of England and just taking pictures with random white children. Not telling them where it’ll be posted. I’ll caption the pics with “so lovely to meet Billy. So happy despite the lack of seasoning in his life. Inspirational."
Well, it seems like Ellen's heart was in the right place, but you can understand Okafor's perspective. There's more to Africa than the poverty-stricken areas that are featured so heavily in the media. When rich people travel to another country and photograph themselves with the poor, it can feel like exploitation. On the other hand, everybody loves Ellen, right?