On Culture: The Hidden Dangers Of Charity


noun    char·i·ty    \ˈcher-ə-tē, ˈcha-rə-\

: the act of giving money, food, or other kinds of help to people who are poor, sick, etc.

Charity is often seen as the most gracious action that a human being can take in this world. Charitable acts help others, make you look better, and are tax-deductible! So what’s the downside?

In the novel I am currently reading, Americanah by Adichie, different perceptions of charity are explored. The main character of the novel, Ifemelu, finds herself at an affluent party hosted by the mother and father of the children she nannies. At this event, dozens of upper-class Americans are intrigued by Ifemelu’s modest Nigerian background. They assume she was worse off than she really was, and that all African nations were struggling to provide its citizens the most basic of needs. This may be true in some cases, but unfortunately is also true for a large number of Americans. Later on, notable charities that provide resources to Africans become the topic of conversation among the party-goers, putting Ifemelu off.

Well, just from this situation alone, we can see a key flaw within charity. A charitable society, by default, cannot be equal. To provide others with means of living assumes that the giving party is superior to the receiving party. Though whatever is being donated, whether it be food, clothing, or money, directly benefits those in need, it does nothing to assist the poor from being anything but poor. Charity is just another method of maintaining the current class structure, and on top of this, wealth is accumulated through exploitation of the poor. So for the upper class to use the people of countries rich with resources for cheap labor only to turn around and give them charitable contributions is evil. The act of giving should be solely for the benefit of the receiver, and not in the benefit of the giver.