Skip to content

“White Saviors”: Privileged, Uninformed, Insistent, and Destructive.

December 23, 2018

I have not read journalist Jordan Flaherty’s book, No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality, but an October 2017 review of the book surely resonates with my experiences regarding the overwhelmingly wealthy, white steamroller of market-based ed reform with destructive message, “We are white; we have money, and we’re in charge For Your Own Good.”

Below are excerpts from Aura Bodago’s October 24, 2017, Yes Magazine review:

A new book by Jordan Flaherty, No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality, offers insight into how the practice of “saviorism” injures our movements and provides visions for an alternative and much-needed praxis.

You’re no doubt familiar with the White savior: a person of privilege picks a cause they know little to nothing about and insists on solutions that inevitably cause more harm than good. As Flaherty explains, the savior mentality cannot exist without turning people into objects who need rescuing.

“It is as old as conquest and as enduring as colonialism,” he writes. …

…Activist men who come to command without listening to those they’re ostensibly helping—and dismiss marginalized people who critique their methods—produce a kind of devastation that makes the project of systemic oppression that much easier. …

The [book chapters] cover observations from cities as far away as Gaza, and organizations ranging from Teach for America to Occupy Wall Street. Part of what will strike you about No More Heroes is the multitude of voices included throughout its pages. The author manages to amplify the voices of people who have drawn significant conclusions across the spectrum of privilege and marginalization. …

Flaherty’s book is a critical and welcomed meditation on how imperative it is to keep a measured stride on the long marathon toward justice. It couldn’t come at a better time.

Bodago’s full review details certain sections of the book and is a thought-provoking read in its own right.

And here is a summary of the book, as taken from the site:

The left is full of missionaries. Privileged in terms of race, sex, or class, these do-gooders set out to save the poor and oppressed in ways that make matters worse and also serve to bolster their own social power. They are driven by a desire for justice, but they don’t want to listen to those they are ostensibly rescuing.

Seasoned journalist Jordan Flaherty brings us inside the dark and politically twisted mind of the savior. Starting with Brandon Darby, an FBI informant whose rise within radical circles showed how movements are susceptible to a particular style of political heroism, Flaherty introduces us to would-be liberators and the damage they cause. We meet the young, idealistic, and mostly white people who join Teach For America and displace unionized African American teachers. We hear anti-sex-trafficking crusaders and the marginalized women their programs put behind bars. We see Red Cross coffers grow at the expense of local communities who consistently do more with less. And we also see a growing response to these dynamics: grassroots and street-based uprisings like those in Ferguson, Missouri, creating accountable movements focused on real, systemic change.

Insightful and unsparing, No More Heroes is an indispensable tool for social justice activists.

“The left” may be “full of missionaries,” but when it comes to ed reform and temporary-classroom-savior-producing organizations like Teach for America (TFA), let us not neglect to mention ultra-wealthy, ultra-right-billionaires like the Waltons who pump millions into funding such orgs. But perhaps I have traveled beyond the scope of Flaherty’s book.

As it stands, based on Bodago’s review, I find No More Heroes to be provoking, indeed.



Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.


  1. Lance Hill permalink

    An old gardening adage is that if there are a hundred miracle cures for a problem, the odds are that none of them work. Real cures obviate the need for alternative options, in the same way that the Salk vaccine ended the search for a remedy for another vaccine (Jonas Salk refused to patent his cure and made no profit from it.) The corporate education reformers never run out of miracle cures, which is evidence that their nostrums are neither miracles nor cures.

    Jordan Flaherty has astutely identified the disaster vultures in New Orleans as global invasive species of condescending saviors eager to substitute their judgement for the wisdom of Democracy.

  2. IRA SHOR permalink

    Yes, I must read Flaherty’s book to get the whole picture but surely you are right when you say that “the Left” is not the sole repository of “missionaries.” No left-wing leader, group, organization, or movement has done as much damage to public needs and the public sector as have the right-wing billionaires, politicians, and corporate heads dominating American society.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s