A Twitter spat between Labour MP David Lammy and BBC documentary-maker Stacey Dooley has ignited a debate around how Western charities conduct appeals for impoverished countries around the world.

Lammy used pictures of BBC journalist Stacey Dooley holding an unnamed black infant to question the publicity strategy and wider concept of Comic Relief—a biennial charity campaign reliant on celebrity endorsement—suggesting it “perpetuates tired and unhelpful stereotypes.”

In 2017, Comic Relief raised over £82 million, though critics decried its tasteless sketches and tone-deaf transitions.

Lammy and Dooley’s back-and-forth highlights disagreement around how the world’s most privileged communities—affluent, famous white Westerners—engage with underprivileged populations in far-flung countries.

Lammy stressed that clichés will endure if charities continue to use “colonial-era” images of Africans “as helpless victims to be pitied” rather than “equals to be respected”.

However, others argue that sending high-profile figures to poverty- or war-stricken regions concentrates public attention, providing valuable airtime to discuss issues around chronic inequality. Some aid workers add that images of vulnerable children help mollify potential donors.

Do charity stunts like Comic Relief’s perpetuate a white saviour complex? And if so, is it ‘worth it’? How else might we summon compassion and attention?

Credit for this article's header image goes to billycm@instagram