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Grand Rapids welcomes another non-profit that perpetuates White Saviorism

October 7, 2021

On Monday, MLive posted an article entitled, International Christian Non-Profit opens headquarters in Grand Rapids.

Cure International was founded in 1996, with a mission to provide medical surgery for children living with disabilities. As a Christian non-profit organization, Cure International operates in 8 different African countries.

One of their board members was quoted in the MLive article, stating:

“As we all know, the West Michigan community has an incredible healthcare presence. Relocating our headquarters to Grand Rapids gives us an opportunity to be a part of that community. Cure values collaborative partnerships that cultivate trust and authenticity. And that is what Grand Rapids is, a place built on authenticity and where collaboration comes together for the greater good.”

This board member of Cure International happens to be Jerry Tubergen, who is both the CEO of the DeVos-owned RDV Corporation and Ottawa Private Capital LLC, which the is primary investment firm for the DeVos family.

In that same MLive article, Grand Rapids Mayor, Rosalyn Bliss is quoted as saying, “Cure’s work is nothing short of a miracle.”

If we weren’t looking at this article through a critical lens, what Cure International does might seem like a good thing. They provide medical surgery for children living with disabilities in eight different African nations.

However, even with basic curiosity, one might ask, “Why are the eight African nations that Cure International operates in, unable to provide this kind of medical service to their own people?”

It’s a reasonable question. Could it be that these eight African nations have suffered under multiple centuries of Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism, with foreign military occupations and the massive extraction of resources to benefit the Global North? 

There is no information, analysis or commitment on the part of Cure International to address any larger, structural issues like the legacy of Colonialism, Neo-Colonialism, wealth extraction, poverty or the mass displacement of Africans who have fled to Europe or the US. For a detailed analysis of Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism in Africa, see Walter Rodney’s book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.

There is also no mention on the Cure International site of the existence of the 13 year US military project known as AFRICOM, The purpose of AFRICOM is to use U.S. military power to impose U.S. control of African land, resources and labor to service the needs of U.S. multi-national corporations and the wealthy in the United States. AFRICOM was established in 2008, during the Obama Administration.

Then there is the board of directors of Cure International. The 12 board members are all white, most of who are CEOs and several of them are involved in the financial sector. Two of the board members are DeVas-connected, Jerry Tubergen, whom we already mentioned, plus Luke Nieuwenhuis, who is Vice President – Distributor Incentives Amway. 

The dynamic that Cure International perpetuates, with no willingness to call out the historical and contemporary structural injustices in Africa, coupled with their unquestioning use of people with tremendous wealth, all to provide a form of charity to African children, is what many refer to as White Saviorism. 

In his 2012 article in The Atlantic, Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole says, “The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening.” Cole was referring to the wave of support by Christian evangelicals in the US to support the KONY 2012 campaign, but his analysis could be applied to so many instances, like the work of Cure International.

Earlier this year, when the Defund the GRPD campaign identified Kids Food Basket as one of the local non-profits, which perpetuates White Saviorism, lots of white liberals became all incensed at the critique of the work of Kids Food Basket, a topic we wrote about. The criticism applied to Kids Food Basket is very similar to the critique of Cure International. It might make us all uncomfortable and it might make us have to confront our own internalized racism, but it is a necessary aspect working towards social justice and collective liberation. 

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