Online influencers are under fire for exploiting impoverished African children to increase their online presence. The world’s largest YouTuber, Jimmy Donaldson, also known as Mr. Beast, has been criticized for his charity video that features him giving shoes to South African children.
The video was released on March 8, and Donaldson claims that the pairs of shoes he distributed were the first pair the children ever received.
Donaldson explained that certain parts of South Africa are so impoverished that children cannot afford shoes, and as a result, have to walk barefoot across hazardous terrain, including broken glass fragments and contaminated liquids.
He further explained that his team collaborated with a charity called “Barefoot No More” in Johannesburg, which distributes free shoes to the youth so that they can walk outside without fear of injury or disease. Donaldson also said that they delivered the shoes to seven schools in South Africa, which then distributed them to children in need.
However, despite his charity work, online detractors have accused Donaldson of “white saviorism” and exploiting the unfortunate situations of others to increase his own online profile. Kylie Cheung, a staff writer for Jezebel, claimed that Donaldson “embodies the worst and most obnoxious aspects of influencer capitalism.” Similarly, Namina Forna, a New York Times bestselling author, accused Donaldson of leveraging others’ disadvantages to increase his personal clout.
This is not the first time Donaldson has faced criticism for his charity work. In another video, he paid for eyesight surgery for people who couldn’t see, but was also accused of exploiting their misfortune to increase his personal profile. Despite the backlash, Donaldson has defended his charity works on Twitter, accusing his critics of holding contradicting opinions on how the rich should use their money.
While charity work is generally seen as positive, it is not uncommon for celebrities and influencers to face criticism for their charitable activities. Critics often accuse celebrities of exploiting the poor to increase their own image, rather than genuinely wanting to help the less fortunate. This can create a situation where celebrities are hesitant to engage in charity work, or feel that they are unable to do so without criticism.
In the case of Donaldson, the criticism seems to be fueled by concerns of “white saviorism,” which refers to the idea that white people often view themselves as saving people of color from their own circumstances. This can create a patronizing and condescending relationship between the two groups, which can further perpetuate negative stereotypes.
Regardless of the intentions behind Donaldson’s charity work, it is clear that the video has sparked a significant amount of controversy. While some have praised him for his efforts, others have accused him of exploiting impoverished South African children to further his own image. It remains to be seen how this will impact his future charity work, or whether he will continue to face criticism for his efforts to help those in need.
WATCH the video below: