7 (ish) Of The Greatest White Saviors To Ever Have Done It


One of my favorite tropes is the white savior, especially in movies. You know this person, mostly because they're white and they come in and do the types of stuff that white people with money and time* do: save coloreds. Well, pop culture and movies have been littered with tremendous examples of the white savior. And let's be real, we (the coloreds) are all better off for their existence. Can get a hi-five! No? Fair enough. But hey, without white saviors there's no abolishment of slavery or Mike Tyson.


Note: The "*" will make sense at the end. Which is usually when these types of things make sense.

White saviors are our friends. Let's meet some of of my favorites!

7. The Principal, Dangerous Minds, Sunset Park ( and any other movie with a white teacher and an inner city high school)


Some man or woman teaches in the hood and makes a difference to some inner city kids and at least one of them successfully finishes community college. They're all the same person really. They all have challenges in learning how to connect with their inner city kids because inner city kids are notoriously guarded and hard to connect with because thug life. Especially when the white man/woman shows up. The stories don't matter. Just know, at least one kid makes it. Kind of.

6. Jimmy Dolan (Kevin Bacon) in The Air Up There

This movie is trash. But Jimmy Dolan went to Africa (Kenya I think? I actually do not remember and Wikipedia doesn't say where…just Africa) and taught a 7 foot-Black dude the Jimmy Dolan "shake-and-bake", a lesson he can definitely use for the rest of his life whether in Africa, Los Angeles, or Poland. Because there is literally nowhere on this planet where a shake and bake doesn't work. Imagine, if you will, that you're walking through Rio de Janeiro and some little Brazilian kids run up on you trynna stick you for your paper (damn). If you hit them little niggas with the shake-and-bake, you win. It's like zigging when everybody else things your going to zag. And that, my friends, is some real salvation. Jimmy Dolan is the man.

5. Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) in Gran Torino

Walt is the rare white savior who catches a bad one in the end. Except, because white because privelege, he went out on his own terms. Walt lives next door to a Hmong family and strikes up a pretty odd friendship with the sister, Sue, of the boy next door, Thao, that he caught trying to steal his Gran Torino. Shenanigans ensue and we get Asian gangs in Detroit, shoot outs, guns pulled on white thugs that hang with Black thugs, some blatant racism I can appreciate, and Walt sticking it to his family in favor of his new young, Hmong best friends Sue and Thao. Of course, there is a terrible scene where Sue gets raped and beaten by her own cousin (!!!) and his gang because Thao won't join the gang and Walt confronts them.


I particularly like Walt because even though his entire job here is to be the white savior, he manages to be THE most racist dude, like ever, who actually gives a fuck. While nearly every single thing that comes out of his mouth is inappropriate and probably illegal in at least two states, he also cares. And that's the quintessential trait needed for white savior-dom. He cares about Sue and wants her to be okay. I imagine when he got shot at the end, he had Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" playing in his head. Which was so necessary because he probably would have referred to Kendrick as Kunta. See what I did there? I knooooooooooooooooooooooow you see it.

4. Irv Blitzer (John Candy) in Cool Runnings

Cool Runnings is kind of a two-fer. See, Derice Bannock (Leon) really saves Irv so that he CAN save Derice. See how that happened? Normally, a Black man saving a white man is reserved for Magical Negroes, but because the Black dude saved the white dude so that the white dude could really save the Black dude, it works as the white savior trumping the not-quite-magical-but-something-special Negro. White Savior usually always wins anyway. Seems like the Magical Negroes always either die or disappear, but mostly die. This is why you don't see many Black magicians…which is almost a pun. Get it? Black magic? I'll stop while I'm ahead.


So Derice (the Black dude who got the most salvation) convinces the white dude to turn he and some other Black dudes into a Jamaican bobsled team after another Black dude tripped up some other Black dudes rendering them all helpless as they watched even more other Black dudes run to glory which leads to the white dude eventually teaching Derice the value of…well, personal value after he spends all his time looking towards the wrong group of white dudes as his savior. Turns out, your white savior is usually right under your nose. Winning is great, Derice, but it's more important to show up and give it your all. It's like being a parent. Sure you want your kids to become multi-millionaires and have money, cash, and hoes, but there's a better than 50 percent chance that you'll live with being there and giving it your all and your kid never making it to jail. John Candy is a great white savior because he confronted other white people to stand up for the Black guys in tights. He faced down his past and his demons and put it on the line for the his squad. He stared down adversity and won! And because he won, the Black guys got a chance to slide down some ice for their country! Irv Blitzer is truly an American hero. This is also another movie that's probably less than 50 percent accurate.

On a related note, Cool Runnings has some of the highest replay value. It's up there with My Cousin Vinny which might be the most rewatchable movie of all time.


3. Leigh Ann Touhy (Sandra Bullock) in The Blindside

I know The Blindside is "based on a true story" but its SO paint-by-numbers ridiculous that I completely understand why Michael Oher had beef with the movie. It's IMPOSSIBLE that 90 percent of that movie is accurate. The only "based on a true story" movie that's LESS accurate is The Butler, which had I known was lying to me for two hours I might have saved myself the trouble. With that being said, Sandra Bullock straight debo'd this white savior game. She took a big ass Black boy off the street and…


…you know what? Do you know how she bodied the game? Here's how she bodied the white savior game:

Michael Oher: It's nice. I never had one before.

Leigh Anne: What? A room to yourself?

Michael: A bed.

Leigh Anne: (walks off into room to gather her life because of her realization of her privelege because this big Black boy has never had a bed and she probably just paid $2,000 for a Sleepmaser pillow top mattress)


Your white savior ain't really on the level unless they're bringing a bed to the table, b. They played some classical music in the background or some shit, but the only thing I heard in my head, and was pretty much how I felt after that scene was, "I wanna be saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaved…" 

2. Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird

A white man in Alabama - named Atticus, no less -  in the 1930s attempts to get a Black man maned Tom Robinson off of a rape charge of a white woman. In Alabama. In the 1930s. Of course, he failed and good ole Tom Robinson was convicted by a jury of his peers and sent up the creek without a paddle. Also, Tom ended up getting dead. Admittedly the success rate of salvation here is pretty much at zero. But my man Atticus REALLY tried here. And he lived next to a cat named Boo. Atticus pretty much did as much for the Black struggle in the 1930s as the NAACP has done in the past 30 years…and the results were still the same. Let my people go.


1. Jesus

Do you know how many Africans on the continent are reportedly Christian? About 400 million. Case closed.


(That's where the asterisk made sense because Jesus really ain't have no time or money, fam.)

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Old Man Wu

Atticus taught me one thing: never go on trial in a small town.

I feel like every American male becomes some version of Walt Kowalski if they live long enough. Deep down he's probably a nice person but after years of bullsh*t that you either don't understand or just don't want to understand you're inherent old personess just kicks in and you just stop giving a sh*t.