A very small percentage of people feel compelled to act to lessen the damage caused by racism, injustice, gender-based violence, child abuse, etc. Even less than that are people who are driven to uplift and empower marginalized.

As a recipient of soup kitchens and sandwiches, I can truthfully say it serves only to make the “donor” feel good about themselves and “fools” them into thinking they’re doing their bit to “save humanity!”

I have news for you, it’s not. I recall once a week as a 7-year-old waiting in queues too long for my little legs to bear and until it had spasms to get 2 slices of bread and a cup of soup. It filled me that day, that moment and left me hungrier and resentful. I did not understand why those kindly soup kitchen ladies could not come to the school daily. I wasn’t just hungry on a Wednesday.

Eventually, I stopped standing in those queues and my teacher probably felt it was more for others if there were less but as a child, I felt they were cruel. I did not understand charity and I certainly didn’t understand why I should be grateful for it.

Don’t get me wrong, I get that you want to do your bit to ease the hunger that plagues our world but unless you can do it every day as some people do, it helps for an hour and leaves the recipient of your “good deed” hungrier than ever.

Deciding what is good for me without my input helps me how to invalidate my feelings and uplift yours. As an example, if someone could have come to my mom for extra English lessons, that would have helped us more. If you could buy ingredients to bake bread or maize meal, we could have more meals. My Grade 1 teacher bought my school uniform because I never had one and children laughed at my short red dress (the uniform was blue and white). I was so grateful and I recall hugging her and thanking her because I could go to school without being taunted and teased for being poor.

The problem of giving is that very few people ask what is needed. Instead, they jump on the bandwagon and do what they feel is necessary.

Talking always seems to happen above black and brown people’s heads as opposed to with them or at them. If you can take time out to discover how to truly empower poor people then we would have fewer problems with food that seem to recur every month like those soup kitchens.

Imagine a world where we collectively put our heads together and talk. If we did that there would be less structural racism around, the unconscious bias that white people have that fails to recognize that black and brown people are more than merely low-cost housing and low paying jobs, and we could stop grouping people based on their race.