SIOUX CITY | Jordan Flaherty, a New Orleans-based journalist, said Hurricane Katrina left a lasting impression on him.

As a white southern male, he was saddened at the way African Americans were treated when forced to evacuate their homes.  

Flaherty was subsequently alarmed by the well-meaning people who came to the "Big Easy" to help out but ended up making things worse.

"There were a lot of people who suffered," he said, "and even more people who undermined their own best intentions."

Flaherty, an award-winning reporter and television producer. will discuss his book, "No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality," at 4 p.m. Sunday at Blue Cafe, 1301 Pierce St.  Siouxland Public Media's Mary Hartnett will lead the discussion that encourages community members to join in the conversation. 

"When I came up with the concept for the book, (the concept of) savior mentality turning up in a lot of stories I was working on," Flaherty said, explaining that a person with a "savior mentality" is often an activist who seeks to rescue those he consider to be less fortunate.

Flaherty said this is a trap that people may fall into.

"Everybody wants to be a superhero," he said. "Our role models are either the firemen who rescue a kitten from a tree, or it is Batman, who spends time at his estate but ends up saving the day at the very last minute."

Whether it is stated or implied, these are do-gooders, who consider themselves smarter, superior or better than the people they are seeking to help.

"Frequently, there is one charismatic leader we associate with any movement," Flaherty said. "For instance, it was Abraham Lincoln who ended slavery in America. And it was JFK, LBJ and MLK who became the people responsible for the Civil Rights Movement."

However, he said this wasn't historically accurate. Further, it undercut the efforts of millions of other people who also worked to secure civil rights but didn't get the glory. 

Flaherty said this has the impact of discouraging people from making social change.

"If I can't measure up to MLK, a person who have to ask why bother?" he said, adding that's the wrong lesson to learn.

"We're living at a volatile time in history," he continued.

Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street and Standing Rock are movements he cited to show that volatility.

"Grassroots activists would better serve their cause if asked questions before they took action," Flaherty said. "If you want systematic change, that change must come fundamental from within. Otherwise, it will simply repeat itself."  


Food and Lifestyles reporter

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