Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Material Mom picks up the latest fashion in African accessories...

Ok, I should really be in bed by now but I saw this headline about Madonna adopting a Malawian child as I was shutting down my computer. (see article at bottom of post)

I probably shouldn't open this can of worms, because I realize that adoption is a valuable blessing to many children who would otherwise be raised in orphanages or in unsettled foster homes. Adoption is also a great blessing to the adoptive families. For example, when Tass joined our family about four years ago, although not through any kind of formal adoptive process, it was not something our family had really ever thought about until the situation came up, but it was such an unexpected joy to have a new teenage sister, who brought new perspectives and sensitivities to our lives. So, from very close and personal experience, I don't think there is anything wrong with adopting, fostering, or raising a child, even a child that still has a living parent. In fact, it is generally a very good thing for all parties involved. But there seems to be a difference in adopting or fostering a child in a community in which that child already lives and swooping in with great fanfare and seperating a child completely from any kind of like-kinded community.

My main question, I suppose is WHY exactly is "adopting Africa" suddenly a big celebrity fad? And why exactly is Madonna adopting a child who has a living parent? As well intentioned as many of these celebrities are (and I don't doubt that they do a certain amount of good), this whole act of "adopting a country," as I read in an earlier article today about Madonna's visit to Africa, is so hugely patronizing. I'm sure that this child will be pampered and privileged and will grow up with every material want that his material mom can provide him with. But does community, rootedness in a family and culture mean nothing? Are poor people lacking in humanity? Must children be "rescued" from Africa? If Madonna really cares, why doesn't she provide this baby's family with some sort of yearly stipend that will enable him to grow up in the community in which he was born--especially since he still has a living parent--and provide him with a educational scholarship when he grows old enough, to ensure that he has a good chance in life, while remaining close to his roots? Perhaps she could become an honourary "fairy godmother," since she, unlike many good folk who adopt from Africa etc, could actually afford to do so. (And please note that I am not trying to condemn every single family who adopts internationally. I know quite a few lovely families who have done so, and I admire how they are raising their children). But why this sudden urge to accesorize with African children?

Maybe, I'm being unrealistic and overly judgmental. I feel the tensions of being a cynical scrooge about the warm fuzzies of a baby "finding a family." But there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with all this--related to the "Save a child" advert with the naked celebrities decorated with slashes of paint and "African" jewelry saying "I am African." This is not a game. This is not a fashion statement. People actually live here and raise families here and write poetry and novels and, yes, create music and films in these African countries. Life is often hard. People are often poor. Governments are often injust. Children don't always have good access to health care or education. Steps do need to be taken to correct global inequalities created by the historical processes of slavery and colonialism, which so violently disrupted and derailed certain forms of African political and social development. But for the most privileged of the earth to think that they can just swoop down and start speaking for the "wretched of the earth" (and although life is often hard, it's not always wretched)....

Maybe THAT'S it, and what also bothered me so much about the "I am African" adverts--it's the presumption of SPEAKING for a whole CONTINENT, for assuming that for some reason because you happen to have a famous face in America that suddenly, you know how to solve all the world's problems, and that you will start by showing how much of a difference you can make by raising an African child into a being so much more sophisticated and advanced than he would be if he stayed in the dark and suffering continent.... Madonna's nannies will, no doubt, do a stellar job.

Anyway, it's late, and I should have been in bed several hours ago. I'm never going to get better if I keep doing this. Here's an excerpt from the article about Madonna. arghh. (Of course, it could all be tabloid rumours... but the fact remains that she is roaming about Malawi in a safari hat...)

Madonna adopts African child, says father
Wed Oct 11, 2006 12:21 AM ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Pop star Madonna has adopted a one-year-old African boy, his father claimed, saying he was happy his son would escape a life of poverty in Malawi, British tabloid newspapers reported on Wednesday.
The Sun splashed a picture of the singer dressed in a safari hat and smiling, with a young child it said she had chosen at an orphanage strapped to her back.
Last week, a spokeswoman for Madonna denied comments by officials in the African state that the performer had adopted a child. A spokeswoman in Britain did not immediately return calls for comment on the latest reports.
The Sun and the Daily Mail said Madonna had chosen 13-month-old David Banda, whose mother died of complications after giving birth.
The boy's father, Yohane Banda, 32, was quoted in both newspapers as saying: "I am very happy. As you can see there is poverty in my village."
Banda, who said he could not afford to bring up his son, did not meet Madonna but was told his boy was being adopted by a "famous U.S. musician".

For the rest of this article see


Texter said...

a great analysis...

Talatu-Carmen said...

yeah, i think by the time i posted last night, i realized that this specific adoption seems to be more of a rumour than a fact and that her intentions are just to "adopt the country." But still... that rhetoric "adopting a country" is so obviously paternalistic. So now Madonna is Malawi's mother. All of Malawi's children are hers.... How nice.

Texter said...

oh my god, "adopt a country" - the heights of arrogance and ignorance... even with all our access to information... I haven't yet followed the links or searched out the story myself, but I will. but like you mentioned in your next post, I find myself too busy and spent to post a coherent analysis. You did a quite a good job here though. Reminds me of the Angelina Jolie case...

Talatu-Carmen said...

Here's the exact quote her publicist made about "adopting a country."

This excerpt comes from the following source:

MTV doesn't seem like a great source, but I read it in some Reuter's articles as well, but am running to class and don't have time to find the original articles I saw. This was the first thing that came up in a google search.

Here it is:

However, Madonna's rep said the reports — from Reuters, The Associated Press and elsewhere — were erroneous. "Despite reports stating otherwise, she has not adopted a baby boy," the singer's longtime spokesperson, Liz Rosenberg, said Wednesday. "There is no paperwork being finalized. She is visiting orphanages and totally involved in the building of a new orphanage and other initiatives to help the children of Malawi whose parents have died from the AIDS epidemic. So she is adopting an entire country of children."