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Old Mother Madonna

April 2, 2009

I know you’ve been waiting to hear about what I think about Madonna adopting another Malawian child. Well sit down and put your feet up because your wait is over.

First off, I think we can all agree that adoption is noble and good. Child needs family. Family wants child. Wa la. Great.

Next, we may have different opinions on the wealthy and famous adopting. Some (most, probably) would say: great–just think of all the opportunities that kid will have. On the other hand, some will say that bringing a kid into that kind of chaos, and specifically into a situation in which they will spend as much (or more) time with hired help as with adopted parents could be questionable. I lean this way.

But let’s look at these specifically African children. These are kids who are not orphaned in the sense that they have no family alive to care for them. These are kids who are orphaned in the sense that one of their parents is dead and their surviving family is currently fiscally unable to care for the child. Orphanages in Africa are used differently than orphanages here; they are used by families who temporarily cannot care for a child and children may be placed there for weeks or years. But they still have family in the community who feel as connected to them as you feel to your parents and your children.

So when someone like Madonna says, in essence, I just want to do what’s best for the child, I seriously question if adopting the child is. If you really love that child, why don’t you set up some kind of trust for the child and family so they can take care of the child? After all, you are Madonna, and money is immaterial. You don’t need to acquire kids if what you really want is what is best for them.

Madonna wouldn’t know this, because she hasn’t been a normal person in a long time, and she hasn’t lived in Africa, but I know this. Africans (generally speaking), especially poor and uneducated ones, continue to suffer from a collective low self-esteem. I blame it on colonization. But many Africans will tell you, or act in such a way to communicate, that they believe that their child will be better raised by a random white person than by them. This is, I am sure, because they believe all white people to be rich, or at least, richer than them. I cannot tell you how many babies were offered to me in the 3 years I lived there. It wasn’t always entirely serious, but it was serious enough to be dead sad. No matter what I or Madonna can offer a child, it is not the same as what a parent can offer a child. What I have is not worth the future pain and sadness that child will feel for having been given up.

I worked with a man who gave his firstborn son to a Canadian couple. My colleague told the couple that the boys’ family was dead, otherwise they would not have taken the child. But HE was the boys’ father. He wanted his son to have a better life. Sure, that kid grew up with material wealth the rest of the family could not imagine. He got a great education. Now he lives back in Kenya and won’t have anything to do with his family (who he knows about–always did–he was 7 when he was given away). It is a true-life Shakespearian tragedy if ever I saw one up close and personal.

And what about that pesky residential requirement Madonna won’t abide by? You know why Africans have that silly idea that you ought to live in the country for 2 years before you can adopt? For good reason. There is a long history right up to the present day of foreigners “adopting” African kids and taking them away as servants or selling them into sexual servitude. Ugly, but true.

So sure, Madonna’s kids will have a lot of opportunities. But they will also not be normal. It will not be possible for them to be normal people. People say, just think of what they can do for their communities in Malawi when have have their Harvard educations! Well, chances are pretty good that they will just grow up to be spoiled brats, and won’t do anything for Malawi, so it hardly seems a good trade-off for Malawi.

If nothing else, isn’t this just incredibly unseemly? Doesn’t it feel wrong to be buying Africans? Isn’t that what you do when you “adopt” without following procedure?

Did the rest of the world not learn anything from colonization? Haven’t we stripped Africa’s natural resources enough? And surely, their kids are their resources, just like our children are our future? If you disagree with me, let me know, and next time I visit Africa I’ll come back with my arms full of babies–I am white–they are mine for the taking.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Amira permalink
    April 2, 2009 10:54 am

    I agree. If you’re going to adopt, follow the laws and procedures set up by the country. Or else it’s just colonialism. (I’m from MM, in case you’re wondering who I am.)

  2. esodhiambo permalink*
    April 2, 2009 12:56 pm

    I knew you right away–thanks for reading. So glad someone agrees–if only Amira and I ruled the world….

  3. Erin permalink
    April 7, 2009 1:38 pm

    Any thoughts about Angelina Jolie’s methods vs Madonna’s?

  4. esodhiambo permalink*
    April 7, 2009 1:58 pm

    AJ seems to follow the rules and not get special exemptions. As far as I know, the blood relatives of AJs kids have never asked that they NOT be adopted. Those two things make a big difference to me.

  5. Jo Pfaff permalink
    April 7, 2009 10:17 pm

    Great topic Emily. Here is what erks me. They are wealthy Americans and yes I do feel badly for those children in other countries but we have kids here in the USA that are perfectly Adoptable. Are those kids chopped liver, are they seen as having to much baggage or possible to many behavoral and emotional problems from being in the “system”. I just don’t get it. I absolutely agree the way Madonna goes about it just seems like she is buying children to make herself feel better. They won’t see her, they will see the nanny. I didn’t have a rich mommy but I had a poor single mom who worked ALL of the time and was closer to my babysitters than her. I feel badly for these kids. Material possesions will not ease the pain of being a collectable for mama madonna.

  6. esodhiambo permalink*
    April 8, 2009 7:26 am

    I heard an interesting program about international adoption on Talk of the Nation on NPR yesterday and they made an interesting distinction between philanthropy and adoption. If you want to help the kids, they said, don’t adopt: give money, educate, build a well, etc. Adoption is only for family building.

    Jo–your last line made me laugh!

    I saw a Larry King about Madonna’s adoption and they indicated that “it is not possible” for celebrities to adopt domestically because they fear birth parents would be giving their kids away jut to have an in into the celebrity’s life. I don’t buy it.

  7. April 9, 2009 9:59 am


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