Material Mom's vexing adoptionBy Annette John-Hall
- Material Mom's vexing adoptionBy Annette John-Hall
It is time, as one of my girlfriends cracked, for Madonna to "come to
Jesus." In the shallow realm of pop culture, that would be Oprah.
The Material Girl, accused in recent days of everything from baby-buying
to baby-stealing after she procured a 1-year-old from the East African
country of Malawi, is due to explain her side of her acrimonious
adoption on Oprah today.
While it might seem as though adopting from Africa has overtaken
Hollywood like oversized pocketbooks and undersized pocket puppies, I
admire anyone who desires to make life better for a child. A-listers
from George Clooney to Brangelina have lent their might and millions to
various projects across the continent, and it's all good.
And Madonna has put her money behind the Raising Malawi orphan-care
initiative, much needed in a country with one million orphaned children
in a population of only 12 million.
It was probably her millions that allowed Madonna to jump ahead in the
adoption line, circumventing the normal waiting period. According to
reports in The (Nairobi) Nation, the pop priestess also called ahead for
Malawians to provide a dozen 1-year-olds from whom to pluck the Chosen
One. Madonna selected David Banda - whose father had placed him in an
orphanage after David's mother died from complications during childbirth
- to whisk away in her private jet.
(Check that. She didn't whisk David away. She left that task to a
personal assistant and a security guard, who hustled the child through
the airport hidden under a hoodie as if he were a pint-sized perp.)
There's something incredibly unseemly about the whole thing. The human
safari-ness of it all.
While criticism has focused on the murky transaction, the issue of
transracial adoption, fraught with controversy, lurks closely behind.
Many whites have resisted African American kids, preferring instead to
adopt from Europe or Asia. Blacks don't take too kindly to the idea,
either. In 1972, the Association of Black Social Workers decried white
families' adopting black kids as a form of "cultural genocide."
That may sound harsh, but a look back at history reveals why many
African Americans share the sentiment. The slave trade stripped black
people of their land and culture, breaking down families and social
communities, repercussions that are still being felt today.
So for Madonna, and the thousands of other white parents who adopt
outside their race, the question is how to reconcile the lure of a
better life for a child while maintaining his or her innate identity.
At an adoption forum I attended over the weekend, Gail Farber, a
pediatrician and white mother of an adopted Korean son, laughed when she
related the boy's story. As he grew up, he moved from their bucolic
Villanova home to New York and discovered, to his utter delight, a
community of fellow adopted Korean kids.
"Mom," he told her, "I think I found my people!"
It is a legitimate concern even for the white children of white adoptive
parents, who confessed at the forum that they struggle with identity
just by virtue of being adopted.
The thing is, you can be a Madonna with hundreds of millions to toss
around like your hair, private jets at your disposal, and personal
assistants on call. But extreme wealth does not a quality of life make.
In her memoir Unbowed, Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, winner
of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, writes that although her family was
illiterate and poor, they were rich in self-sufficiency because of their
relationship with the land - and each other.
Rather than Madonna's bestowing a golden ticket on one lucky child,
taking him away from his country and people, why not teach the fisherman
Oprah is building a learning academy for girls in South Africa. Bono has
created a lobbying group that will push to reduce the debt in the
poorest African nations.
It doesn't take much. The simple idea of Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen
Bank of extending micro-credit to poor people won the 2006 Nobel Peace
Prize. More important, it will help future generations break out of
poverty - without having to leave home.
We'll have to wait and see what happens with Madonna's adoption. Yohane
Banda, David's father, who is illiterate, now claims that he didn't
realize the adoption was permanent and wants his son back. Madonna
claims otherwise. I suspect the almighty Oprah will enlighten us to what
the real deal is today.
I've never considered Madonna - she of the Sex coffee-table book and
crucifixion reenactments - a moral guide. But I'd have a lot more
respect for her if she did what was morally right and gave the baby
Find Annette John-Hall's blog at http://go.philly.com/freeflow
Contact staff writer Annette John-Hall at 215-854-4986 or
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