Thursday, August 14, 2008

think of it as the opportunity of a lifetime

Renee reports that Madonna is preparing to adopt another Malawian child, this time against the wishes of her grandmother.

I don't have much to add to what Renee said (or what Nezua said). I understand that there are millions of children who need homes, but there is just something unsettling about white people going into Africa and Asia and choosing children. Good intent aside, I just can't get past the history of colonialism, privilege (money & white skin > family & cultural ties), and all the "civilization" arguments.

Renee's post included this sentence:
Don't think of it as stealing foreign adoption, think of it as the opportunity of a lifetime
It reminded me of a conversation with my friend, Fran. I love her dearly, but she is very much on the "U.S. is superior to all else, especially Africa" kick. We used to argue all the time--she could excuse slavery, could deal with white supremacy, she was just glad "we" weren't in Africa.

Of course, pointing out to her that "we" would not have been if millions of people had not been brutalized, did not help.

So, we went to an art exhibit in Houston that featured works showing life in different African countries. Life, not the ever present images of death and destruction.* She did express surprise that there were people living in Africa.

But then she said, "I'm still glad our ancestors got on that boat."

So, the middle passage was the opportunity of a lifetime.

I have not broached the conversation since then.
*I do not mean to downplay the importance of bringing attention to war and disease (especially AIDS) in Africa, but that I think images of those are used to portray Africa, Africans, and the Diaspora as "less"--civilized, developed, human--with no regard for historical or contemporary context.


Kimberly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kimberly said...

I can't comment much on the adoption stuff....mostly because I have VERY mixed feelings about it. I agree with Elle and others about it coming off as people saving these kids from a life of doom in their lowly third world countries **read with sarcasm**, but I also believe many who do adopt foreign children, do so for innocent, "I want a child to love" reasons. However, I really believe that a well off African or African-American couple looking to adopt, say, an Eastern European infant would seem a preposterous idea to most. Thus my mixed feelings.

Elle, you are so right about the images we receive of Africa. It blows my mind that so many people believe that Africa as a whole is so desolate. Heck, I've come across many people, even my AP Government teacher in high school, who think Africa is a country made up of homogenous people from some singular culture. I have an African friend who would shock some of his new friends with pictures from his hometown showing him on a beach having fun. "They have beaches in Africa?" "You had your own car?" "You had a real house, not a hut." And so on.

Genocide, AIDS, famine are a problem that should be addressed rather than ignored (genocide in particular), but that is not all there is to know about a huge continent with many countries and very diverse populations.

elle said...

kim!!!! (i guess i need to call you, huh?).

I'm with you in that I don't doubt the good intent, but... yeah.

Renee said...

So, the middle passage was the opportunity of a lifetime.

This is not the first time that I heard this sentiment expressed and it disgusts me each time. I have yet to come up with an adequate retort to such obvious ignorance.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...