Madonna is continuing on a tradition of celebrities adopting foreign children. Though she has not reached the level of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, her recent attempt to adopt Mercy from Malawi would have made her the single mother to four children. The fact that she is unmarried with three children already at home and is still considered a potential adoptive mother speaks to the race and class privilege that Madonna possesses.
Madonna has constructed herself as the loving earth mother gone abroad to save the African children from a life despair. Though she has invested in orphanages and has started a few programs, her desire to adopt children despite the express wishes of their famillies, evidences her colonialist positioning. In this second attempt to adopt a child, the family has also expressed a desire to block the adoption.
According to The Sun, “the girl’s gran Lucy Chekechiwa, 60, said she has been asked repeatedly by officials if Mercy could be adopted by an “unidentified foreign family” — but was firmly against it. Speaking from her village in Zomba District, Lucy said: “Twice I have told the adoption people that I do not want Mercy to go outside the country. But they keep on at us. Now they say that Mercy will be leaving us, but can return at age 18.”
Even with the express refusal of the families in question, Madonna continued with her adoption plans firm in the belief that her class privilege would offer David and now Mercy a better life. Though a life with Madonna would provide opportunities that would otherwise be denied to Mercy because of her poverty and our decided commitment to maintaining a hierarchy of bodies, these children will lose their cultural links by not being reared within their country. It will not suffice to surround the children with Western blacks as they will not be able to pass on the traditions that are unique to Malawian culture.
Since the first white man stepped foot on the African continent they have raped and ravaged both the land and the people. To justify this history of tyranny the white man’s burden has been employed as a defensive ideology. Africans have been constructed as backward and in need of rescue. Difference has been understood as a signification of a lack of advancement rather than a alternate form of living. By adopting these children, Madonna is only continuing a long tradition of western colonization based in the belief that whiteness is ultimately superior to that of bodies of color.
Her position as earth mother, nurturer and caregiver is a role long played by white Western women when they set foot on the so-called Dark Continent. A simple glance thorough the history of white paternalism when directed at bodies of color clearly reveals that the permanent, devastating damage. At the height of the British empire, Englishwomen sought to “teach” Indian mothers so-called modern ways, even while they had proven themselves perfectly capable of rearing and nurturing children for centuries. Whiteness granted the Englishwomen expert status, despite their unfamiliarity with local diseases, environment, or traditions.
When the so-called “friends” of the Indian sought to elevate the status of American Indigenous Peoples they separated them from their families and placed them in residential schools. To this very day, Native peoples have never recovered from their loss of language, cultural traditions, and way of life. They continue to live in poverty and have become firmly ensconced as second-class citizens. Despite the mountain of evidence that white headship is harmful to bodies of color, Westerners continue to popularize the myth of its benign nature.
Madonna justifies her desire to adopt Mercv with love, and yet, like a spoiled child, she simply refuses to acknowledge that what we desire can be either inappropriate or unattainable. Though Mercy now lives in the same orphanage that her potential brother David once lived in, it is not necessary for her to reside with Madonna to have her life chances improve. If Madonna’s interests were truly not predatory, she could provide Mercy’s family with more than enough financial aid for them to raise her with advantages.
Madonna could begin an education fund for Mercy to ensure that the child would not grow up in ignorance, such are the capabilities of Madonna’s wealth. Oprah, for example, did not feel the need to separate families to uplift young girls: she simply built a school to provide them with opportunities.
Mercy resides in an orphanage not because she is unloved, but due to poverty. In the end, Madonna’s persistence is not about loving little Mercy above all else, but a desire to possess.