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An 'Orphan', His Broke Dad and A Superstar

By Wambui Mwangi

Monday, October 23, 2006:

As one of my favourite talk show hosts said, “Madonna is very pleased with her new black African baby. She hopes to wear him to the Oscars….”

This is a new form of tourism: Visit us! We have teeming wildlife, colourful natives and unspoiled vistas. Further, in your guest suites you will find our complimentary fruit basket, bottle of champagne, box of assorted chocolates, complimentary tickets allowing you to enter the lottery to buy the African country of your choice, your personal slave and of, course, an adoptable infant guaranteed to be cute, black, lovable and incapable of speech and thus at your complete mercy.

 

Should you decide that you wish to adopt, please fill out the form conveniently placed in your bathroom next to our complimentary bottle of Chanel, and drop it off at the reception desk anytime before checkout.

 

Should you be in any way dissatisfied with your infant, we would be happy to make an exchange and to customize an infant for you according to your specifications of age, sex, tint, height and hair growth. (Additional charges may apply if we have to wrest your desired baby away from its parents, but you have our quality guarantee that these charges will never exceed US $50)

What do you suppose it costs, emotionally and psychologically, to give away your child?

 

Or is simply that Africans love their children less or not at all, and so we can give away the ones we have now, since, of course, we can always make new ones?

 

Yo, people! We’re cute and trendy now, but is our long-term plan really to sit around and hope that our babies will be found pleasing in the eyes of material girls, or Brangelina, or whosoever is next? What are we, the human Manolo Blahniks?

 

    

 

I can hear the talk in Hollywood cafes now: “Oh mi god, did you hear? X just got her African baby by surrogate! I mean, the sperm isn’t hers, and neither is the ovum, --they just paid some Africans fifty cents each to do that -- but the surrogate mother is her personal assistant! How cool is that?”

 

Or of course, we can have the new competitiveness of African rankings: “Your baby’s from Chad? Honey, let me tell you that you got stiffed! The A list is all about eastern and central Africa just now. West African babies are definitely B list—you know, those people who still have to call their agents to ask for work?"

 

"No, no honey, you definitely have to give this one back and exchange her—is it a her? Ah whatever, you really can’t tell with these Africans until they are teenagers anyway, and you get to decide if you want it to have a sex change really, after paying all that money!

 

"But I would still exchange the Chadian for a Southern African: the others don’t grow up nearly as pretty, and you may have to pay for plastic surgery to make their buttocks really African-looking! No, really, I heard it from Jessica, who got it from Linda!”

Yes, of course I find the whole thing incredibly stupid. But it is one child, and I gather
Malawi gets an orphanage out of it. Here’s my beef. Instead of coming to our countries with seventy-four of your best friends, assistants, bodyguards, florists, hair dressers and personal trainers, why don’t all of you obscenely wealthy celebrity, skinny white privileged people just use that money to pay off the debt instead?

 

I mean, I’m all for Bono, but it is true that he and three of his best friends could wipe out the debt and think they’d dropped their wallet somewhere. So what’s all the fuss?

You want to help African kids? Then make sure that their families are healthy, and whole and have access to social services and to medicine, and that there are schools and jobs awaiting them.

 

It doesn’t help us if you take one of us away at a time—what are we going to do: form a line a billion people long hoping that one of us will be amongst the select?

 

I hear they do this outside really cool nightclubs, but to extend the logic to issues of life and death for Africans is one of the symptoms of the entertainment industry gone berserk. As a viable alternative, leave us, and our children alone!

 

  The baby (under grey coat) arrives at Heathrow airport

  Out of Africa: Madonna's latest child arrives at London's Heathrow Airport

 

The boy has a father. He may not be a celebrity, a star or white, but he is this boy’s family. He gives him up to Madonna on the clear and stated grounds that he hopes for a better life for his son, which he, the father, himself cannot afford to give him.

Question: if Madonna donated her budget for shoes for, let’s say, erm, a month, to this family, would this little boy have to be snatched away from his family, his surroundings, his culture, his heritage and his birthright? What about her hairdressing fees for a few weeks?

 

We aren’t even talking about percentages of her net worth — that would simply be rude. However, might it be possible for her to go for a few months without the attentions of her pedicurist?

 

If so, then no adoption would be necessary, would it? It is not a curse to be born an African—I wouldn’t change it for the world. It is a curse to be poor, and helpless and powerless, such that the best gift you can give your children is to make them the gift itself.

 

Wambui Mwangi is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto, Canada. She blogs as Madkenyanwoman. 

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