Children are people, not fashion accessories

Mia Farrow started it in the 70s. Angelina Jolie did it a few years ago. Madonna just did it. And it’s rumored that Britney Spears and Wynonna Judd are thinking about it. The newest trend to hit Hollywood is adopting babies from third world countries, particularly Africa. With so many people thinking about adopting, and with two major pop icons that already have, the question is – is this “the new thing?”

These children are not Louis Vuitton handbags or Vera Wang wedding dresses. They are people. If celebrities are adopting these children with the intent to help them live better lives, then I am all for it. However, if these celebrities are doing it for attention, then I am disgusted that someone could sink so low as to adopt a child for publicity. With the controversy surrounding Madonna’s adoption of a boy from Malawi, motives definitely have become an issue.

Celebrity fascination with Africa and its plights is not a new concept. Jolie adopted her daughter, Zahara, from Ethiopia. Bono of U2, Oprah and Gwyneth Paltrow are just a few of the A-list celebrities who have taken the time to try and change life in Africa. Nevertheless, Michael Musto, a celebrity columnist for the Village Voice in New York, questions Madonna’s intentions. According to Reuters, he said, “I think in her mind she thinks she’s doing the right thing and putting her money where her mouth is, but I think the cynicism is coming from the fact that this looks like a copycat of Angelina’s actions, and Madonna seems to view an African orphan as the latest hot accessory.”

Another obvious snag in Madonna’s adoption is the implication that she received special treatment because of her fame. In the Reuters story, it explains how Malawian law bans adoptions by non-residents, but officials granted an exemption to Madonna. Boniface Mandere of Eye of the Child, a Malawian organization that promotes and protects children’s rights, said in an Asoociated Press story that, “This process is too short … I don’t think that the High Court has any information about how Madonna is when it comes to child-rearing. We are concerned that the High Court has taken a short-cut and waived the law. We are registering our concern and will seek clarification from the court, after which we will decide what action to take.”

Despite the fact Madonna has given $3 million to the Raising Malawi charity, which provides care and support for Malawi’s one million orphans, the act of generosity does not dismiss the fact that the multi-million album selling artist already has a fortune estimated to be worth $460 million.

“No doubt she thinks she’s doing the child a favor – but, really, this is all about her. The money she will have spent on the adoption and will spend on the child could have gone to help many more children in Malawi. But then she wouldn’t have a cute, black child to show off,” said Hannah Pool, who was adopted from an Eritrean orphanage herself as a child, according to the Guardian, a paper based in London.

Another reason for concern is that in 2004, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that the growth of international adoptions has developed an industry that is driven by profit rather than the interests of the children being adopted. In a CNN story, UNICEF said some of the abuses that have occurred are bribery, the sale and kidnapping of children, and the bullying of parents. As a result, they say children are trafficked to people who end up exploiting them.

Only Madonna knows her true intentions. Whether it was heartfelt or her way of getting back into the spotlight, there is one truth – the number of children in Africa who are losing parents to AIDS is increasing daily. The alternative for children in many parts of the African continent is grim. Left up to me, I would choose for a child to grow up with someone who is more than capable of properly raising him or her, rather than parentless and alone, in an orphanage in a country that doesn’t have the resources to properly care for him or her,

Shemir Wiles is a senior majoring in mass communications