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Madonna’s recent decision to adopt an African child has created quite a feeding frenzy amongst the fickle media harbour sharks who have sunk their fangs into this story. There are many questions that need answering, not solely by Madonna, but by the media also.

The fact that one-year-old David Banda is from Africa seems to be the fuel behind much of the media hysteria. At a time of heightened Islamophobia and Xenophobia in the Western press and demands for stricter immigration, it is quite easy to see why Madonna’s decision to adopt an African child has become headline news.

In the topsy turvy world of celebrity, where the rich and famous become groupies in their search for unfortunate children for that all-important profile-enhancing photo opportunity, the real meaning behind their philanthropy often becomes obscured. It is understandable that a lonely and compassionate celebrity may find an unfortunate child “cute” and may wish to take him or her home, but the media has now made it quite clear; it is ok to visit the zoo and take your photos, just don’t bring the animals home with you.

With so many of the world's children in need of a loving home, a family, and security, should we be questioning this adoption, or should we be lauding Madonna for her actions? I think the answer to both questions is yes.

It is assumed that a child who has been in care would want and need time, attention, and intimate human contact in order to feel loved. I would question whether Madonna has the time or the stamina to really provide this child with these needs? It was a nanny who collected little David Banda from Malawi and I would assume it would be this nanny who would raise him. No doubt, little David’s every material need will be catered for and he will grow up to be a very fortunate adult indeed, but it is a child’s emotional needs that should be the priority.

David Banda has a father, a father who gave up his child because he could not afford to raise him: not a father who was dying of AIDS, not a father who was abusive or who rejected his child. It was strictly financial. On a continent where many of those fortunate enough to be working earn less than a dollar a day, would it not have been more practical, considerate, and far cheaper for Madonna to reunite this child with his biological father and make provisions for their well-being? This would have been an act of genuine altruistic philanthropy. The child would then have had the opportunity to grow up with a sense of belonging, with the love of his father, his extended family and an awareness of his culture. Madonna suggests this option was refused by the father, but should she have even suggested this as an option? Is it not better to rescue a child from an orphanage who has no living relatives and therefore has no options?

Anyhow, besides my petty gripes or the current media hullabaloo, I know I would much prefer the sterile love of a nanny and have all my material needs catered to than the uncertainty and boredom of an African orphanage.

Many celebrities adopt and provide an invaluable service by helping to raise much-needed attention and funds to the plight of orphans. They should be encouraged to continue these good works and not be hounded and chastised for their good deeds.

Madonna may have meant well, but perhaps hadn’t given enough thought to the moral imperatives of such a decision. If her intention is to provide this African child with a loving home and better opportunity in life, then she should be allowed to do so. My only concern is that African babies should not become some sort of celebrity fashion accessory. African babies are for life, not just for Christmas.

Ishmahil Blagrove, Jr.
Editor, riceNpeas.com

1st November 2006
EDITORIAL: Philanthropy or Accessory?
By Ishmahil Blagrove, Jr.