Category Archives: global issues

The Dangerous Desire to Adopt Haitian Babies

by Guest Contributor (and frequent commenter) Atlasien

Haitian American Adoptive Parent Margalita Belhumer

Haitian American Adoptive Parent Margalita Belhumer

I’m a foster care adoptive parent. I can’t speak for all of us, since we’re a diverse bunch. Some of us have also adopted internationally and support international adoption strongly. Others despise the institution, and are angry about what the perceived hypocrisy of parents who walk past the foster kids in their own cities and states so that they can adopt from a far-away country. I’m somewhere in the middle, but definitely leaning more towards the anti side, especially after this week.

This week, I’ve been deeply disturbed at the swelling public desire to adopt Haitians. Haitian orphan babies. The very name is problematic. In our imagination, an orphan has no family, but the vast majority of “orphans” all over the world have living parents, and almost every single one has living extended relatives. And the children that need family care are, overwhelmingly, older children.

Quite a few other parents I know are really pissed off about it. If you want to adopt, why not consider adopting from foster care? Why Haitian babies? I can guess at some of the answers. Most of them will not be very flattering.

There’s a certain group of white adoptive international parents that dominate much of the discourse around adoption in this country. The most organized of these are evangelical Christians, but many of them are secular in their beliefs on adoption. They’re across the political spectrum, ultraconservative to ultraliberal, though if I had to hazard a guess, most of them are center-right in politics. I believe these people are, basically, a force for evil. If I put it in any nicer words, that would be a lie. Examining their belief system, and their potential political influence on the recovery efforts in Haiti, is a pretty terrifying process. Continue reading

White (Wo)Man’s Burden: Madonna, Malawi, & Celebrity Activism [Original Cut]

by Latoya Peterson, published at Jezebel.com

On Monday, Madonna broke ground on a new school project in Malawi; today, she takes to the Huffington Post to ask for donations. Her megawatt star power helped engage media attention – but are high profile celebrities actually hurting progress?

In the new issue of Arise, reporter Hannah Pool examines the idea that “all Africa ha[s] to offer the world was begging bowl.” The article, titled “Good Will Hunting” starts off with a bang:

“When high profile celebrities get shown visiting disadvantaged areas in Africa and those images get beamed out to the rest of the world, I believe they almost do more damage than good,” says Moky Makura, Nigerian-born, Johannesburg-based author, M-Net presenter and founder of the Africa our Africa blog. “We don’t want to keep reinforcing the image of a helpless continent. We will only eradicate our problems when we build economies based on commerce, not charity. To do this, Africa needs to be seen as an investment destination or trading partner, not as a charity case.

Pool then delves into the conundrum that faces many activists on the African continent – if many people are embracing the idea of “trade not aid” as a way to push forward development, who benefits from this “charitainment?” Pool elaborates:

The merging of charity and entertainment – or, as Time magazine called it, charitainment – has led to some damaging consequences. Celebrities (and their agents) have realised that being seen to care about Africa brings instant cool. About 25 years after Live Aid, A-list celebrities are forever falling out of the pages of magazines such as Hello! or OK!, tearfully waxing lyrical about how spending five minutes in an African orphanage changed their whole view on life. And thanks to Madonna and Angelina Jolie, some Western media appear to be under the impression that the best way to empty Africa’s orphanages is not the eradication of poverty but mass adoption by wealthy pop stars. Continue reading

American “Activism”: On the Neda Video, and Other Images of the Brutal Third World

by Guest Contributor Catherine A. Traywick, originally published at Femmalia

Two weeks after the much-publicized death of Iranian protester, Neda — whose final moments were famously captured by a cell phone camera and distributed the world over — a couple dozen performers put together a music video tribute slash “non-violent resistance” anthem filmed (appropriately?) with nothing but a cell phone camera. Described by CNN as “a call to action against human rights violations by the Iranian government against Iranians,” the video’s creators/stars rap and harmonize about non-violence, their fuzzy, pixelated faces crooning between clips of the now historic footage of Neda’s death.

The graphic clips excerpted by the creators of the video for the the purpose of spreading their message of solidarity and pacifism have generated a cacophony of international outrage, sympathy, outright disbelief, and controversy since their initial circulation a few weeks ago. While the footage has galvanized protesters in Iran, creating for them a martyr to rally around as they strive for real, lasting change, it has also prompted enthusiastic Americans to wear green and tweet about revolution in what has already been described by numerous commentators as a superficial and ineffectual display of “solidarity.” The “United for Neda” video, as well-intentioned and misguided as any green-clad American, seems to fall into the latter category. Like Americans who continually replay the Neda footage in order to sustain a dimming sense of shock, outrage, and civic duty while imagining a connection to a less complacent world, the music video appropriates the controversial images of Neda with the aim of fostering activism through the propagation of sensational violence. Continue reading

Saving Muslim Women from the Oppression of the Headscarf, by Killing Them

by Guest Contributor Joesph Shahadi, originally published at Vs. the Pomegranate

I never intended to write about the scarf/veil/hijab/niqaab. Like a lot of people who write about the Middle East and North Africa (Muslim and otherwise) I roll my eyes at the Western preoccupation with the scarf, which seems to dominate the discourse. The Islamic practice of covering seems to excite the imaginations of both Judeo-Christian/nationalist/conservatives and (largely) white/western/feminists, an unlikely alliance that occurs from time to time around representations of women (as in pornography, for example). I will admit that I do not understand this preoccupation… I am not a Muslim so I have no religious or cultural investment in covering one way or the other. For me, the scarf is just clothing. This may be because many of my Muslim neighbors in Brooklyn cover to varying degrees and I see them going about their lives, just like everyone else. When you are standing behind a veiled woman in line at the supermarket and you see her trying to keep her kids quiet with one hand while she organizes coupons with the other, the whole thing seems pretty ordinary, at least in my part of the world.

As far as I can tell, I have only one neighbor who goes about fully covered, while others wear their scarves in very different styles, depending on their preferences, home countries and cultures. It is very common to see Moms with their heads covered while their little girls are bounding around in jeans and Dora the Explorer t-shirts, but there are a few little girls with their heads covered as well. Two or three summers ago I was walking down the street and a hijab-wearing 11 year old girl went whizzing past me on a Razor scooter, scarf and dress flapping, face split with a giant grin. Despite the wide range of styles, these women and girls all seem to socialize together and I have seen zero indication of the isolation and division that are often assumed to be part and parcel of the practice of covering. I know there are issues with the scarf in Islamic cultures, and it is not my intention to minimize them, none of my female Muslim friends and colleagues wear it and some have spoken against it. But my assumption is that any intra-cultural issues around the practice of covering can be addressed by the women it impacts directly, so I feel no pressing need to climb on to my white horse with my American flag clutched between my teeth.

So even when French President Sarkozy floated his wrong-headed hijab-ban I never thought I’d write about the scarf. It is annoying that so much of the conversation, not to mention the ban itself, is based on perpetuating Islamophobic and Orientalist stereotypes (even among people who should know better) but again I thought, “Not my fight.”

And then Marwa Sherbini was murdered. Continue reading