“Saving” Babies from the Horrors of an African Childhood

Let us join Nancy French in congratulating herself for saving a baby from the horrific prospect of being raised in Africa. French wrote an article entitled I’m a White Republican Raising a Black Child: Deal With It to raise awareness about how awesome she is.

When I hear this self-congratulatory rhetoric around transracial and/or international adoption, I always pause and think. The self-congratulations typically come from middle, upper-middle, and upper-class heterosexual white families who have adopted a child who is of color and/or born in another country. There is typically lots of applause from other whites for their “good deed”. The assumption being that a middle-to-upper class white upbringing must be superior to other kinds of upbringing, and that by allowing a normally-inferior individual into the white club, a meritorious act has taken place. This is part of what is called the White Savior Complex. It is a relic from colonialism, when whites felt it was their mission to spread across the planet and “improve” the “backwards” races. The colonial mindset is still very present with us, as when this author insinuates adventurism with phrases like: “poverty stricken African tribal area” and their savior status by rescuing a “starving, abandoned girl” from such a terrible place. As I recall from grade school, Africa is actually broken up into political units known as “countries”, but French is kept very busy letting the world know about her good deeds that she can hardly be expected to know unimportant details about insignificant parts of the world.

Then I start to wonder about the big picture. French’s adopted daughter has a biological mother and father. Where are they? Why are they so poor? Why couldn’t they keep their child? Do they have rights? Isn’t there any value to the culture she was born into and taken away from? Why are so many African nations “poverty-stricken”? How are the world’s dominant countries implicated in this poverty?

I just happened upon an article about the struggles of Congolese mothers against the backdrop of political violence: A Congo Mother Survives Cannibalism to Save Her Children: Why Her Photo Matters. Interestingly, the article notes that much of the conflict was instigated by European colonists. Now mothers have to protect their children from cannibalism. If only French could adopt even more African children.

The right to raise your own children is a fundamental human right, and a pillar of the Reproductive Justice movement. Yet it is easier for white Americans to reframe themselves not as colonialists with serious responsibilities to other countries we have impoverished, but as pure, loving saviors who just want to help the children. Do we really have a right to take these children that trumps our responsibility to ensure that all mothers enjoy the right to raise the children they birthed?

Obviously, I am not the first one to have these thoughts. I would recommend further reading, starting with these articles:
The Lie We Love
Black Kids in White Houses
All Your Children Are Belong to Us

Another question that just popped into my head: If French’s daughter had instead grown up in Ethiopia and tried to immigrate to America as an adult to find a better life (the better life that French hopes to offer her by raising her), would French support her access to American residency? Or is it only by fulfilling French’s need to have another child that her daughter earns her right to live in America?


4 thoughts on ““Saving” Babies from the Horrors of an African Childhood

  1. Well maybe the childs parents died idk. In countries where large families are the norm and the nuclear family is not really how children are raised there is often less of an orphan problem, often times an aunt or uncle or non direct relative who is part of the “tribe” so to speak, not everyone in Africa identifies as part of a tribe but some people do, will take the child into their household. In a society like ours where many people are so rootless and disjointed and our families are small and falling apart is where we often find the biggest problem with parentless children. And in America white children get adopted first, so she could have still adopted a black baby an African American baby if it was important to her to adopt a baby of a different race, I wonder why they felt a need to go to Africa to find a child to adopt, some subconscious feeling towards African Americans. I recall a group of white savior type christians from Idaho grabbed up a bunch of babies from Haiti after the earthquake without so much as checking to make sure they didn’t have relatives or even parents alive and looking for them. They got arrested, which is what is supposed to happen to kidnappers. Its complex, if a self described “white Republican” adopts a child simply to make some kind of political point that is about the worst reason someone could adopt a child. I have also heard horror stories of Americans adopting babies from Russia and later abandoing or mistreating them precisely because they wanted a white baby and most white baby orphans in America get adopted instantly. One of the noblest things someone could do in terms of adoption I think would be to adopt an older child not a baby as oftentimes no one wants to adopt them and the baggage people assume they must have,

  2. Excellent, especially when you turn the question and have the child, twenty years old and trying to immigate to the land of freedom.

    I think what I find most distasteful – and this nothing to do with adoption – is the language that the Republicans are using to describe their president.

    I get that it’s not all of them, but then I’m faced with them having a hard time understanding the conflict going on within the muslim community, faced with assault from the fanatic minority, yet being told that they must do something about it because it’s their responsibility.

  3. The term for this is “humanitarian imperialism”, from (Jean Bricmont’s great book) now replacing colonialism which unfortunately requires the colonizer to actually live in the country targeted. Now, NGOs, missionaries, churches, foreign universities, all come in, teach the natives how to speak the colonizer’s language, jack up the rents, change the neighborhoods so they seem more, you know, “civilized”, bomb the place, assassinate the leaders, and yes, traffic the children. The French’s join Jane Aronson ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jane-aronson/abyssinian-princess-on-ho_b_919186.html )—who actually refers to Ethiopia by its colonial name Abyssinia in this article—as perhaps the most heinous (yet most truthful) American colonizers out there.

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