Someone Should Have Told Madonna That Stealing Babies is Hard Work
Clearly she has no idea of what real hardship means
The views expressed in this Op-Ed do not reflect that of Loop 21.
Madonna is still an ambitious woman, but these days she finds that ambition tempered with the difficulty of raising four kids by herself. In an interview with The Sun, Madonna made it clear that since her separation from Guy Ritchie in 2008, being a single parent is tough. Discussing her latest song, “I Don’t Give A,” Madonna states, “It's about the life of a single mother. It's a challenge juggling everything -- multi-tasking is my middle name.” I don’t doubt that raising four children alone is a daunting task; however, Madonna certainly does not inspire any sympathy from me.
Shall we consider for a moment that two of the children in her custody – Mercy James and David Banda – are the result of dubious transnational adoptions? Mercy’s uncle, John Nglanade, was initially responsible for blocking Madonna’s first attempt at adoption. Lucy Chekechiwa, Mercy’s grandmother, made it clear that she did not want her grandchild adopted outside of Malawi. Let’s not forget that David’s father only agreed to the adoption when he was assured by Malawian officials that Madonna would only have temporary custody of David. Clearly, this man was misinformed as to exactly what adoption means.
[ALSO READ: Should More Black Mothers Breastfeed?]
Despite clear familial objections to the adoptions of both David and Mercy, Madonna forged forward, determined to be yet another white earth-mother with black children in tow. She has not reached the numbers of Angelina Jolie, but Madonna believed that her class status and her whiteness would offer a better life for these two children, even though removing them from Malawi means that both kids are now cut off from their nation and culture of origin. This disconnect is not something new for children of the African Diaspora, but due to the circumstances of their birth, it is an emotion that Mercy and David could both have avoided if Madonna had chosen to invest in supporting black children by empowering their mothers, rather than assuming control of their children.
In her promotional interview, Madonna sought to position herself as the typical modern-day working mother, but her class position and race make this anything but the truth. Madonna made sure to highlight her ambitions while complaining about having to multi-task in raising her children ("I'm not going to lie — it's hard work having four kids and doing all the work I do."). Unlike Mercy and David’s parents, Madonna does not have to worry that her children will be taken from her because she cannot provide the basics. Madonna instead wields the power to remove children from their country of origin.
If you’re not convinced that race and class are factors in adoption, consider the story of Charolmane and Prince Leonard, who lived with their six children inside a shed in Houston, Texas. Charolmane stayed home with their children and all of the kids were maintaining a B-average in school, but after just three hours in their home, the children were removed by Child Protective Services. According to Charlomane, "They didn't ask us if we needed help or anything. They just said, 'You can stay here, but your children can't.'" Defense attorney Julie Ketterman claims that although poverty cannot be listed as a legal reason for removal, it is often the reason why CPS chooses to act.
[ALSO READ: Is Beyonce's Career Over After Baby?]
Other than rent, the largest expense for a family is food. At any moment in time, Madonna can command a repast fit for a king. For the Leonards, it was back to the basics: they grew their own vegetables in the summer and filled jugs of water at local grocery stores. However, no one in the family was starving or malnourished. Are the Leonards somehow less fit parents because they live below the poverty line? Or did the state intervene because they are black and poor?
Consider the statistics for single mothers living in the United States. Over 25% of the children in the U.S. are currently being raised in single parent households and within that figure, 85% of those households are lead by women. According to the Census Data report on poverty in 2010, single female lead households have a poverty rate of 42% and an extreme poverty rate of 21%. Being a single parent is one of the most likely indicators of poverty in a woman’s life because it interrupts and often erases opportunities for advanced education, as well as limiting the ability to do things like work overtime in order to garner promotions. Social services do exist, but they often fall short of helping achieve positive class growth. Even though these measures are meant to be a stop-gap between absolute impoverishment, there is a negative stigma attached to any woman who uses social benefits to support her family. Ronald Reagan may have started the myth of the “welfare queen,” but today, the stereotype is alive and well, as an increasing number families fall below the poverty line.
Madonna is not a typical anything. She has both the class and racial privilege to engage in the neo-colonialist theft of children. When she needs to attend to a business matter, Madonna has the class privilege to afford good childcare. A significant percentage of single mothers struggle to provide the basic necessities, while Madonna has ready access to anything that her children need or desire. She may well see herself as struggling, but clearly she has no idea of what real hardship means because both her wealth and whiteness have removed her from the everyday concerns of the overwhelming majority of single mothers.
Perhaps if Madonna had not been so overly enamored with playing great earth-mother, she would not find the task of mothering so daunting. David and Mercy may well fall under the category of White Woman’s Burden, but how can anyone take Madonna’s hardship seriously? She is so far removed from the typical experience that one could well describe her life as being one of hyper-privilege rather than hardship.