Reuters has spoken with several people who were adopted as children by rich white families and moved far away from their cultural roots.
The article comes amidst recent hubbub surrounding Madonna’s attempt to adopt an African boy, coupled with Angelina Jolie’s adopted children from Thailand and Africa, and now new reports of Wynonna Judd contemplating the adoption of an African American child because her 10-year-old daughter would "like a black sister or brother."
Chris Atkins, who was about the same age as Madonna’s David Banda when she was adopted by a white British family, was abandoned as a newborn on the steps of a tenement building in Hong Kong.
Although her new family gave her love, protection and a future that she may never otherwise have had, she says there is a psychological price cross-border adoptees pay, and folks like Madonna should know that money and fame won’t be enough to cancel it out.
"People need to understand that the losses for the adoptees are immense and lifelong," Atkins, a founder member of the Transnational and Transracial Adoption Group (www.ttag.org.uk), told Reuters in an interview.
"The price many of us have paid is a lifelong struggle to gain a sense of belonging, to attain some kind of identity. And that lifelong struggle is tiring. It’s tiring being ignored, and it’s tiring being expected to say thank you all the time."
Atkins describes how "acutely embarrassed" she feels when Chinese people address her in Cantonese and she cannot answer. "They call people like me bananas — I’m yellow on the outside and white on the inside," she says.
Nick Pendry, an Indian transracial adoptee now living in London, says he has "anxieties" about the future of little David Banda.
"I worry about him being taken from his primary cultural context … and how that gap will be bridged," he told Reuters.
Pendry, whose Indian mother came from Kenya to Britain while pregnant and gave him up for adoption at six weeks old, says it is vital to have more children adopted into their own cultures. Raised in a white middle-class family in south west London, he too appreciates the love and advantage he was given, but says he has struggled with his identity.
"I have Indian friends and Indian family who I am in touch with, but I don’t have a shared laAnguage, a shared history, a shared culture with them," said Pendry, 34. "It leaves me in a kind of no man’s land of not being one or the other, and not really finding anywhere to fit."
Both Pendry and Atkins are eager not to condemn the American pop star’s actions outright, but express concern about how much long term thought she has put in. They urged Madonna and those like her to focus on improving the chances for orphans in their own countries or cultures.
"If money and resources had been put into finding an Indian family to adopt me, then I have no doubt I would have had a different and more positive experience in terms of cultural and racial connectedness," Pendry says. "The assumption is always that adoption into a white family is better than what the child would have had, but there is little thought given to how the alternative could be better."
According to an Associated Press story, Yohane Banda, an illiterate peasant farmer says that he was unaware that the adoption by Madonna and Guy Ritchie would be permanent.
Mr. Banda supported the adoption until he found out that his son would no longer be his son.
Madonna is also building an orphanage for up to 4,000 children outside of Malawi’s capital,Lilongwe.