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Pop star Madonna’s attempt to adopt a second child from Malawi is sparking all sorts of discussion about international adoption, race, paternalism and how Americans can best help children and adults in countries mired in poverty. What I find interesting is the unquestioned way the media is categorizing adopting a black child from Malawi (or other child of color from another country) vs. adopting a white child from the United States, or, I would venture, any other country. The former is positioned as charity. In this view, American parents are a gift to the child and the “third world,” rather than the child being a gift to his or her new family. Check out this CNN interview. I understand the point the guy from Save the Children is trying to make, but why the equation of international adoption with charity for the poor brown people?

Chetry: You heard Madonna … say it’s no one’s business. Over the weekend, you came out, though, and urged Madonna to rethink this adoption. What is your biggest concern?

Nutt: Well, our biggest concern is that we believe that in the most — in the majority of cases, orphans, so-called orphans, in fact [are] not orphans — they have at least one parent living — and even those that don’t, have a wider family that can look after them. And we believe that children in poverty should be best looked after by their own people in their own environment. And that people like Madonna and organizations like Save the Children are best off helping those families by building schools and supporting them to look after these so-called orphans and not transporting them to live across the world in mansions, in pop stars’ mansions, that sort of thing. Read more…

In its most selective year yet, Harvard University will admit just 7 percent of high school applicants. This year’s record applicant pool of 29,112 featured ”unprecedented achievement”–2,900 of applicants had perfect SATs and 3,700 were class valedictorians. Barely over 2,000 students were offered admission. And the incoming freshman class is diverse:

A record 10.9 percent are Latino, Fitzsimmons said; 10.8 percent as African-American; 17.6 percent are Asian-American; and 1.3 percent are Native American. Another 8.9 percent are international students. Read more…

What’s that again about diversity requiring the lowering of standards?

At, Ed Moy interviews Amber Field about her new documentary short:

Jagadamba, Mother of the Universe (2008, 10 min), she invites viewers into her life as a queer transracial (Korean) adoptee who grew up in Korea, Nepal, and Liberia and then moved to Illinois when she was 12-years-old.

The film explores her childhood growing up in the Midwest, adoption, race, sexuality, and her life-long healing journey through music.

Through photographs, interviews and live musical performances throughout the film, audiences share in her self-discovery and transformation.

Jagadamba, Mother of the Universe will screen at the San Francisco International Women’s Film Festival Saturday April 4 at 5pm (Women’s Building, 3543 18th St. #8) and also at the United States of Asian American Festival May 9th at 7pm (Somarts, 934 Brannan Street). Read more…

A new University of Washington study challenges the way the U.S. Census classifies race:

SEATTLE – New research by the University of Washington finds that many Americans, especially Hispanics and Latinos, don’t consider themselves black, white or American Indian, three of the top choices on the 2000 census. Read more…


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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek,, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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