Neo-colonialism: APs on the front lines of Empire

I saw this post on the Huffington Post web site:

Abyssinian Princess on Horseback: Inspiration for all Orphans

And I was literally dumbstruck. Abyssinia? The European colonial name for the former kingdom of Ethiopia? They refuse to post my entire comment, so I would like to put it here:

In adoptee circles, we joke about the “pool and pony” that is promised to orphans once they are adopted, and here, on this noisome page, is the “pony” part of the bargain at least. I really don’t know where to start here.

Is it the offensive use of the European colonial term for Ethiopia? Is it the disturbingly racist trope of the “African Princess” (Reader’s Digest also likes to use this one when describing “orphans” from that continent.) Is it the painfully elitist sport of equestrianism, 180-degrees from this child’s humble beginnings? Is it the Muslim name that the girl keeps, although I am pretty sure that, like me, she was trafficked out of her homeland by Christian missionaries? Is it the fact that “Alia” is the feminine derivative of [Imam] “Ali” (pbuh), whose attention to justice toward the orphan meant, in keeping with Islamic injunction, keeping truly orphaned children with their community, with their names intact, and with full awareness of their lineage? Should I keep going? It’s quite a long list.

For those of us who have returned to our lands of birth, this mythology, as painted by those who earn their living from peddling such stories, is hugely painful to read. Especially given the history of Ethiopia, which, like my Lebanon, is one of colonial usurpation, occupation, economic and political warfare, all in the name of the lifestyle of those in the First World who, like Dr. Aronson, willfully ignore such history and reality because that is their privilege, and this is their paycheck. I believe in any other context this would be called profiting from human trafficking, and no amount of crocodile tears shed while manipulating an iPhone (good God, but this is almost a parody of itself) will ever amount to more than a drop in the bucket shed by this child who, I hope and pray, returns to her true family or extended family, and learns to undo the racist and classist culture that you have imposed on her against her will.

I really feel for this little girl. She’s like a living jockey statue; her life is like a bell jar.

People often take what I say about adoption today as a blow against my adoptive parents. But I make a difference between the world in 1963, with Pearl S. Buck and a kind of naive JFK-friendly Empire, with my adoptive parents passively adding to this, and today’s adoptive parents who I see as an informed class who make this decision in spite of what they know. They are more on the vanguard of Empire, actively enforcing it and enabling it.

5 thoughts on “Neo-colonialism: APs on the front lines of Empire

  1. Here is a link from Lemn Sissay, interviewed in Arise magazine.

    Quoting my friend who sent me the link (an Eritrean adoptee), Lemn was “fostered by white fundamentalist Christians when he was a few months old (he is Eritrean and Ethiopian), their intention was that he grow up and go to Africa as a missionary (seriously), then when he was nine they dumped him back
    in care (not before telling him he had the devil inside him. Nice.)


  2. During the Israeli war on Lebanon in July/August 2006, my adoptive father said to me, when I told him that I refused to evacuate, that this was perhaps better; at least now “they” will see that “not all Americans are bad”. As if I were a goodwill ambassador here, or something. And as if I defined myself as “American”.

    I am struck by the stories from, say, Franco’s Spain, where the transfer of children from one class to another is much more obvious, and much more visibly based in this idea of a systemic depopulation of the underclass. I’m surprised there isn’t more writing on this from, say, Ireland, in the face of Anglo-Saxon actions against their children. And then I find it disturbing to read it from within the Black American community, as in this story:

    Unraveling the Black Adoption Myths in America

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