Tarikuwa Lemma appearing on Melissa Harris Perry Show April 28, 2013.

Tarikuwa Lemma appearing on Melissa Harris Perry Show April 28, 2013.

From The GrioNineteen-year-old Tarikuwa Lemma is a survivor, of an international adoption scandal. When she was 13, she was effectively sold from her native Ethiopia to an American family. The corrupt “adoption agency” convinced her father, who was a widow, that Tarikuwa and her younger sisters were headed to the U.S. as part of an educational exchange program, and that they would return home every summer and on holiday breaks. Little did he know, his daughters had been placed with adoptive couples in the U.S., never to return. Tarikuwa’s name was changed against her will, and she was forbidden by her American “family” from speaking her native language. The issue of transnational adoption, its evangelical Christian component, and the exploitation of communities that sometimes results, is the subject of the book, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption by Kathryn Joyce, who appeared, along with Tarikuwa, on last Sunday’s “Melissa Harris Perry” show on MSNBC. Below is Tarikuwa’s satirical look at the “rescue” of children from her home country, to “better lives” in America.

It is a tragedy to travel to this deeply historical country of Ethiopia. We see the streets, the roads, the shack doors, crowded with poor Ethiopian mothers, women who have been collecting whatever scraps they can find to feed their hollow-eyed children. Teenagers, living on their own on the streets, shoot their own looks of desperation. Ethiopian men lie on the ground with exhaustion from not having been fed for days, for instead of eating, they feed whatever tiny amounts of food they get to their children.

I think it is agreed by all parties overseas that we should come up with a solution to help Ethiopian children we see on a late night TV programs: children with flies on their faces, no clothes, no food or water, begging for families to sponsor or adopt them. It is time that America comes up with an easy and simple solution to save all these children.

After all, as an adoptee, I have already been saved, and no longer feel attached to the Ethiopian ways, since everything in America has been so much better. So many malls, convenient fast-food restaurants, smooth roads, and everyone has a car. My intention is to help my fellow Ethiopians, as I was helped, when perfect strangers sought to save me from my family.

Ethiopian children are dying on the streets by their mothers’ — sometimes their father’s — sides. I can no longer stay silent. It is time for me to address this world crisis by joining American Christians, who are on the mission to save the world’s orphans. Americans are sick and tired of hearing about everyone in Ethiopia with HIV/AIDS along with their other diseases, starving and uneducated. Life is so much better in America because everyone is living in better conditions — and let’s not forget that we have democracy.

For example, what will happen to the family of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who ruled Ethiopia for 21 years and died recently, leaving his wife, his three children, his extended family and Ethiopia. What is going happen to those children? I must worry, because by United Nations (UN) standards, a child living with one parent is defined as an orphan. One of the American adoption agencies surely will save them from their horrible life with a single mother, and bring them to America so they can have better opportunities. They will have to start a new life. They will learn a new language, their names will be changed to American names, they will have to go to a new school or even better be home-schooled. They will have everything they ever wanted including things like: ipod, iphone, Wii, etc. Once you give them all those things, they will forget about their country, their culture and their loved ones because they will be living a better life here in America.

How uncaring are the Ethiopians who had children when they are poor. How could they offer their children opportunities when they can’t even feed them? They should have thought twice before deciding to have a big family. And they say it is their “culture.” Don’t worry because American superheroes are ready to save Africans, but first they will start with Ethiopians.

Therefore, dear friends, we will have the Ethiopian government sign over all the current and future children of Ethiopia to America. Americans will give them better opportunity. I, along with many other grateful Ethiopian adoptees, will be helping with this American Christian mission. The Ethiopian government, along with American missionaries and with the assistance of Ethiopian Airlines, will start delivering children age eighteen and younger to the United States. A mother or a father who fight to keep their children will be put in jail, since all this is happening in the best interest of the children. The Ethiopian government surely will give death sentences to anyone who tries to stops this Christian practice. The Ethiopian and American government won’t let the Devil stand in the way of this Christ-like act.

We understand that there will be mommies and daddies that will be crying as American missionaries take the children from their “homes” and pluck them from the streets. Once the children have left their homeland, we will prevent their heathenish childrearing. We will exceed the rationale of China and have a NO CHILD policy for Ethiopia. How are we going to make this work? Well, scientists are in the process of testing a one shot solution. Then, when our Ethiopian mission is complete, we will move into another ruined African country.

Continue Reading @ The Grio

  • Pseudonym

    “It is a tragedy to travel to this deeply historical country of Ethiopia. We see the streets, the roads, the shack doors, crowded with poor Ethiopian mothers, women who have been collecting whatever scraps they can find to feed their hollow-eyed children. Teenagers, living on their own on the streets, shoot their own looks of desperation. Ethiopian men lie on the ground with exhaustion from not having been fed for days, for instead of eating, they feed whatever tiny amounts of food they get to their children.”

    Having been to Ethiopia, this depiction is a bit disturbing. Yes, there is poverty in Ethiopia just as there is poverty in every country, but all of Ethiopia is not starving and feeding hollowed-eyed children with scraps. At least acknowledge that you are speaking about certain areas of Ethiopia: a particular city slum or a certain poor rural village. Stop perpetuating this stereotype of Africa as this huge starving suffering continent. Acknowledge that you are specifically talking about Ethiopia’s poor. To paint all of Ethiopia with this depiction of poverty and famine is incorrect, irresponsible, and insulting to your people.

  • Mademoiselle

    I think most of the article was written as a poignant satire, pointing out how self-righteous missionaries who view children of Ethiopia/Africa/Third World Countries as being in such extreme need of salvation at any cost that they will rely on the commercialized image of poverty and destitution to justify their participation in illegal and corrupt “adoptions” that amount to little more than kidnapping, and then pat themselves on the back for tearing families apart and sterilizing any memories those kids have of their roots. I know it happens in Haiti, China, and all sorts of other “undeveloped” nations. Westerners/descendants of European colonialism are notorious for going around the globe like their shit don’t stink, thinking they’re saving people from themselves by forcing them to do what westerners do. To them, everyone’s a savage until they’ve downed the European Kool-Aid.

  • Jaz

    I think thats the point. It’s a satirical piece.

  • Pseudonym

    Ahhhhh…I couldn’t even get that far, I just stopped reading and went to read trashy news at Daily Mail. hehehe

    Something interesting on the subject though: when I was in Ethiopia, there were a lot of white couples adopting babies and my friend told me that it’s a common practice for European NGO couples stationed in East African countries to “adopt” a baby while they’re staying in the country and then when it’s time for them to return home, they’ll just leave the baby behind after it had bonded with them for years. Crazy, right?

  • ETC

    As an Ethiopian, I would say that this story barely touches the surface of western hegemony. As this satire states, a lot of wealthy (mostly white) people enjoy treating people and cultures as commodities. Although they seek to “save” people, I believe that they know within their hearts that they are trying to demonstrate superiority and power. If they truly wanted to help developing countries thrive, why wouldn’t they invest and do business with them instead? Also, if they really wanted to adopt children “in need”, why don’t they adopt children that are in the U.S.? In order for African countries (and some Latin and Asian countries too) to be free of western control, they have to stop opening up their economies and countries to all of these NGOs and initiatives. Self sufficiency is key. I am so thankful that many of my brothers and sisters are waking up to this. I see a beautiful future for my country, my continent and for all POC around the world.

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  • MommieDearest

    I’m so glad that a person with first hand experience of being “saved” by the cape-clad Western heroes has spoken out. I have felt this way for a long time… After the earthquake in Haiti, I found it very disturbing how white folks immediately swooped in by the plane loads and started grabbing up kids practically before the ground stopped trembling. It was akin to vultures descending upon fallen prey.

  • MommieDearest

    @Pseudonym

    “Something interesting on the subject though: when I was in Ethiopia, there were a lot of white couples adopting babies and my friend told me that it’s a common practice for European NGO couples stationed in East African countries to “adopt” a baby while they’re staying in the country and then when it’s time for them to return home, they’ll just leave the baby behind after it had bonded with them for years. Crazy, right?”

    That’s just… wrong. But not shocking. It’s the same thing that went on during slavery. It was not uncommon for black children to be kept in the big house as playmates or “pets” for the master’s children. Once the black children grew out of the “oh he’s/she’s so cute mommy, can I keep him/her?” stage, they were put to work in the house or sent back out to the field.

  • http://twitter.com/Cognorati001 Colette Marcheline (@Cognorati001)

    “they’ll just leave the baby behind after it had bonded with them for years.”

    OMG. I don’t have any words. :(

  • http://twitter.com/Cognorati001 Colette Marcheline (@Cognorati001)

    Corruption is the number one problem in non-Western countries. People would not believe just how much of foreign aid is plundered and the different ways people find to manipulate and exploit any situation.

    The scariest thing I’ve read is that in some nations, they are actually engaging in “baby farming”: forcibly impregnating African women and girls and then selling the children for adoption or — horrifyingly — sex slavery.

    I’ve been planning on adopting internationally for most of my life but I’m so stunned by what’s coming to light in a couple of books that I think I need to reconsider or help children in need here.

  • Sandy

    A lot of African parents who give up their children for adoption do not realize that they are signing away all rights they have to those children forever. When I worked for an NGO in Ghana, I realized that a lot of parents (families) that give up children for adoption to foreigners thought that the children were going to the US or Europe to be taken care of by the ‘kind’ foreigners & that these kids would return to help their families once they grew up & acquired some wealth. You see, when you read the works of scholars like Danquah, Sarbah, Rattray, you realize that the concept of adoption as it exists in the Western world is foreign to a lot of African cultures. For example, among the Ashanti ethnic group in Ghana, when a parent became incapable of taking care of his/her child, any member of the community or any relative could step in, take the child home & take care of the child. However, it was never considered that the child now had new legal parents or that his original parents ceased to be his parents forever.

  • http://twitter.com/Cognorati001 Colette Marcheline (@Cognorati001)

    I’m aware of the changes (for instance, it now takes one year for the adoption to be finalized even after one has been matched and cleared! It is literally a waiting period).

    I’ve also been reading how little adoption agencies are required to disclose and it’s scary. Children might have life-long illnesses or been exposed to extreme abuse and neglect and prospective parents are not necessarily told. Turns out agencies aren’t really legally bound to.

    When one consideres that issues like attachment disorder might never be overcome and cause lifelong suffering for all involved, it’s just terrifying.

  • http://twitter.com/Cognorati001 Colette Marcheline (@Cognorati001)

    “You see, when you read the works of scholars like Danquah, Sarbah, Rattray, you realize that the concept of adoption as it exists in the Western world is foreign to a lot of African cultures. For example, among the Ashanti ethnic group in Ghana, when a parent became incapable of taking care of his/her child, any member of the community or any relative could step in, take the child home & take care of the child. ”

    This is a HUGELY important point. For most of us from non-Western nations, there is no historical framework for understanding Western adoption. Children are almost always taken in by close friends and family members and there is no concept of a parent losing an identify as parent, especially in a permanent, legally binding manner.

    People are underestimating what kind of ethical issue this causes in cases where non-Western parents sincerely cannot comprehend that they have no right to ever see their child again, or that the situation is not temporary or reversible.

    Coming from a non-Western framework, I feel prospective parents have a moral obligation to maintain children’s family and cultural ties.

  • Soulfulindustry

    For some reason, I want to remind you that corruption is not just something that only happens in “these countries”.

    I get a wee cranky when folks living on American and European soil forget that we have our own problems with corruption. Not to mention America has an inability to properly care for and educate all it’s children.

    We (America) have no right to venture anywhere else with the intention of saving children until we fix our own mess. From what I have seen, the US (can’t speak for anywhere else) has some pretty jacked up adoption practices itself.

  • Elsan

    Oh, I just realized this was mostly satire lol. I see the author’s points and understand where she’s coming from… I think.

  • Nika

    As a woman who may never have children of my own, I have considered adopting, but within my on country. I feel for those African babies. But people seem to forget that there are literally thousands of starving African American babies that need saving too. The average cost to adopt a child in American is $25,000 and American agencies are held to a higher standard. Florida alone has thousands of children hoping that someone will come in an rescue them.
    The average cost to adopt outside the U.S. ranges from $15,000 up to $100,000 depending on the country. A lot of those agencies make you jump through hoops and get your hopes up with no requirement to produce any real children. A lot of people end up paying thousands in administration fees and exhaust their funds before ever getting a child. Those poor children’s best interest is not taken into account, especially in countries like Haiti where children are on waiting list for years.
    What I find most interesting is that white families do more adopting of black children outside the country than within, while our black American children often age out of the system.
    If I’m going to adopt it will first be within this country as I feel I owe allegiance to those children. Plus, when the time comes and my baby wants to know his/her history, I want her to be able to have a fighting chance of finding her real parents someday.
    I wish we all had the money to ensure no child goes without a family, but we don’t. I just personally feel that we should fix our problems here before we go trying to work on the rest of the world.

  • Lynne

    (Pardon me for coming so late to this party. I’ve brought seafood salad!)

    I remember when the Haitian earthquake hit. There were lots of news stories about well-meaning, but thoughtless, white Americans swooping into that country and taking its children. I was furious. I was part of a group that sent money and supplies to Haiti, but take its children?

    I think part of the problem is that many whites don’t see communities of color — especially poor ones — as actual communities. They see poverty, and that’s it. They don’t see these places as having culture, tradition, deep connections, and love. Therefore, they see themselves as rescuing these children from the “perils” of their birth situation.

    Another thing is the tendency to fetishize the “other.” I saw this when a white male acquaintance sent money to Haiti because Haitians “kept the voodoo tradition alive.” Maybe in the end it didn’t matter. People received aid. I just wish he hadn’t been so weird about it.

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