Get The Gypsy Blonde Child Snatchers: Reactions To Reporting On Maria
OTHERS have joined Anorak is denouncing the media for its unbridled bigotry in the story of “blonde angle” of Maria, the golden child ‘abducted’ by swarthy, “grooming”, feckless gypsies.
One doesn’t like to descend into comment sections, but a perusal of those on these latest stories is like peering into something out of the Malleus Maleficarum, or Borat. Americans, who for the most part see gypsies as something you dress up as on Halloween when your mom forgot to get you a real costume, express utter bafflement, while Europeans, who never tire of calling Americans out on their racism, insist on the toxicity of these people—their essential, unchanging, criminal nature; it’s who they are, they insist. It’s their culture. They can’t be changed, so they have to—somehow—be gotten rid of. (My favorite thread managed to both laud Hitler for killing the Roma along with the Jews, while blaming the Jews for the Roma not getting any credit for the Holocaust. And also, did you know we’re both capitalists and Bolsheviks? Blah blah blah.)
While it certainly seems like something not-quite-aboveboard was going on here, the case has raised fears that the case of the “blonde angel,” as she has been called in the Greek media, could reignite old myths of Gypsies kidnapping white children. When ancient prejudices combine with the tabloid media’s fixation on missing blond children, it’s hard to imagine anything good coming from it.
Photo below: the angelic heroic blondes and the bad gypsy.
The notion of the baby-snatching Gypsy is an old racist stereotype. Since I was born it has been a running joke within my family that I was stolen. My mum’s engagement to a Roma man resulted in three considerably darker-skinned siblings. Among my Roma family I couldn’t have stood out more, but lucky for me I can now hand down the “stolen baby” joke to my younger brother who was born with strikingly blonde hair. In the current environment, however, I must ask just how funny this joke is.
Romany journalist and former Travellers’ Times editor Jake Bowers was interviewed on a number of programmes, including BBC News, regarding the outcry. He said that he was worried the alleged abduction scandal would fuel “yet another stereotype that Romani people will be beaten with.
“It’s astounding the way that it’s been reported, that there’s a shock and horror that a blonde child has been found within a Romani community. It’s amazing because I’m blonde, I’m blue eyed, I’m from the Roma community, and there are blonde and blue eyed people throughout the Romani community.”
He continued: “But the shock there is in the media is that this child, a blonde child, is being raised in a poverty-stricken, destitute environment. Yet there is no shock and there is no horror about the fact that there are millions of Romani children across Europe that live in ghettos, that live far below the European poverty line, and that receives no media coverage at all.”
Matthew Brindley from the Traveller Movement said: “We are very concerned and think it is completely unacceptable that the police or social services act without clear and definitive information” and suggested that the authorities in both countries where heavily influenced by a Europe-wide “media frenzy” that was both “sensationalist, inaccurate and loaded with racism.” He added that the authorities were acting on criteria that were similar to “something that you would expect in Nazi Germany, which is worrying.”
The stereotype of Gypsies as child snatchers is centuries old, but ask anyone if they can give you a specific incident, and they will scratch their heads. More disturbing historical facts have survived, including records of more than 133 anti-Gypsy laws enacted in the Holy Roman Empire at around 1551, which made being a Gypsy punishable by death, and authorities systematically took Romany kids from their parents and placed them in “proper” homes, a trend that continued well into the first half of the 19th century.
Lead photos, with original AP caption:
In a Gypsy camp near Marburg, Germany, Romany children show the need for haircuts and clothes, July 16, 1947. Though the Nazis attempted to root out the Gypsies of Europe as “non-Aryans,” many thousands survive to roam at will along Europe’s roads. They shrug off post-war governments attempts to make them settle down. (AP Photo/B.I. Sanders)