Policing the Roma: Catching Up on Old News

So while I was off rubbing elbows with Mickey, Eeyore and friends, I missed word of a huge blow up involving a number of Roma families from Greece to Dublin. This might all be old news to you, but it’s new to me, and I wanted to take a moment to blog about it.

The basic facts run as follows: Greek police performed a raid on a Roma settlement, looking for illegal drugs and weapons. During the raid, they came across a blonde haired, blue eyed girl that a Roma couple claimed had been given to them. The couple were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping. Now it appears that the girl is the daughter of a Bulgarian couple who had given her away to another family because they couldn’t afford to feed her. It appears the story was much more complicated than it was at first glance.

Meanwhile, police in Dublin thought they’d found a similar case. Seven year old blonde girl living with a Roma family. So they snatched the girl to safety, away from those evil child stealing gypsies. (Deep breaths, Bryce. I gotta calm down a bit here.) Another boy was taken from a Roma family in Ireland around the same time. Both children were returned a day  or two later. Why? Because it turned out they were actually the children of the Roma couples in question.

People like to say it’s okay to portray “Gypsies” in fairy tales, because no one actually believes they exist. But the stereotype of the child-stealing Gypsy is exactly what everyone’s knee jerk reaction was in these instances–and it’s why more people need to be made aware of what’s actually happening.

Police have been taking children away from their parents because they think the kids don’t look enough like the parents. There’s no doubt racial profiling was involved here, and it’s just plain wrong. I don’t walk around with birth certificates of all my children handy on a moment’s notice, ready for when the police demand to see them. Why would I? They’re my children. And yet Roma couples need to, on the off chance that their kid’s skin isn’t dark enough?

Don’t get me started.

(That all said, I realize child trafficking is a thing, and it’s abhorrent. I just wish the focus were on the trafficking, and not the race of the accused–which seems to be why the story gained some much traction. Especially since it seems in hindsight that this huge trafficking ring police were worried about was just a wild overreaction, based on stereotypes.)

I’m irate about this, and I need to settle down some. But I didn’t want it to slip back into the newsblur without me at least highlighting it and addressing it somewhat. Did I miss some parts of the story in my absence? What else did people hear about this? I’d be very interested to know.

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