Monday, 21 October 2013

How do you solve a problem like Maria? Racism, racism and more racism.

There are 12 million Roma in Europe. There are poor Roma, there are rich Roma, there are fat Roma, there are thin Roma – my God, there are even blonde Roma. Then there are two Roma in Greece who may or may not have abducted a blonde girl called Maria. Two Roma. That’s around 0.000017% of Europe’s Roma population. The media, being it’s ever so rational self, have concluded that this statistic is beyond shocking. You will be relieved to know, therefore, that they have alerted the world to the imminent threat that Europe’s Roma pose to the safety of your children (especially the blonde ones). 


Of course, this sensationalism is nothing new. The Gypsies have always been known for their baby snatching ways and their real life Fagin gangs of feral pickpocketing children, probably trafficked from Romania or somewhere with an equally bad infestation of Gypsies. What is different this time, however, is that it has come in the midst of an already full blown media attack upon Bulgarian and Romanian Roma. This is a priceless piece of propaganda for the Daily Mail and friends who are hell bent on encouraging casual racism towards any Roma who dare to step over the borders come 2014. Not only will they steal your jobs, your benefits, your council houses, and your child’s place at primary school, but they will now steal your children too. 

Don’t get me wrong, my heart breaks for little Maria if she has been abducted or mistreated, however, clear and alarming messages have emerged from the media coverage. Maria has made headline news across the world not because she was ‘abducted’ but because she is white. Not only is she white, she is the epitome of whiteness – blonde hair, blue eyes and beautiful. The purity of a little white blonde girl fiercely contrasts with the perceived ‘dirtiness’ of the Roma. Media reports refer to the dilapidated and filthy Roma neighbourhood in which she was found and the ‘obscure Roma language’ in which she speaks. Essentially what the media are saying is that it is more than ok for the Roma to live in such an environment as they are a dirty and unwanted race. When a pretty little white girl is discovered amongst this poverty, however, it is a shocking case of child abuse. 

The media have been able to ascribe the heartlessness, cruelty and criminality of child abduction to a ‘dirty’ and ‘criminal’ ethnic group. Forgetting that there is, and will always be, white child traffickers, the media have predictably referred to Maria as the ‘Greek Maddie’. Just last week, the same newspapers circulated artist impressions of the two main suspects in the Madeleine McCann case. They were thought to be white, fair haired, and possibly German. In spite of these new leads, the media are now implying that Madeleine was almost certainly stolen by Gypsies. Some ‘journalists’ have even gone as far to suggest that Ben Needham was abducted and held at the same Roma camp as Maria. In effect, they are insinuating that white people couldn’t possibly abduct or murder cute, white, blonde children despite all the evidence on the contrary. 

The reporting of this case has not gone without criticism. I am not the only person who has noticed the blatant racist undertones within the majority of articles and TV news broadcasts. Much of this criticism, however, is unhelpful. Often people believe that defending ‘the accused’ is helpful to the community under fire. It is not our job to decide the guilt or innocence of Maria’s alleged abductors. In every community, ethnicity and race there are good and bad people and if little Maria has been mistreated then those responsible must be punished. What we must condemn, however, is the sensationalist reporting, the stereotyping, and the assumptions made about the Roma people. Maria’s story, if we are to believe she was abducted, is undoubtedly a sad one. Perhaps what is just as sad, however, is the fact that people are still prepared to condemn 12 million people for the actions of just 2.











12 comments:

  1. Another question sprang into my mind reading about this yesterday was: How often are "white" couples investigated when they are running around with Children of Colour?

    WoC alone with "white" children are nannies, obviously...

    ReplyDelete
  2. If they found a black or darkskinned child in the same circumstances, what would happen? Nothing. Now we herar of a similar case in Ireland, hysteria is on it's way, watch yerself!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am from the U.S. and am struck by how similar your description of The Daily Mail's portrayal of Romani people is to the U.S. conservative media's portrayal of migrant workers. They apparently pull from the same play book: scapegoating of a minority population. It's an old trick that's been in the play book of regimes from the Medieval church, to the Nazis to Pol Pot, and makes me sick. Your blog is amazing. Keep fighting the good fight.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Fantastic article - thank you for sharing this.

    In case you hadn't heard, DNA tests indicate that Maria is a child of the Roma couple in question: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24645947

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great read. Fay: the link you gave is a different case but it highlights the same problem.
    A child in Ireland is seen as not belonging to the Roma family based on looks. Fourteen children of a Roma family are not thought off because they are darkskinned. Only the "blonde angel" catches the attention of the authorities because of its looks.
    BTW, they have allegedly found the biological mother, a Roma from Bulgaria.
    The useless sensationalist journos are now wondering if Maria should be handed to the biological mother because of her living conditions in Bulgaria. Hypocrisy at its best !

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you! Maria's Story has been angering me all week, and you have articulated exactly why. Please keep writing.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Excellent post. About the only sensible thing I've seen on this farago.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Top post. Best thing that I have read on the case so far.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great article in the Guardian! Hope you continue writing.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Totally agree - I am also angry about the case of Maria, because they have removed that little girl from 2 families who love her dearly only to place her in "care" and now they're saying that "she may be better off in an institution"!!!?? Well, I am quite certain she will NOT... I grew up in care myself and nothing compares to the love of a family unit. Either they must return Maria to the people who were already caring for her, or even better by way of apology the Greek authorities should pay for Maria's real family to move to Greece and have a big enough house to care for all their children. Then Maria could still be with those who love her most.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great words. If all people could use logic and common sense like you did the world would be a better place, by far.
    Stereotypes harm people; this one surely did.

    ReplyDelete