When Maria, the “blonde angel”, was discovered living with a Roma family in Greece, an immediate anti-Roma frenzy took hold of Europe. Long-held fears about Roma communities and their involvement in child trafficking were apparently vindicated. Just as the mob was forming, DNA testing confirmed that Maria’s biological parents were in fact also Roma. Not only that, but they looked just as different from Maria as the parents that had looked after her did.
Unfortunately, this was only the beginning, as other blonde and blue-eyed children had already been taken from Roma families in Ireland under suspicion of child trafficking. A seven year old girl and two year old boy were both removed from their families by police and returned following DNA testing. It’s disturbing to see that police would behave this way – after one case of supposed child trafficking, racial profiling against the Roma communities begins instantly and aggressively. The Guardian also reported that a group of young people entered a Roma home and attempted to take a two year old boy from his family, claiming he didn’t look dark enough to be their child.
Roma people have long been stereotyped as thieves of children, a misconception that dates back centuries, and is linked to similar anti-Semitic stereotypes. This makes the public reaction to Maria’s case particularly alarming. Maria’s “blonde angel” nickname only highlights the racism toward Roma people; it is as if her blonde hair and pale skin somehow raise her above the darker haired, darker skinned family that looked after her. As with any other ethnic group, there are many variations in appearance, and the fact that anyone would think Maria could not come from a family like hers is extremely ignorant. In my experience – as a redhead in an entirely brunette family – children do not always look exactly like their parents.
Unfortunately, false ideas about the looks and behaviour of Roma people have instigated an unnecessary witch-hunt. There is no clear-cut solution to child trafficking in Europe but if there was, it certainly wouldn’t be blindly separating blonde children from Roma families.