Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ancient Gypsy Stereotypes Alive and Well Today

Perhaps you've read an article about the mysterious case of the "white angel" of Greece.  It seems that all European media outlets are obsessed with the fair skinned princess kidnapped by gypsies.  I have heard that media attention is equally fixated on the story back in the states.

The couple who were holding her, who DNA tests have confirmed are not her biological parents, really might be terrible monsters.  While their version of the story is within the realm of possibility, the truth might be far more sinister.  They might be the sort of people who are just evil.  Perhaps they felt no remorse in kidnapping this child.

But let me clear one thing up.  The fact that these people might be monsters and the fact that these people are gypsies are not related.  Their Roma-ness ( which might best translate to "humanity" in the Roma language) has no bearing and no relation to this story.  Lots of people are monstrous human beings.  Many people kidnap children.  It just so happens that these two (possible) monsters are Roma people.

We cannot allow ancient stereotypes to continue to repress an entire people group.

When I was in the gypsy camp back in the spring, Pastor Volodymyr was showing me pictures of different teams that have come.  I pointed to two white children and asked which team they were from.  I was genuinely surprised that American or European parents had brought their children to the village and risked exposure to untreated diseases.  Pastor Volodymyr looked down at the picture and then back up at me.

"Those are our children.  They're Roma children.  I was there when they were born.  They're really ours."

I had struck a nerve I wasn't aware of.  I hadn't read of fair skinned Roma children and had never heard whispers of gypsies stealing children.  I apologized, but went back later and apologized again once I had read and understood the terrible social stigma that follows Roma communities with fair skinned children.

In Ireland a child who didn't look like a gypsy was taken away from her parents and only returned after DNA tests confirmed that she was their daughter.

Stereotypes harm people.  This is a stereotype that we must end.  We must look beyond ethnicity and see that all people are different.  Ted Bundy was a white man, and yet no one is accusing me of being a serial killer because of my whiteness.  The fact that so many willingly accept a connection between this couple's monstrous deed and their gypsy identity just shows how much more we must fight for acceptance and love of all people.

For further reading, you might look at this excellent piece written by Slate's Joshua Keating.  

No comments:

Post a Comment