In case you missed it, a couple of days ago the police in Greece, while raiding a Roma neighborhood of Farsala, found a blond girl they say didn’t fit. On one hand, it seems the police just swept up Maria because she didn’t look like her parents, on the other hand, the state asserts that Maria’s parents claim they have 14 children, six who are less than ten months apart which would make them suspicious. Of something, somehow. When I first saw the story, my immediate reaction was that it was just another case of prejudice against the Roma. Historically, next to Jews, the Roma are Europe’s favorite scapegoats. They are the classic outsiders, after all.
From the newspaper reports, it seems the police were in the area looking for drugs and weapons when they spotted the girl who looked different, and confiscated her. I have a problem with the police going to minority communities looking for drugs anyway, and an even bigger problem with the authorities confiscating kids without real cause. Sure, they will probably find drugs in the community just like they would probably find them with a random drug bust anywhere.
As I type that, a little inside voice is screaming Yea, but there is a better chance of finding drugs in a Roma neighborhood. Then I remembered a story an acquaintance told me. She loves plants and lives in Atherton so she thought she would try growing pot. She figured she would be able to get a better grade for less money, less risk, and more fun. It turned out that it wasn’t as easy as she thought. Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning that male and female flowers are on different plants and the idea is to keep the males away from the females so then females continue to grow flowers rather than seeds. In Atherton, so many people are growing pot that the male pollen is everywhere and it was very difficult to keep the females isolated. According to Forbes, Atherton is the most expensive place to live in the United States and you can be sure that nobody is making random drug searches there.
Meanwhile, back in Greece, they had no real cause, they just took Maria away from her parents and decided to find a cause later. In a turn around, they say they have a kidnapped child but nobody from whom she kidnapped but they still charged the parents with abduction. Now. the parents, it seems, will have to prove that she wasn’t kidnapped. She doesn’t look like her parents but they don’t claim that they are the biological parents, they claim that a woman from Bulgaria asked them to take Maria because that mother couldn’t take care of her. Now they are trying to prove that they didn’t commit a crime that may not have even been committed (on the bright side, a Roma kid who was taken from her parents, has been reunited after DNA tests showed they were related).
Here is the thing, though, when I read that Maria’ parents are illiterate, and had registered their family in several towns, collecting about $3,420 a month in child welfare subsidies; when I read that they have 14 children, six who are less than ten months apart: I started to think, Well, yeah, they are gypsies after all, and gypsies are known for abducting children and trafficking in them. I started to buy into the whole gypsy abductor scenario. It scares me how easily I can slip into the same stereotyping that I blame the police for.
And it scares me almost as much how easily I can stereotype the police for doing the wrong thing.