Did you hear the one about the blonde-haired Roma child who was removed from her family because she allegedly didn’t look like ‘those people.’ (emphasis mine). Yes, it seems that European police officers are engaging in their own brand of racial profiling by snatching blonde-haired Roma children from their families on the assumption that they must have been kidnapped. Those assumptions are of course based on two prevailing stereotypes, ‘gypsies’ steal children and ‘gypsies’ can’t be blonde as they are a dark and swarthy people. The end result is that many families across Europe – from Greece to Ireland – are being split apart and terrorized by law enforcement officials who think they’re protecting innocent people. Hmmm.
NPR’s Code Switch website had a story about the situation in Europe last Sunday and received so many comments (129 at last check), that the writer, Gene Demby, posted a follow-up story about how the same phenomenon occurs in the United States when families don’t match. Remember the White dad at Wal-Mart who was followed home by Virginia police because a concerned shopper said he “didn’t match” his Black daughters? Turned out his wife is Black. So, what this line of storytelling tells me is that color matters. It tells me that people want family members to match, or else be prepared for everything from annoying stares to having your children unjustly taken away. Man, that’s crazy.
But this also tells me that the book I’m currently working on, which is all about families that don’t match because of color, is really necessary. Stay tuned.
I’m curious, are you surprised by what’s going on in Europe? Why or why not? I’m totally listening.
p.s. And speaking of color and not matching, Yaba Blay’s gorgeous new book (1)ne Drop:Shifting the Lens on Race is now out in print. You can hear her talk about this amazing project on WHYY’s Radio Times. Recorded today! Go Yaba!