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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Blonde on Blonde: Diane Sawyer's racism shows in Roma child abduction

The look on her face after being "saved"
The four-year-old little blonde-haired, blue-eyed gypsy girl living in a Roma camp near Larissa, Greece, that the world has come to know as Maria, was abducted from the only family she has ever known by Greek authorities on 16 October 2013.

In a era were a dozen children are murdered every day in Syria without notice, the plight of little Maria quickly became an international headline. This is the way Diane Sawyer introduced the story on ABC World News on Monday 21 October 2013:
Next tonight the mystery of a girl known as Maria, a little girl with blue eyes found inside a kind of camp in Greece. How did she get there with those people and who are her real parents?
As far as Diane Sawyer was concerned, this Roma couple couldn't possibly be the "real parents" of such a "little blonde girl."

There are some 10 million Roma people spread throughout Europe, mostly in gypsy enclaves. As the crisis of capitalism has dug its claws deeper into European society, the Roma people, who are generally darker than most white Europeans, have become a favorite whipping boy. Like the Latino immigrants in the United States, they have become the targets of increased harassment and deportations as the powers-that-be seek to deepen divisions among the exploited.

In a variant on the NYPD "Stop & Frisk" policy, the European authorities often carry out sweeps for guns and drugs in Roma camps. Like "Stop & Frisk" (for guns and drugs?), this justification for racist harassment is a double fix. It implies the criminality of the people being harassed and it says that harassment is being done for the protection of the white majority.

With her family in happier times for Maria
The police in Greece were involved in one such search for guns and drugs in a Roma camp when they happen instead on a child that they decided shouldn't be there. The reason they decided the girl they named little Maria, didn't belong there, was that unlike all the other dark haired children in the Roma camp, little Maria had blonde hair and blue-eyes. Diane Sawyer had Alex Perez covering the story in Greece:
It's her distinctive blonde hair and blue eyes that may have saved her, her young face being seen around the world.
There is no doubt that the conditions of little Maria's life were terrible, as they are for poor children all over the world, but the ABC News reports showed little concern for the conditions of Roma children in the camps generally, or improving those conditions. The whole point seemed to be that little Maria, with her blonde hair and blue eyes, didn't belong with "those people," that she should be "saved." Accordingly, they strove hard to portray Maria's life among the Romas negatively. When they showed a video of little Maria dancing with neighbours, it was "a haunting home video" and "she looks out of step in her own world." Alex Perez continued:
Police thought she looked nothing like the couple who claimed to be her parents. A DNA test proved she was not theirs. Today they charged this gypsy couple with abducting her, accusing them of falsifying the paperwork for several of their 14 children.

Authorities are also trying to figure out who their parents may be. The couple argue the child's mother gave the young girl to them and that they adopted her. As word spread, authorities here in Greece tonight say they were inundated with calls from around the world including the United States, many from desperate family members searching for their little children.
It should be noted in the margins somewhere that ABC News and Diane Sawyer are defining "real parents" as only those who provided DNA to the child. Adopted parents, no matter how legal the adoption, foster parents, no matter how real the love, and step-parents, never mind the trials, can never be considered "real parents" in the eyes of these representatives of the Disney Corporation. That is a very important subtext to Diane Sawyer's reporting on this story.

When DNA tests proved 39-year-old Christos Salis and 40-year-old Eleftheria Dimopoulou were not the biological parents of Maria, the couple that had raised her from infancy, and my neighbours accounts, given her good care, were arrested and charged with kidnapping and fraud. They have four children although it is said that they claimed fourteen with state agencies. They remain in jail still.

Little Maria was taken into the custody of state authorities and has not been publicly seen or heard from since. She was turned over to a Greek charity, Smile of the Child, and a worldwide search for her "real" family was launched. On Tuesday Diane Sawyer told us "Authorities have taken her DNA, and are investigating whether she is a victim of human trafficking." in a segment titled "Finding Out the Truth About the Little Girl Named Maria." We are told that even "The FBI is investigating" "the mystery surrounding the little blonde girl Maria discovered living with a family in Greece." Never mind that this "mystery" is based entirely on the authorities, and the medias, refusal to believe anyone who actually knows the child. Alex Perez continues his report:
Today, we took a trip to the Roma or gypsy neighborhood where Maria was living. As you arrive, the first thing you see, children. Many, dirty.

On the street where Maria lived emotions were running high. We came to the family members that are in the house. They're extremely upset, saying what's been said are nothing but lies. Authorities are investigating whether Maria was a victim of human trafficking.
The people who actual knew and care for little Maria are very concerned but they are of no account because they are Roma. On Diana Sawyer's show, the view is very upbeat:
The fact that Maria has been identified and rescued is a miracle in and of itself with statistics stating one to two percent ever get rescued. It's a miracle.
A little girl has been abducted from her family by state authorities for entirely racist reasons and ABC News calls it a miracle!

Maria's birth parents with sibling
When the birth parents did come forward, Sasha and Atanas Ruseva, they turned out to be another dark haired, dark skinned, Roma couple in Nikolaevo, Bulgaria. They confirmed the story that Maria's effective parents had told authorities already, which was that the birth mother, Sasha Ruseva, who was working as an olive picker in Greece and already had seven children when Maria was born, gave the infant to Christos Salis and Eleftheria Dimopoulou because she did not feel that they could raise her themselves. The Ruseva's now have nine children, even without Maria. One of their biological children has blonde hair, like Maria and one has red hair.
"I gave my child away because we were hungry," Ruseva said.

"[The Greek woman told me]: 'Give me this child, I will take care of it. You can come and take it back anytime you want'," Ruseva claimed.

"I intended to go back and take my child home, but meanwhile I gave birth to two more kids so I was not able to go back."
The Sydney Morning Herald reported:
Hospital birth records show a baby girl was born to Mrs Ruseva on January 31, 2009 – the same date given as the birthday by the Roma couple who claimed the girl as their own.
Two of Maria's siblings by the Rusevas
Dark-haired parents can give birth to blonde and red headed children if both parents carry normally recessive genes of the other colors. This simple understanding of how genetics works, even for Roma people, has been lost of authorities bound to simplistic notions of race, not only in Greece but also in Ireland, where, amidst the hysteria generate by the "blue-eyed child abducted by Roma" headlines, another Roma couple had their blonde haired seven-year-old taken from them for three days. Even the birth certificate they produced was ignored until the DNA tests came back. In that case, the family was "devastated by the ordeal" and "her mother had not eaten for three days" according to the Daily Beast.

The Irish police must have gone on an anti-Roma rampage in the wake of the Greek story because they also took another blonde-haired Roma child, a little boy this time, from his parents until the DNA results proved he was theirs.  Like the Greek police, the Irish police had decided, on the basis of eye-color, hair-color, and skin-color that the child did not belong to that family. There is a bit of irony in this because the Irish have long been known as the niggers of Europe but it would seem that the Roma are the new niggers of Europe and the Irish are all too eager to join in the queue and pile on with the other whites, a trait they have also exhibited on this side of the Atlantic.

The way this story has been played up in the media has had the effect of promoting racist hysteria against Roma across Europe. There have also been reports of skin heads in Serbia attacking a Roma couple because their child had lighter skin than they had.

This was a new play on the white supremacist, King Kong theme, that the darker people covet and will steal the blonde-haired, blue-eye girls. That is the fear that Diane Sawyer was especially good at promoting. That is why they said that she had been "saved," why ABC News called it "a miracle" and "a global beacon of hope" for all the other lost little blonde girls the media has dwelt on over the years.

Without anything like a shred of evidence. they implied that Maria had been bought and would be sold, simply by dropping hints:
Authorities have taken her DNA, and are investigating whether she is a victim of human trafficking.
Authorities are investigating whether Maria was a victim of human trafficking. 30 million people worldwide are trafficked, 80 percent women and children.
We have the proper authorities investigating to identify trafficking rings.
That was three mentions, in just one segment! In case you didn't get the message that Diane Sawyer thinks that the Roma couple are kidnappers and little "blonde angel" a victim of human trafficking. Tuesday, 22 October, ABC News Good Morning America ran with the headline:
4 US Families Believe 'Gypsy Girl' Is Theirs

Families around the world hold out hope after a Greek couple was accused of kidnapping a young girl.
They even entertained the irrational suggestion that Maria could be the missing child of a desperate Kansas City couple, a child that would be only two-years-old now. Then they went on to report:
Now, the Roma couple appeared at the courthouse behind me. They are both headed to jail. While police continue hunting for Maria's real parents.
This trafficking charge is ridiculous on its face because poor Roma families don't exchange children for money among themselves and no one obtaining an infant for trafficking raises it for four years without selling it, but it remains the only fig-leaf protecting the authorities from the most acute embarrassment.

Even though the facts are as the Roma couple that raised Maria said they were all along and the birth parents have confirmed this, little Maria remains with the child charity that has been given custody of her while the adoptive parents remain in jail because they continue to suspect that Maria was exchanged for money. The birth parents have had their seven minor children taken away from them by authorities in Bulgaria.

The mythology is that the Roma take people's children but the reality is that there has been a long history of that state taking Roma children from their parents as is the case here. One example, between 1998-2002 502 Albanian Roma children went missing from a state run children's institution in Athens. The disappearance has never been adequately investigated but it has been suggested that they might have been given to human traffickers.

This little blonde Roma girl in Ireland was said to have been crying and "very upset" by her ordeal. It's hard to believe that it could be otherwise for a young child taken away from her family. That is why it is hard to believe the authorities reports about the current happiness of little Maria since she was taken from her family.

But for the authorities and the media, who both serve the same masters, this episode was not really about the welfare of little Maria or any child. It was about stoking the fires of racism among a people that are themselves being pressed hard by the capitalist crisis. What this episode shows is that while both the authorities and the media claim to be color blind, they are ready and willing to drop that façade in an instance when it suits them.

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