Rescued by Racism: The Blonde Maria and the Dark Roma

Tunku Varadarajan in The Daily Beast:

1382443672453.cachedNot since Fay Wray found herself in the meaty, black clutches of King Kong has a blonde in the custody of dark beings ignited the global imagination as has Maria, a tow-headed tot who was discovered in Greece three days ago, living in the midst of a Roma (or gypsy) family. As Greek police searched the family’s squalid home in pursuit of an unrelated criminal matter, they found Maria, flaxen-haired as the refulgent sun, underweight, unwashed, and so unconvincing as a gypsy child (for let it be noted, again: she was very blonde) that they switched their investigation instantly to one of the child and her origins. Who was she? How could she, so blonde, be living with these swarthy people? Something had to be very wrong: and very dark.

And so the child, Maria, was taken into custody, and an almighty international alert issued. Has anyone lost a child who looks like this little blonde creature? Six days later, the story is still vividly alive on network news and elsewhere. “Mystery Blonde Girl Found in Greece Prompts Search for Parents,” was how CNN put it. The best-selling Greek newspaper, Ta Nea, carried the story on its front page: “Mystery: A Blonde Angel Without an Identity.” The child’s blondeness became her talisman, the marker of her plight, her grace, and her salvation

Think back to those amusing diversions, those little puzzles, one used to find in old-fashioned children’s magazines. Let’s call this one “What’s wrong with this picture?” The answer came almost instantly to the Greek police: Everything! It was, of course, a Manichaean reaction: The possession of a blonde child by dark-skinned adults was wrong, ipso facto (as lawyers might put it). The fact spoke for itself. There was no scope for debate. The child had to have been abducted.

More here.