by Bernard Rorke
CW: child mistreatment, state violence, abuse
Back in May 2018, both Vladimir Putin and former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions hit the headlines in the same week by threatening to take children away from their families. In the New Yorker, Masha Gessen called this a form of state terror: “Hostage-taking is an instrument of terror. Capturing family members, especially children, is a tried-and-true instrument of totalitarian terror.”
This form of ‘state terror’ is all too familiar to Europe’s Roma. While for centuries, racist folktales warned children not to wander into the woods lest they get ‘snatched by Gypsies’, the historical reality is quite the reverse. It is Romani children who have been kidnapped by the authorities and separated from their parents; kidnapped by authorities bent on forced assimilation, or in the case of the Nazis and their allies, gruesome experimentation and annihilation. In the democratic 21st Century, where anti-Roma racism has been routinized, disproportionate numbers of Romani children are removed from their biological families and placed in institutional state care.