“And Then Her Blood Showed” – a Hungarian approach to adoption

Today is Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day. I know, because my friend who is Roma told me. You wouldn’t have guessed from going through your newsfeed on social media. Which isn’t the best source for news but is great for putting your finger on the zeitgeist. My friend and I had a lot of great conversations about racism. It’s not just that she gets where I’m coming from, but she also manages to give me perspective. She’s also the older sibling, and my theory is that as the younger sibling, I’ll tend to bond with the older ones, at least that’s what most of my friends have always been. But those are surface reasons. I knew we’d be right when we first met, and somehow we just clicked. We actually shared an apartment for a while, which is how we met, and in the summer we’d either sit on the chairs in front of our house or just walk around when we didn’t feel like going out, which we also did. I remember getting home one night at around ten and being greeted with, “don’t take off your shoes, we’re going out,” and me thinking, that’s why we’re friends. And like I said, she’s the one who always manages to give me a good perspective on racism. 
Casual racism always surprises me, despite the fact that I’ve been around it all my life. I was always around it. When I was little, my best friend was a Turkish boy who lived down the street. He was a tiny bit younger (I think a few months), so he followed my lead. We’d hang out on the playground, and I distinctly remember a woman pushing her baby carriage away when she saw my friend. I proceeded to talk very loudly about Germans, listing their faults, pointing out how they were still Nazis. I know not all Germans are Nazis, but that town harbored them. To paraphrase a professor from Germany, “look at the size of the street named after resistance fighters during WWII,” as – according to him – each town was subject by law to name a street after Hans and Sophie Scholl. “That’s how you can tell how right wing they still are.” In that place the street contained three houses and was pretty well-hidden. 
But calling people out on their bigotry sometimes doesn’t work. Especially when said bigotry is so casual, comes so naturally, and is so general, you don’t even know where to begin. Don’t get me wrong, I hate the bleeding heart liberals with their token [insert minority of choice] just as much. Why can’t you just see the person instead of making them a thing. 
The other day I was getting a pedicure, and my pedicurist started talking with the beautician when she came over. Or rather, they started telling me stories. One of them was about adoption, which has always been a subject of interest, because from the time I was fifteen I knew I’d adopt. And most people will tell you that it’s a bad move. Most of these people – in my experience – have also displayed populist, conservative, and religious tendencies, regardless of social position, education, or rank. And these ladies were no different. 
“I wouldn’t adopt,” one of them said, “because I might not love the child as much as I’d love my own.”
The other launched into a story of how her friend had adopted a Roma baby, and how when that girl became a teen, “unfortunately her blood showed and she turned bad, started stealing, mouthing off, getting into trouble.” 
I was too dumbfounded to react. Mainly because I’ve heard a variation of this in every country. And it makes you wonder, don’t these people remember what it was like to be a teen? Especially the early years, how confused and lost you are, not a child, not an adult. How hard it is to forge your own identity when you know your family history and have roots. Never mind missing your entire family tree on both sides. Kids hear things in school, they realize that Roma can never mean white in this society. Who can they identify with? What if someone they trusted makes them feel excluded? What if your parents deny you access to exploring that part of yourself? There are so many reason for a kid to act out. 
“Sometimes you just can’t say anything,” my friend pointed out. “Some people truly are beyond salvation.” 
I do realize that. But it makes me feel like a coward. My friend said nothing to that. But what was she going to say. I know you can only pick so many battles. And I’d rather start with my friends, the ones who keep using the n-word and Yankee for American, because they’re European and “don’t know any better.” 
And then I remembered my other friends, one of whom took me in without making a big deal out of it and explained my presence to her children with, “there’s a girl who has nowhere to go tonight, so she’s staying with us. The other who took in her nephew when his mother died. I remember her six-year-old daughter looking at me and informing me that despite him living with them he was really her older cousin and “we’re raising him, you know.” Same little girl informed me that they also had a guest, and that said guest was her friend, then proceeded to tell me her friend’s name. 
That’s what gives me hope in the next generation. If these kids grow up and stay the way they are, follow their parents’ lead, there is actually hope for us one day seeing the person and not what (we think) they represent. 

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4 comments

  1. And protect you and cheer you up. I was dog sitting a shelter dog. The owner told me what she was scared of. One of these was balls, because they’d hit her with them (don’t even get me started in that). I was a teen, sitting on my bed crying. The dog looked at the ball by my bed, looked at me, I could literally feel her wrestling with herself. Then she jumped over the ball, just so she could lick my face and cheer me up. That’s loyalty!

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