Timothy Egan writes at NYTimes.com:
Beware, they told us in the train stations of northern Italy, of the Gypsy baby trick – an old ruse by Europe’s most reviled underclass. A woman will suddenly ask you to hold her child, and then just as you fumble to respond another Gypsy will grab your wallet.
Watch out, they cautioned us in the lovely Turkish port city of Kusadasi, for the Gypsies who prey on tourists along the waterfront. And old lady will bump you, while a teenage hooligan grabs your bag. The Gypsy old-lady trick.
Those Gypsies, known by the less pejorative term of Roma, are getting kicked around the continent again, hardy perennials of European scapegoats. Unspoken characterizations based on ancient stereotypes – they are shiftless, clannish, prone to petty thievery and to begging, prostitution and dark motives – are now out in the open.
In the early days of a Mediterranean fall, one finds open hostility toward the Roma, encouraged by governments in a Europe that likes to think of itself as enlightened. France, following the lead of the Italians, Danes, Austrians and Swedes, is trying to expel the Roma in their midst.
"They" told me the same things about Gypsies when I backpacked around Europe in 1980. So, therefore, what "they" said can't be true because so many people have noticed the same pattern that it is a stereotype.
But, unlike Egan, I actually think "they" don't deserve to be dehumanized by anonymity. In my case "they" were typically genial Australians backpacking around Europe for a gap year, who, coming from a country with very few Gypsies, had naively fallen for venerable Gypsy scams. "They" amiably passed on their hard-earned new knowledge to naive American travelers like myself.