According to a study conducted in the Czech Republic the majority of Romani there, and I should assume also elsewhere, feel discriminated against.
Well, we are being discriminated against and have been discriminated against forever and a day. Our People have been murdered, and indeed are still being murdered, for being Romani, for being Gypsy. We should be used to it by now and no law, let's face it, is going to change the nature of the people who discriminate against us. Time to wake up and time that we woke up to that fact and stopped harping on about it. Time for us to take our destiny and that of our children, whether we in fact have children of our own or not, into our own hands and did something about it. We must, first and foremost, create a positive image of the Rom and be proud in what we are, be proud in our Race... the American Black did it, so can we... we have scientists amongst our people even... many a star of the silver screen is of Romani origin. The names of Bod Hoskins and Michael Caine may be familiar to some. In the field of sports, and not just in boxing, there are many that are of the Romani Race. We must celebrate those achievements and others of our People.
While, probably, we should not (have to) accept discrimination against us as a People we should have developed a much thicker skin by now. While we must fight discrimination against us as a People as as individual because of our belonging to that particular Race of ours we must also learn to live with it and rise above it.
The term “sticks and stones” comes to mind here. So what if someone calls you “Gyppo” or “Pikie” or whatever else. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words shall never hurt me”, goes the old saying that I was referring to in the beginning of this paragraph. And while we must learn not to be hurt by words, I do know that words do hurt.
Having battled for years against discrimination of our People and written letters to editors, to chief constables, and what ever else there may have been, without much if any result, even to the extent that the bodies such as the EU have said that on certain issues they know better than we, the People affected, I have come to the conclusion that there is but one way to deal with this and that is to have deep and strong pride in what we are, namely Romani, namely Gypsy, even to the extent and especially using this very name with pride – the term Romani only confuses the silly Gadje and I am sick and tired of telling them that I am NOT from Romania – and by basically retaliating any insult with taking even more pride in our ancestry. The second point is to educate out own, children and adults alike, to have this deep pride in our Race, even to the extent of referring to ourselves as Gypsy, as Zigeuner, as Tsigan, as Gitan or Gitano, etc., and especially to take pride in the many great people that are Romani by origin, from composers, over musicians, actors, sports personalities, and also politicians and scientists.
Let's show the Chale a thing or two and show the world that we have many well-known and well-respected people amongst our ranks, people who they, the Chale, adore as well.
There are composers far back in history even whose ancestors are Rom, such as, as is said, Paganini, and others. Then there are the musicians and composers such as Django Reinhardt. There are well-known and well-loved actors of the silver screen that are of Romani origin, such as the late Yul Brunner, and there are also Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, and many more. Charles Spencer Chaplin was Rom and soc was Elvis Presley. This should be enough to go on with to be proud in the Romani People as our own, and we could just throw in a scientist and inventor who, it is said, too was Gypsy by birth, and he is the inventor of the jet engine, Whittle by name, and knighted by the British Crown.
So, let's be proud of being Gypsy by Race and stop bemoan the fact that we are discriminated against. Let's do something for ourselves – yes, I did say “for ourselves” - instead if hoping for hand-outs from various sources with the claim that “the Godje owe us”. I am sick and tired of hearing that the Gadje, because of their discrimination against us, as a People, as a Race, owe us and must give us money so that we can do this or that project, mostly in Eastern Europe (why don't the Sinti and Romanichals in the West get a looking in ever?), the money which then ends up in some leader's pockets and never gets to the People at the bottom, that are the ones discriminated against and who need to have help. However, the Irish old term of “Sin Fein” also is applicable to us. Sin Fein means “ourselves alone”. We must do things for ourselves alone without outside aid and without us demanding their aid.
In the same way as we cannot and must not demand that we, the Rom, in the UK, for instance, get preferential treatment when it comes to planning law. However, we should have an even playing field. This means that when Rom want to build a house somewhere or even a settlement then obstacles should not be put in the way that would not be put in the way when it would be non-Rom that would make such application. There are ways and means around certain discriminations like that, however. Ways and means that are legal. But we also must stop being idiots and try to get planning after the even, especially on land that cannot be used, as per law, for building residences of whatever kind.
We also must wake up to the fact that we must have our own professionals, including medical personnel, law enforcement, and elsewhere. This means that we must take a new look at education. Many Romani families seem to have a problem with schooling for the children and see it as not important or have problems with it on different grounds. The different grounds, which often is the case that they do not want to have the children end up in the government system I can but agree with. Education, however, is important for any of the children of the Rom to succeed in any way whatsoever in the modern world. Not everyone can run a scrap yard, and the time for the door-to-door knifegrinder sure as night follows day is gone, and even if anyone would still be able to follow any of those occupations, today the need to be able to read and write and more than that even will be needed to legally follow such trades.
The government schools are not something that is a requirement for learning and education. Education of NOT something you get at any of them places anyway. It is conditioning into good government slaves, mostly. All we need to start with is to learn to read and write and then let the children take it at their own pace to read. I did and while I may not have a scientist's job nor am I employed as a journalist, I nevertheless know how to write and how to read.
Now we come to the legality of doing things: when running a business it is important that one follows the same rules as do the Gadje, which also means that our businesses are subject to tax and the keeping of books. Now to do that you have to have some knowledge of reading and writing, etc.
Will this stop discrimination? No, sure it won't. Can we force people to stop discriminating against us? No, this will not work either. It is a fact of life that the Gadje will always have a problem with the Rom (and other Races that don't fit in, as they will see it, even if those Races are Gadje to us as well). Legislation cannot and will not stop such actions, how ever wrong they may be. It will only stop when the others come to see us, the Gypsy, in a different light than they see us presently, and especially have us presented to them all the time. We may not be able to change and influence the media in the way they do things as regards the Gypsy, us, either, and believe me, I have tried. So what is the answer: the previously mentioned Irish term... “ourselves alone”. We are alone in this and we must do it ourselves. Period! No asking for hand-outs. No asking for special treatment. Equal treatment – yes – special treatment – NO!
Most important; we, the Gypsy People, must have pride in what we are and show this pride. Only that way can we change the perception by the Gadje of us, as a People.
© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008