Gypsies the new “untouchables” of Europe

by Michael Smith

The Romani-Gypsy, the Sinti, Cale and Roma, are not only becoming the new “untouchables” of the European Union. Nay. In fact it would appear that they – we – are becoming the new “Untermenschen”, yet again.

For the Romani People, the Gypsy, of Europe, to be honest, the Holocaust has never really ended. While the Jews were rehabilitated, so to speak, and even ended up with their own country, though whether or not it is legitimate is shall not be discussed here, the Gypsy was still treated in the same way after the Holocaust as before and the Gypsy People were persecuted and chased from pillar to post long after.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain things did not improve in this matter as far as the Gypsy are concerned. Rather the opposite is the case.

While it may be true that the behavior of some of the Eastern European Roma that arrived int eh West did not endear them to the Gadje and not even to the Sinti, and even Roma, in the Western European countries, it should not be used as an excuse to persecute the Gypsy People, but in many place it is. But then, it is just an excuse to justify their fascist and racist actions against our People.

But even the Sinti that have been in Western Europe, in Germany, Austria, Holland, France, and such, including the united Kingdom, also face the same kind of discrimination on a daily basis – to varying degrees, dependent on the area and circumstances. Whatever the degrees, the discrimination is still there, in one way or the other, also for the Sinti and Roma that have been, such as in Germany, for well over 600 years.

Now, in the last couple of years Gypsies are, once again, be made Europe-wide into scapegoats and the source of all ills. This is going to get worse even now in the economic meltdown that all countries seem to be undergoing.

Discrimination against Gypsies is widespread – yet again – in most countries of Europe and also in the Americas, and while this also holds true with regards to Britain there is, thanks be to the G-d, not much on direct violence against Gypsies in evidence as yet, as it is in other European countries, including and especially those of the European Union.

In Britain, so far, there is also no direct discrimination as yet towards Gypsies in the field of employment, even if one mentions one's Romani background. Then again legislations are in place to make any such direct discrimination an offense and hence things are still OK.

On the other hand the general public still perceives, in the main, the Gypsy as a parasite to society.

I personally have had an encounter a couple of years back when attending a computer trade show for the Gypsy Union and while talking with one of the attendees mentioned that I was Gypsy and was using Linux – the free Open Source computer operating system – this person turned on me calling all Gypsies parasites, referring to the fact that I was using a free operating system rather than paying for a Microsoft one. Guess he must have stakes in MS. But this is how easy things can turn and we can be assured – not that that is a nice kind of assurance – that in the financial crisis we seem to have entered and which could last a while things will get worse, elsewhere and also in Britain, as far as discrimination and other acts against the Romani are concerned, and not only as to the foreign Roma who have come to this country in the recent years.

While it is true that the behavior of some of them and even the behavior of some of our own homegrown Romani-Gypsy – and I do not even refer here to the Irish Travelers, who are not part of the People – does not help to endear ourselves to the settled population, the Gadje, this is not so much of an issue here.

The way it would appear is that we are back to the “good ol' days” of being held responsible for all manner of ills in this world. Not long, I guess, and they will blame the Gypsy for the financial crisis. Am I sarcastic? Only to an extent.

When our People first arrived in Europe, or to be more precise, when our People were first noticed to be in Europe, for we were here well before the time that the first official records mention us (see the Hildesheim one) we were claimed to be carriers of the Plague though ourselves, due to witchcraft, not affected by it (more like due to our cleanliness taboos), as well as agents of the Turks, etc.

No doubt soon we will be held responsible, yet again, for the ills befalling the economy of the various countries.

The fact that the UK government is earmarking money for the improvement of official Gypsy Caravan Sites and the building of new ones – in order to fulfill its own legal set target under the Housing Act – is already causing consternation, whipped up by the red top gutter press, like the Sun, the Mail and the Express.

Those papers use all manner of lies and half-truth to whip up the Gadje against any Gypsy Sites anywhere, and the Gypsy population as a whole, even claiming that government could compulsory purchase people's gardens to build such sites with the owners of such properties having no rights. This is, obviously, far from the truth but, alas, the uneducated masses believe such horror stories.

In other European countries things are worse, to a degree, with some putting the Rom back into ghettos and guarded camps. Oh, they say, but those guards are there to protect the residents against attacks by neo-Nazi elements. Yes, sure, and on an airfield nearby a squadron of fighter pigs is preparing for takeoff. We know what has happened in Italy.

So keren? What can we do and what are we to do?

First and foremost we must have – once again – pride in what we are, and even to the extent of using the words the Gadje use for us, be this Gypsy or Zigeuner. If we are proud of it what can they do?

Then we must ensure that our People, and not only the young ones, get an education. This does not mean that they have to – necessarily – attend a Gadje school, or as some would call it, state brainwashing institution; there are other ways.

This has then to be followed by going into trades and professions, including the likes of police, fire service, military, and others often claimed to be occupations that should not be done by Rom. Only if we can say that we are represented in such fields, as many of our People are in other countries – not that that has made the discrimination any less – as in the Czech Republic and Finland where there are police officers that are of the Romani People and who are proud to be both, Rom and cops.

As said, it may not reduce the discrimination but it is one of those positive aspects that could help our People in more than one way. Pride of being Romani, of being Gypsy, however, is the most important thing, but that does not mean that the bad ways and practices must be upheld.

While it once was acceptable, nay necessary, to not always tell the Gadje and especially the authorities the truth this is backfiring badly nowadays. Also the fact that some of ours, especially in Britain and the USA, are scamming when it comes to the work they do, be this knife-grinding or blacktopping, or property maintenance kind of work. This has been going on for a long while amongst the lazy ones and those that could not care but it has gotten also into the general stream. On top of that there are those that use the roofing jobs and such as a means of robbing people. No wonder we have a bad name in the general society.

While there once was no other way for our People to survive than to steal, mostly this was minor kind of theft and pickpocketing and not the kind of robberies conducted today, the distraction burglaries and the overcharging and then forcing people to pay well above what would be reasonable.

We, as a People, must improve, before we can demand that anyone gives us the due respect. We also must to have pride in what we are for if we do not respect ourselves and our background why then should anyone give us and the People respect.

The Romani are not and have never been, at least not the Sinti groups, untouchables as in the Indian sense, and the reason for the term of untouchables – Azigani – is from the fact that we did not want to be touched by outsiders because of ritual defilement resultant therefrom.

However, we are being made by the people of Europe, including some of the governments, into outcasts and untouchables, even sub-humans, once again, and some of those countries are even those of the European Union who have always a big mouth when it comes to human rights abuses elsewhere. It is easy for them to condemn Zimbabwe or China but rather not when it comes to our close neighbor state and even the actions of the powers in their individual states themselves.

The fact that the German police forces still use the racial profiling when it comes to us Gypsy, though no longer using the term “Zigeuner” and not even “Landfahrer” but “Angehoerige einer ethnichen mobilen Minderheit” (members of an ethnic mobile minority) or even, diectly, “Sinti and Roma”, often in such a wrong was as to refer to one single suspect as appearing to be a “Sinti and Roma”, does not surprise me as a Gypsy but according to all EU legislation such profiling is illegal. Nevertheless, it is common practice to this very day with the only exception that the words have been changed. The meaning is still the same and remains so whatever term they are going to use, from “mobile minority” to “Sinti & Roma”. Nothing has changed ever since the times of Hitler and before. The only difference is that things are more subtle nowadays.

So, in conclusion again, what can we do against this?

It is my belief that the only way to combat this is through Gypsy Pride and through positive actions and through solidarity.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009