I don’t like prejudices. I know have plenty of my own, but I do my best to challenge them. And I am not saying that just because it’s the politically correct thing to say, I actually mean it. Because I really hate prejudices. And the reason is very simple: plenty have been expressed about me. Based on my gender, nationality, hair color, breast size, tattoos, piercings, opinions, lifestyle choices etc, etc ad infinitum. And I hate it. And don’t care that much what people think about me, but never the less I would very much like it if their opinions were based on me and not the things they associate with certain attributes I have. Because that limits my possibilities. Or rather, I don’t get the possibilities I would get if the things people thought about me were actually a true reflection of my person. Essentially it’s all about accuracy. That’s the problem with prejudices, they are seriously lacking in accuracy. And that annoys the hell out of me.
Most people would probably agree, I hope, that prejudices are a bad thing and that you should strive to challenge them. Like I said it’s the politically correct thing to do, but there seems to be an exception from this idea when it comes to the Romani. When it comes to this group of people it all of a sudden seems ok to state complete an utter bullshit that’s based on nothing but ignorant, racist, prejudice. I may be wrong, but I don’t really recall that type of opinions being aired quite that openly just 15 years ago. Sure racism aired it’s ugly face from time to time, but I don’t really recall it being that frequent. Or was I just too blind to notice? I’m really not sure. But I have been discussing this so many times in the past few months that I feel a serious need to put it all into writing. That way I can just refer people to here when the topic comes up again. Yeah, maybe I am lazy, but I am just so sick of having the same conversation over and over again. Sure I will still say “yes, I think you are a fucking racist for thinking that all Romani are thieves”, but at least I can spare myself the remaining hours of trying to explain why I say that. But I will still say “you’re a fucking racist”. Naturally I’m really sick of having to say that all the time too, but at least it’s short and efficient.
Yes, I have been having this conversation a lot lately and I know it’s probably my own fault for never being able to shut up, but what is happening to the Romani population in Europe right now and what’s being said about them is seriously pissing me off. It’s just wrong on so many levels. And I am appalled by the ignorance that’s being displayed again and again. Not only in purely racist comments such as “that’s just the way they are, it’s in their genes”, that do nothing but reveal the modern version of race typology, a concept that should have been buried after the 2nd world war, but also in comments alluding to culture and the Romani being nomads and actually not wanting to settle down. Basically that’s the two main things people in general will say about it. Either it’s genetics or culture. But that the problem lies mainly within the Romani community itself is just a given. Blatant racist opinions. But lately it seems like that’s all of a sudden ok again. Romani, Muslims, immigrants in general; they are all part of the big group of others that cause problems. And not even once to we stop to ask ourselves if the problems, because yes, we do have problems, may actually be caused by us, the ‘general European population’, what ever that is, too. That we might both be the cause. And again, yes, I do realize that there are problems with and within the Romani population in Europe today, but I really think it’s quite retarded to look for the causes, and solutions, only in their community. If we don’t subscribe to the genetics theory, which btw would pretty much be signing our selves off as completely deficient in the cerebral department, we could try looking to history to try to understand a bit about the origin of the problems. (And no, simply dismissing it as a cultural issue doesn’t qualify as a historical analysis. That would actually land you right back in the cerebral deficiency category again.)
No, Romani are not facing unemployment, poverty and discrimination because of their culture. They don’t live in substandard housing because of their culture. They are not uneducated because of their culture and they not over represented in crime statistics because of their culture. It’s just not that easy and to think that is stupid.
Romani are a minority that have lived in Europe for centuries, since the 11th century to be precise. And like all minorities they have been oppressed. Just like the jews they were hunted out of towns in Medieval Europe, they were burnt as witches and heretics by the Inquisition, and they were exterminated in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. But strangely enough the repentance regarding the crimes against Europe’s Romani population has been lukewarm to say the least. After the end of the second world war there were no apologies, no land and no help. It was actually pretty much more of the same for the Romani . Maybe minus the concentration camps. But they still had their children taken away, were the victims of involuntary sterilization, deportation and all sorts of violations that most Europeans didn’t have to worry about. It wasn’t until 1982 that the German government officially declared that the persecution of the Romani in the Third Reich was actually a genocide. 1982. That’s 37 years after the concentration camps were opened.
Ever since the Romani arrived in Europe they have been subject to prosecution. In the 16th century several countries in Europe passed laws outlawing their very existence. The Romani should be killed on sight. What does that do to a people? When you by law aren’t even allowed to exist? Maybe something to contemplate when we dismiss the discrimination of the Romani as their own lifestyle choices. “They have always been nomads.” Maybe they have, but I am not entirely sure it was always voluntary. I would move too if people were trying to kill me. I think most people would.
So when we say the Romani don’t want to be integrated, that they are deliberately choosing this lifestyle, maybe we should stop to think about what it is we want them to be integrated with: A society that has never given them any reason to trust it. A society that has denied them pretty much all basic human rights, that have outlawed their very existence and forced them to constantly move. That have done its best to eradicate them, that have taken their children from them, that have forbidden them to speak their language, well into the 20th century. Seems like we’re asking a bit much of them to be honest. “Just integrate and we will be nice to you. We have been treating you like shit for centuries, but from now on we’re going to be nice.” Aha… “And by ‘be nice’ we for instance mean we will register your ethnic identity, issue you special ID cards and erect walls around our houses so you can’t get in.” Because that’s essentially what we are saying. And I wouldn’t take that seriously either. In fact, I think I would also tell society to fuck off and just grab what ever I can get. It’s about survival first and after that it’s about dignity. Trust is a two-way street. Same as respect. So if we say it’s in their culture, maybe we should ask ourselves who put it there. Yes, there are problems within the Romani community and there are lots of conflicts involving Romani in Europe today, but I don’t think it’s either fair or correct to look only at the Romani when looking for reasons or when trying to solve it. It takes two to tango, as the saying goes. And in this case I really don’t think they have all that much reason to trust that we can lead… So far we have been pretty shit at it if you look at it from their point of view.
The other thing, and maybe the main point, about all of this is the dichotomization. The us versus them. And in this text I do it to. I talk about ‘us’ and the Romani. And historically that is true, there was a real division, a life and death division at times. But do we really have to maintain that? Haven’t we had enough of that? It’s 2011, isn’t it about time to move on now? Aren’t we supposed to be Europeans? All of us. Wasn’t that the deal? That it was actually supposed to apply to all of us not just a select few. That it was actually only supposed to be ‘us’ from now on. Yes, it was. And it’s about time we start taking that idea seriously and start applying it to all European citizens. Because in spite of all the brain-dead comments and actions that are being made to the contrary, the Romani actually are European citizens. There’s absolutely no relevant grounds to even doubt that, they have been here long enough and they have fought harder for it than most other people on this continent. Isn’t it about time we actually own up to what we agreed on and start using the same law for everyone? Even the Romani. Because they are actually human beings and as such they have the right to be treated as individuals and not be bundled up in a group and dismissed based on racist prejudices. They just happen to be born into a context where the surrounding society has repeatedly treated them like shit. Shitty circumstances, not genes or culture. And all curtsey of Civilized Europe. Centuries of prosecution. I think it’s about time to stop that. In fact it’s long overdue. And to start treating the Romani as European citizens, as equals, would be a very good first step. The fact that the whole registration topic has even seen the light of day is nothing but a disgrace. That something like that is even brought up makes me want to puke. Is this 2011 or is this 1939? Do we never fucking learn?
Yesterday, January 27th, was the 66th anniversary of the Red Army’s arrival in Auschwitz, the International Holocaust Remembrance day. To quote myself: please, let’s mention the war. And please, let’s learn something from history.