Is that I grew up there; I have relatives who still live there; and I have experienced first hand the racism and hatred that are perpetrated against my people.
Yes, I am quite aware that I have light skin and eyes and don’t *look* Gypsy according to all y’all… so, imagine if I was a victim of racism, how much worse it is for those who are not so privileged?
I’ve had multiple emails from Czechs and Hungarians, Slovakians and Romanians all saying the same thing… that “Gypsies” are bad, bad people and they are to blame for all of the stealing, murder, rape, the economic crisis, bullying, poor education, collapse of society, contagious diseases, and even global warming…
Whenever I challenge these views with Amnesty, ERRC, news, and other reports I’m told that:
- I don’t know what it’s like to live in the country
- Oh, it’s only GYPSIES who are bad, not Romani (*blink*)
- The reports are wrong/falsified/not written by a person from ___insert country here___
- You are wrong. Period.
And there is nothing I can say to change these views.
This… this is the problem.
Many, many people in Europe are raised to believe that Romani are “inadaptable”. I’ve been asked why, if Romani are so good, did France expel hundreds of them and why did they recommend internment camps?
It’s called institutionalized racism.
According to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights 2010):
The Roma, estimated at between 10 and 12 million people, constitute the largest minority in Europe and are present in virtually all Council of Europe member states.
This minority has been suffering profound discrimination for centuries and, even today, is still frequently rejected by the rest of the population because of deep-seated prejudices. Moreover, in these times of economic crisis, this highly vulnerable minority presents an easy target and is used as a scapegoat.
The situation faced by Roma in terms of access to education, employment, health services and housing or in terms of social integration is still very often deplorable, not to say scandalous.
But, I’ve also been told that reports such as these are not legitimate sources either—because such committees are inherently biased against the “normal” population within Europe..
but, most of these people are not taught about the history of the Romani and are bursting with privilege and patriarchy.
So, here is a brief timeline of our history:
A Brief Timeline of Romani History
997-‐1026: The people now known as the Roma/Romani/Romanies begin to leave northern India,
headed west through Persia. The last migration begins in 1192.
1347: Due to plagues and wars, Romanies begin to move west again, through Armenia and Asia Minor.
1385: The first recorded transaction of Romani slaves is recorded in Romania.
1416-‐1504: The Roma are expelled from Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and France.
1510: Switzerland imposes the death penalty.
1512-‐1538: The Roma are expelled from Catalonia, Bavaria, Portugal, Sweden, England, Wales, and Denmark.
1538: Portugal deports Romanies to the Colonies.
1544: England deports Romanies to Norway.
1589: Denmark imposes the death penalty to all Roma.
1637: Sweden imposes the death penalty to all Roma.
1721: Emperor Karl VI orders the extermination of all Roma in the Austro-‐Hungarian Empire.
1728: Last living Romanies hunted down in Holland.
1547-‐1749: The Roma are expelled from Norway, Bohemia, Poland, Lithuania, Scotland, Denmark(again), Norway (again), Belarus, and Sweden (again).
1758: Empress Maria Theresa begins a program to assimilate all Roma by force.
1783: Most legislation against the Roma is repealed.
1812: Nomadic Romanies in Finland are confined to workhouses.
1822: Turnpike Act is introduced. All Roma camping along the roadside are fined.
1830: Germany begins a program of removing Romani children from their homes to be fostered with non-Roma families.
1848: Transylvania frees the Roma from 500 years of slavery, followed by Moldavia in 1855 and Wallachia in 1856.
1849: Denmark allows Romanies back into the country.
1868: Richard Liebich coins the phrase “lives unworthy of life.” This is later used by the Nazis to destroy the Roma alongside the Jews in the Holocaust.
1872 – 1899: Roma are expelled from Belgium, Denmark (again), and Germany.
1884: A Romni, Dr. Kavalasky, is appointed Professor of Mathematics at Stockholm University. She is the first female professor in Scandinavia.
1890: Germany organizes a conference on “The Gypsy Scum.” The “Central Office for Fighting the Gypsy Nuisance” gets its start there.
1906: France hands out identity cards to all Roma.
1920s: In the Weimar Republic, Roma were forbidden to use parks or public baths and required to register with police. In 1922, Germany begins a program to fingerprint and photograph all Romani. Professor Hans F. Gunther blames the Roma for introducing foreign blood into Europe.
1933-‐34: Hitler comes to power in Germany. Romani musicians are barred from the State Cultural Chamber, forced sterilizations begin of all Romanies, Sinto boxer Johann Trollman is stripped of his title as lightweight champion, and “Beggars Week” means thousands of Roma are arrested. Romani people who can’t prove German citizenship are expelled.
1935-‐38: In Germany, all Romanies become subjected to the Nuremburg Laws for the Protection of German Blood and German honor. Roma in Germany lose the right to vote, the internment camp in Marzahn is opened, Hitler issues the General Decree for Fighting the Gypsy Menace, and the Racial Hygiene and Population Biological Unit of the Health Office opens. By 1938, all Roma in Germany are declared anti-‐social, arrested, and sent into forced labor to build the concentration camps.
In Russia, Stalin bans the Romani language and culture.
1940: The first mass genocidal action of the Holocaust takes place in Buchenwald, where 250 Romani children are used as guinea pigs to test the Zyklon‐B gas crystals.
1941-‐44: In Germany, in July, Himmler orders the Einsatzkommandos to “kill all Jews, Gypsies, and mental patients.” In 1944, the 1,400 Roma at Auschwitz still deemed fit for work are sent to Buchenwald.
The remaining 2,900 Roma attempt to defend themselves using rocks and sticks, but they are defeated and taken to the gas chambers.
1945: World War II ends, though it is still illegal to be Roma in much of post-‐war Europe.
1962: The courts in the German Federal Republic declare that the Roma were persecuted in the Holocaust for racial reasons. Romani survivors do not share in the millions of dollars of reparations given to other survivors of the Holocaust.
1966: The Gypsy Council is set up in Great Britain.
1969: Bulgaria establishes segregated schools for Romani children. Countries across the former Soviet client states follow their lead.
1970: National Gypsy Education Council is established in England.
1971: First Romani Congress held in London, England, adopting “Gelem, Gelem” as the national anthem, as well as a national flag, based on the flag of India. Other considerations include a Romani alphabet, the protection of the language and culture, and human rights issues.
1972: Czech Republic begins to sterilize Romani women. The government claims the process ended in 2007, but reports of sterilization are still being investigated and the government has refused to pay reparations to the affected women.
1977: A UN sub-committee makes a resolution on the protection of Roma.
1979: The Romani Union is recognized by the UN’s Economic and Social Council.
1981: Yugoslavia grants the Roma national status.
1987: The United States Holocaust Memorial Council appoints its first Romani member, seven years after the Council was created.
1989: Germany deports foreign Romanies.
1990: Fourth World Romani Congress adopts an alphabet for the Romani language.
1991: The Roma gain equal rights in Macedonia.
1960-‐1999: The Roma face persecution and death from attack by both civilians and governments across Europe. In 1997, Neo-‐Nazi street gangs beat and kill Roma with impunity in Serbia. Periodic altercations continue, especially in Eastern Europe, where Romani children are relegated to back rows and special education, often beaten and ostracized by students and some teachers.
1998-‐99 In the Kosovo Conflict, Romani communities are targeted by all sides.
2008-‐9: Parts of a Romani settlement near Naples are burned by a mob. Italian authorities destroy another settlement, moving Roma to temporary quarters that lack water and electricity. The Prime Minister gives local authorities powers to carry out evictions and to fingerprint people, including children.
A widespread outcry ensues, but the European Commission does not ask Prime Minister Berlusconi to end the fingerprint provisions. Romanies from other EU countries are deported without individual appeal.
2009-‐11 Neo-‐Nazis intimidate and harass Romani communities in Hungary and the Czech Republic. Repeated violence, discrimination in employment and housing, and continued harassment from authorities continues across Eastern Europe, forcing many Roma to flee to Western Europe.
2010-‐11 French police shoot and kill a young Rom at a checkpoint in the Loire Valley, resulting in riots. In response, French President Sarkozy orders the dismantling of some 300 Romani settlements, declaring the illegal camps sources of crime, and deporting Roma, most to Eastern Europe. Caught up in the police roundups are some Roma who are French citizens. Deportations do not allow for asylum or appeals. EU Commissioner Vivian Reding declares the expulsions violate EU provisions on freedom of movement, but eventually Sarkozy’s deportations are allowed to continue.
2011 In Kosovo, thousands of Romani refugees whose homes were destroyed in the War remain in refugee camps without appropriate hygiene facilities, located near or on top of rubbish heaps, which leach harmful substances into the water and soil, while other refugee groups have been given housing. One remaining camp populated by Roma in Mitrovica sits atop a heavy metal mine, leading to lead poisoning in the population.
These are just some of the things that have happened. Recently a Romani family were shot, others have been raped, or forcibly sterilized or evicted. Romani are still regularly victims of intolerance, discrimination and rejection based on deep-seated prejudices in many Council of Europe member states. It is also important to note that the Roma are Europe’s largest minority without a compact territory and unlike other national minorities, do not receive any support from a kin-state. In some countries, the Roma minority is not recognised as such even though it has been established there for several centuries.
The Roma are scapegoats, convenient answers to those hard questions… a people who have for centuries been victims of brutal and sustained racism, discrimination, and oppression.
So don’t tell me that I don’t know what it’s like, I have lived in many different European countries. Don’t tell me I don’t know what’s going on, I still have family and friends there, and I read multiple reports from different agencies and news outlets every day.
If you want to read the full Parliamentary report it is here. Perhaps you should actually READ some of these reports before condemning them as biased or misleading.
My problem with Europe is it’s legacy of colonial imperialism, white supremacy, and racist ideology.