Questions for identifying structural racism

I have received a number of complaints following some of my interventions about structural racism against Roma. I decided to address those complaints by preparing a number of questions for identifying structural racism affecting Roma.

The questions listed below, despite being politely phrased, are somehow considered inacceptable. Most people I know will not dare to raise them either because they will be seen as job-hunters, or because they are afraid to upset the most powerful. I argue that it is the duty of Roma civil society to ask these questions, as they may be the only way to change the existing unequal status quo.

The questions can be used to investigate other organisations, as well as your own.

The same questions can work for many other types of disadvantaged groups, including the most vulnerable of all groups (which is not the group of highly educated and mostly wealthy women lacking fair representation in the boards of directors of big companies around Europe, the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship seems to believe, considering the efforts she puts into addressing that problem).

All of the following mentioned officials or institutions have been very vocal on the need for Roma to participate. It is worth noting the fact that there are hundreds of Roma with post-graduate degrees on issues very relevant to Roma in Europe.

The Questions

Why are there no Roma experts or Roma in the cabinet of the European Commissioner for Roma issues? What is the reason for the abysmal representation of Roma within the European Commission[1] (much worse than in any of the national governments the EC strongly criticizes for the lack of representation and participation of Roma)? What measures are being taken to address these issues?

Why are there no Roma experts or Roma in the cabinet of the President of the European Parliament or among the political advisors of different European parties represented in the Parliament?  Why are there no Roma in any permanent or temporary positions of the European Parliament’s secretariat? What are the measures the Parliament plans to take to address these problems?

At least 12 European Parliament resolutions ask for better participation of Roma and encourage affirmative action.

Why are there no Roma experts or Roma in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN, despite a recommendation (27/2000 – point 48) that calls for such a presence?

Why has there never been Roma experts or Roma in the Office of the High Commissioner for National Minorities of the OSCE?

Why are there no Roma experts or Roma in the position of the Special Representative for Roma of the Council of Europe? Why are Roma so poorly represented within the Council of Europe itself?

Why are there no Roma experts or Roma in the Cabinet of the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe?

Why are there no Roma experts or Roma within the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), despite the fact that the FRA is very vocal at the highest level about the need for affirmative action and participation of Roma?

Why are there no Roma in any position within the headquarters of Amnesty International, Minority Rights Group, European Women’s Lobby, World Bank and practically all European Networks relevant to Roma issues? What measures are being taken to address these issues?

Why is affirmative action not a condition for the public money given to these intergovernmental organisations for projects on Roma social inclusion?

There are at least 500 times more Roma women in Europe that live in abject poverty than the total number of women that could possibly be needed to fill equally all the boards of companies and corporations in Europe.

The most important initiative of the EC Commissioner responsible for Roma, as mentioned above, is to have quotas for women in the executive and non-executive boards.

Why is there such a strident discrepancy between Roma women and women from the upper class of the European societies?

What is the ratio between the number of employees, and the salaries paid, when it comes to Roma and non-Roma in Roma-focused programmes and projects  (including Roma units, Roma departments, Roma research teams, Roma grants departments, etc.)?

What strategy is in place (a strategy includes targets, timeframes and indicators) to change the situation, and what are the concrete results of such a strategy if it exists?

To avoid ambiguity, such strategies should have very explicit numbers on what is the targeted fair ratio and when that will be achieved.

If such a ratio is less than 30% in any of the two aspects (number of employees of Roma origins or the percentage of money used for Roma) then there is serious reason to be worried. If it is less than 10%, then it is structural racism.

What is the ratio between Roma and non-Roma speakers at the conferences on Roma these institutions organise?

If such a ratio is less than 10% – as was the case with the Extraordinary Meeting on Roma Social Inclusion organized by the European Commission – you either fire those in charge of organisation or publicly admit that you have a problem with structural racism.

Expertise is not something one achieves while in the job. Having your picture taken with Roma, reading speeches, and giving interviews about Roma do not count as experience. Field visits that last two hours do not make one an expert on any issue, aside from tourism, perhaps. Talking to Roma does not mean one is an expert on Roma issues either.

Academic experience means at least one year of focused studying on Roma issues at an institution recognized for its expertise, followed by a thesis on the subject of Roma. Hands-on experience means you spend most of your working time working with Roma on Roma issues for a significant period of time (at least half a year continuously).

[1] the European Commission has clear guidelines for fair representation and diversity


1 Comment

  1. Excellent questions. Here in the Netherlands, the organisation for the very important task of the destribution and application of ‘reparation’ for the Dutch (Sinti) victims of the holocaust was deemed not safe in the’ irresponsible’ hands of those concerned, and annexed by a gadjo government trustee. Who pocketed millions, leaving the community empty handed, and worse, in the public eye, headlines of ‘Gypsy reparation fund theft’ led to the broad belief that it was they themselves who had apprehended funds. Three times cringeworthy.

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