Yeeeeeaaaaiiii – the day we celebrate the Gypsies! The best time for many to rediscover that imaginary Gypsy friend they hung out with, or the Gypsy child they generously helped, when they were young (or dreaming). A great day for many, many human rights activists to enthusiastically click “like” on Facebook, showing once more their dedication to supporting the Roma cause.
Some will go further and befriend a Roma – Facebook-style, preferably. The most courageous will even talk to a Roma person (or to what they think Roma are: strangely dressed people, those with a nice suntan out of season, and perhaps some horses, pigs, crows, dogs and a good number of bronze statues will be forever scarred by the experience)! Regardless, major changes will happen in the worst Roma communities as pigs start flying once again. The miraculous has happened regularly for the last decades on April 8.
Some well-wishers will send us more targeted messages with cute references to the happier times when Europeans were free to propose innovative solutions for Roma:
Maybe Hitler didn’t kill enough of them [Gypsies].
Gilles Bourdouleix – National Assembly, France 21 July 2013
Others will just express their wish to help us with our traveling lifestyle (it’s in our blood – despite the fact that more than 90% of us have been settled for over half a century). They will call us some endearing names in the process:
The majority [of Gypsies] should be delivered back to the borders. We are not here to welcome these people. I’d remind you of [former Socialist Premier] Michel Rocard’s statement: ‘It’s not France’s job to deal with the wretchedness of the whole world.’
Manuel Valls – Minister of the Interior and Member of the National Assembly, France, 25 September 2013
The majority of us (10 to 12 million) living in Europe dare to call ourselves Roma and feel offended to be called Gypsies… but heck, who cares! On April 8, they should be allowed to call us crows, thieves, “the wretchedness of the whole world” – just so long as we are in their thoughts. All those centuries of enslavement and survival have taught us not to be too picky.
In reality, April 8 each year is a day when we see an increased amount of online abuse against Roma. Thousands of calls for our complete elimination, sterilization or forced deportation will be posted online. Postings which merely call us animals, or the rejects of humanity, will seem friendly in comparison. Anti-Gypsyism remains strongly rooted and widely accepted in Europe.
The “European comprehensive mainstream framework of multi-stakeholder approach towards elimination of social exclusion against the Roma” will suddenly make sense. On April 8 the “framework” is tipped to become more popular than Lady Gaga songs or the speeches of Viviane Reding -the EU Commissioner responsible on Roma. People that previously were considered to have undergone intellectual lobotomy – a collateral effect of the Roma Eurotalk -will suddenly be recognized as humans outside the safe zones of the European bureaucracies. Some of them will be declared saints fulfilling their long-wish for recognition.
But the picture is not all bad, is it? April 8 is a great time for major European and international institutions and organisations to rediscover (for the 46th consecutive year) that the Roma are the most discriminated-against ethnic group in Europe. It is also an amazing opportunity to spend those Roma budgets – the money which these institutions have very little idea or expertise what to spend on. Some huge amounts of money – many times more than is spent the entire year for meaningful work in the worst Roma communities – will go to feel-happy “cultural events” and conferences. Important people will tell us that it is essential to start meaningful work at the grassroots within the most vulnerable Roma communities (though most of them never saw such communities).
Clearly such splurging, and the great speeches that will come along with it, will compensate for the strident institutional racism within the major European and international intergovernmental institutions and NGOs and will justify, once again, our absence from meaningful employment, plans or actions concerning us, the Roma, for the rest of the year.
A review of the speaker lists of the main Roma events organized by DG Justice in the last 4 years shows that less than 20% of speakers could be called Roma experts.
If you filter this percentage by the number of senior- and middle-level managers from the EC actually present while those experts spoke, and look at the real hands-on grassroots level expertise of these experts, the number drops to well under 5%. There is no Roma in any middle of senior management position among any of the most important intergovernmental institutions dealing with human rights.
Of course, this approach aims to ensure the perfect balance needed for developing measures good for Roma. It mirrors some of the best available experiences in the world… American policies for blacks until the 1960s and South African policies until the end of Apartheid.
How does day-to-day life look for Roma after all these years of celebration on 8 April? During the last five years we have “enjoyed” ethnically targeted killings, forced evictions, burned camps, neo-Nazi rallies targeting us and many “welcoming speeches”. The majority of the perpetrators will suffer dearly for these actions in their afterlives or reincarnations, due to our powerful spells and witchcraft that have worked so well to our benefit in the past. At this moment nothing else seem to work: laws have little, if any, effect in preventing Anti-Gypsyism.
A significant part of the Roma are unfit for coexistence. They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals, and they behave like animals. When they meet with resistance, they commit murder. They are incapable of human communication. Inarticulate sounds pour out of their bestial skulls. At the same time, these Gypsies understand how to exploit the ‘achievements’ of the idiotic Western world. But one must retaliate rather than tolerate. These animals shouldn’t be allowed to exist. In no way. That needs to be solved — immediately and regardless of the method.
Zsolt Bayer – Co-founder of the Fidesz Party, Hungary, 5 January 2013
But we shouldn’t complain: it is our Roma Day and optimism is required. At the end of the day, we are also loved. Not only on Facebook and in pictures, but also in movies, operas and other fictional art. In day-to-day life most people love us from as far away as possible, and as long as we stay or are kept in our ghettoes /stables/barns/zoos/trees or whatever other locations are thought fit for us.
[Gypsies] are nomads and nobody can do anything about them…they will bring their horses into the flats and there any attempt to civilize them ends…we should build special camps and keep them outside our cities.
Traian Basescu – President of Romania, at the time Mayor of Bucharest, 19 May 2003
In fact, it is not our genes that make us live in appalling housing conditions, but abject poverty. Centuries of exclusion push people to live marginal lives. It seems obvious, but in the case of Roma somehow it is not. Anti-Gypsyism seems suppress logical thought in otherwise intelligent people.
We have got to change the behavior and the culture of the incoming community, the Roma community, because there’s going to be an explosion otherwise.
David Blunkett – UK Member of Parliament, warning that Roma migrants could face ethnically motivated violence in the UK, November 2013
We applaud the request coming from politicians for a change to the culture of cheating, theft, lies and appalling disregard for ethics and morals. This call for change will certainly affect some of us Roma (as well as non-Roma living in poverty), probably for the better. But for the politicians making the call, it is nothing short of heroic …in the kamikaze sense. Eliminating cheating, theft, lies and disregard for ethics will decimate the existing political and economic leadership of Europe.
Actually, Roma are working hard to change. Roma parents, like any parents, want to ensure the best possible life for their children. Statistically, Roma are the European group that shows the most improvements when it comes to attending university – there is a 1000% increase in university attendance for Roma over the last 20 years in Romania. We have managed this and other positive changes while remaining the group most affected by discrimination and abject poverty in Europe.
Many Roma rightly feel they were fooled by policies and politicians for decades now. April’s fool day is not Roma day. It is true that many should celebrate it today. The best day for the Roma Summit should have been also April 1 and not April 4. The Roma day is on April 8.
One day a year dedicated to Roma is not enough. The poverty cycle is hard to break, as illustrated in this short video made by my friends at Child Pact: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__uE0uViaLs.
Yet we cannot give up – there are other good examples to build on. No Hate Speech (http://www.nohatespeechmovement.org) is a campaign led by enthusiastic youth all over Europe. Smart and responsible youth have also been at the core of the best and most effective initiatives working in the most vulnerable Roma communities. Together a number of Roma and non-Roma have produced some amazing results.
I am not convinced that European political elites want, know how, or can help eliminate anti-Gypsyism. But you can help do this. You have the ability to think critically, come up with innovative ideas, and speak up courageously. And this is what is needed.