Saturday, April 07, 2018

4 Things You can do to Celebrate International Romani Day

April 8th is International Romani Day, a day to celebrate Romani culture and raise awareness of the issues facing Romani people.
The Romani are a misunderstood and much-maligned people. In fact, they are one of (if not) the most consistently and systematically oppressed minorities, having been the victims of persecution and genocide for their entire history as a distinct race.
To begin to reverse this underlying (and often unrecognised) racism towards Romani, how about taking a few steps this Romani Day to celebrate Romani culture!



Step 1. Learn a bit about the Roma
Romani people have been the victims of systemic and persistent oppression since they first ventured into Europe from Northern India around 1000 years ago.
They have been criminalised by virtue of race, forbidden in many places from owning land (one of the reasons many remained nomadic), persecuted, killed (e.g. 25-50% of Europe's Romani population were killed in the Holocaust), and were rounded up and sent to the Americas as slaves.
Nowadays Romani are the largest ethnic minority in Europe and bear some of the worst socio-economic stats in the Union. For example, while 17% of Europe’s population overall is considered at risk of poverty, 80% of Roma face the same risk. Romani still suffer systematic, societal, and individual persecution, especially in Europe, but also in other countries like the US.

Step 2. Stop using racist slurs to describe getting cheated
Stop saying you were ‘Gypped’!
The term Gypped (or gipped or jipped) comes from Gypsy, itself a pejorative term for the Romani people. Gypsy (Gyp, Gip, Gyppo etc.) comes from the mistaken belief that the dark-skinned nomadic (not always by choice...a topic for another time...) people originated in Egypt—hence Egyptian became 'Gyptian' and 'Gypsy'. Now that may seem quite innocent...but it's also ignorant and by extension oppressive...like how Europeans called Native Americans 'Indians'.
Nowadays people use the term Gypped to describe being cheated or swindled, due to the common (and mistaken) association of the Romani people with cheats, thieves, and liars. And THAT is the common use of the term 'Gypped'... So—if you're using the term, you are implicitly promoting the stereotype of Romani people as thieves and cheaters. And if that's not just plain racism...I don't know what is. 

Step 3. Celebrate, don’t appropriate!
It’s common to see the term ‘Gypsy’ used to describe a free-living or wandering lifestyle and while that is a secondary definition for the word, it is only so because the name was given to Romani and was, and still is, considered a derogatory term for them.  It was due to the counterculture movements of the 1960s and 1970s in which fantastical 'Gypsy' stereotypes were romanticized, and due to these stereotypes of Romani as free-spirited wanderers, new-agers and Instagrammers and others have appropriated the term Gypsy to denote practically anything that embodies any aspect of hippy, hipster, new-age or counter-culture.
Using the term ‘Gypsy’ just because you’re wearing a flowing dress or because you’re on holiday is actually pretty infantile, and yes, it is offensive to a lot of Romani people. Think about it this way, if you had a name applied to you for hundreds of year, that was considered a slur, and that completely distorted who you were, and then people began using that, and appropriating caricatured, cartoonish misrepresentations of your culture, dress, and customs, wouldn’t you be a little peeved about it?
A good metric to use is that if you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying that you are #InjunStyle or #NegroSoul (etc. etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseum) then you shouldn’t use #Gypsy either.

Stuff to know
Things that aren’t Romani: Crystals, tarot cards, dream-catchers, Jason Momoa 😉
And here’s some people you may not know are of Romani descent: Django Reinhardt (one of the greatest Jazz musicians of all time); Actors Charlie Chaplin, Fairuza Balik, Tracey Ullman, Michael Caine; and NZ TV personality Paul Henry!

Step 4. Call out other people being racist
Whether you think ‘Gypsy’ is racist or not, you must agree that saying you were ‘Gypped’ most definitely is. Think about it, you wouldn’t say you were N*&^^ered, or J***ed would you?
So, if you hear someone saying it, why not just gently bring their attention to it? Most people don’t realise that they are saying something so offensive and are happy to be made aware of it.

Step 5. Eat, drink, and be merry!
All cultures, all people, like to get together with friends and family and eat good food, have a drink (alcoholic or not) and have fun. So, have some fun today! I know I will. 😊
Opre Roma!


Friday, June 23, 2017

No - You Don't Have a 'Gypsy' Soul

Gypsy is a pejorative term for the Romani people.

The word Gypsy (Gyp, Gip, Gyppo etc.) comes from the mistaken belief that the (relatively) dark-skinned Romani people originated in Egypt--hence Egyptian became 'Gyptian' and 'Gypsy' in a similar way that Europeans called Native Americans 'Indians' and never bothered (or cared) to correct the error.

Stylised Romani Flag Source: http://rozvitok.org/en/eight-commonly-accepted-symbols-of-the-roma-people/

Romani people have been the victims of systemic and persistent oppression since they first ventured into Europe from Northern India around 1000 years ago.
They have been criminalised by virtue of race, forbidden in many places from owning land (one of the reasons many remained nomadic), persecuted, killed (e.g. 25-50% of Europe's Romani population were killed in the Holocaust), and were even rounded up and sent to the Americas as slaves.

Now though, and possibly due to the counterculture movements of the 1960s and 1970s in which fantastical 'Gypsy' stereotypes were romanticized, and due to these stereotypes of Romani as free-spirited wanderers, new-agers and Instagrammers and others have appropriated the term Gypsy to denote practically anything that embodies any aspect of hippy, hipster, new-age or counter - culture.

When I've brought this up in posts and in conversation, the typical response is 'lighten up man', or 'it's just a bit of fun', or 'it doesn't hurt anyone'...

But the reality is that it does hurt people. It is highly offensive to the many people who have been victimised and oppressed, to have their culture stereotyped, and the pejorative that was given to them, then appropriated by people who know nothing of their struggle or people, and who simply go on to further promote damaging stereotypes. It's damaging to the people who lost, and are only now reclaiming their cultural heritage because it was hidden by necessity, in order to survive in an antiziganist world.

As an example, some of my Maori friends have said that it's no big deal but I wonder if they'd feel the same if people were using stereotypes of Maori as jovial, lazy, easy going, occasionally prone-to-violence drunks and using #HoriSoul ? I think not.

And many of my liberal friends will rile against the bigotry of Trump, post about the plight of oppressed minorities... and then post pics of their well-earned post-work drinks at Gypsy Caravan or images of their 'gypsy' lifestyle in instagram... Why? Because #GypsyHeart #GypsySpirit .... That's why.  🤔

The most liberal among us fall into casual racism. I've done it, you've done it. Heck, even Taika Waititi has 'given a little to racism'. (And by the way - I think he's doing an awesome job of casting light on casual racism in NZ). But it's on us to do better, and be better.

So, you don't have a 'Gypsy' soul, or a 'Gypsy' heart, and just because you have cool arm tattoos, wear a moustache, and run a brightly coloured food truck, you're not a Gypsy-preneur.
You're a casual racist.


How to stop yourself getting Gypped...

I remember watching TV a few years back and seeing someone say in an interview that they got 'Gypped'...and not an eyelid batted.

Just a few weeks back a good friend of mine was telling me how someone had 'Gypped' him in a business deal.

Even in scholarly, academic, and other circles, people use the term Gypped without any knowledge that this is an offensive term and that its meaning is extremely damaging.

The Meaning and Origin of Gypped
The term Gypped (or Gipped) comes from Gypsy, itself a pejorative term for the Romani people.
Gypsy (Gyp, Gip, Gyppo etc.) comes from the mistaken belief that the dark- skinned nomadic (not always by choice...a topic for another time...) people originated in Egypt--hence Egyptian became 'Gyptian' and 'Gypsy'. Now that may seem quite innocent...but it's also ignorant and by extension oppressive...similar to how Europeans called Native Americans 'Indians'.




The systemic and persistent racism against Romani people goes way beyond just the use of an ignorant name to describe them. 
It has become the common association of the Romani people with cheats, thieves and liars. And THAT is the common use of the term 'Gypped'... So--if you're using the term, you are implicitly promoting the stereotype of Romani people as thieves and cheaters. And if that's not just plain racism...I don't know what is.