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.