Posted on April 8, 2016
Don't call them gypsies!
The Romani people have met with stereotyping, discrimination, and outright persecution for centuries.
By the way, if you're not sure what these three words mean:
- “discrimination” means facing prejudice based on negative stereotypes (such as not being hired for a job because the boss assumes that Romani people can't be trusted, or not being welcome in a restaurant because “we don't serve that kind”).
- “persecution” means aggression, punishment, or violence (such as anti-Gypsy laws expelling Romani people from a nation, or Hitler imprisoning and killing Romani people).
Romani people still face discrimination even today, in Europe. In the U.S., things are a little more complex. Many Americans don't recognize the name “Romani” (aka “Roma” or “Romany” or "Roms"), but they associate the word “Gypsy” (aka “gipsy”) with a lifestyle rather than a people. To some extent, American perceptions of “the Gypsies” is positive – free-spirited hippy sorts who travel from place to place, wear colorful clothing, and love to sing and dance.
But even popular stereotypes are offensive, right? Why should people who don't move a lot, who don't sing or dance, and who wear "regular" or “normal” clothes have to explain over and over again, “Not all Gypsies are like that”? When an entire group of people is misrepresented – even if they are romanticized, rather than vilified – the people being misrepresented are often – understandably – angry or sad.
Some Romani people don't mind being called “Gypsies,” but many do; it is considered by many to be a racial slur. So play it safe and avoid the term.
Today is a day to celebrate the Romani people and culture. Here are some resources:
This is the flag of the Romani people.
The ancestral roots of the Romani people are
in Northern India. Can you see the similarity between
Romani flag (above) and the flag of India (below)?
|Some Romani people are very wealthy and|
built and live in large, posh houses like the one above.
On the other hand, too many Romani people live in
poverty. Some of them travel about in simple wagons (below).
|Above, traditional Roma dress.|
Below, most Romani people wear
modern clothes most of the time.
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