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The Romani are a frequent target of racism. About a million Roma perished in the Holocaust; a greater proportion of Europe's Romani were killed than Europe's Jews, and the Romani were totally wiped out in several countries. Romani were also targeted in communist countries for forced sterilization to lower their birthrate. Racism against the Roma people is called "antiziganism" (from the German Zigeuner, literally meaning "Gypsy").
The proper name for this people is "Romani." Most people know them as "gypsies." "Gypsy" is derived from "Egypt," based on a misnomer that came from the 16th century, when it was incorrectly thought that the Romani originated in Egypt; hence many Romani consider the term "gypsy" to be derogatory. Linguistic and genetic evidence suggests that the Romani migrated away from northern or northwest India around 1,500 years ago.
These people were "Untouchables" in India, but were promised a higher caste by a local ruler in exchange for fighting for him. He did not raise their caste though, and so they began to migrate throughout Asia.
The term can also be confusing, since other travelling communities are often referred to as "gypsies" (with or without a capital letter), including Irish Travellers (also 'pavees', or pejoratively known as 'pikeys' or 'tinkers', most of whom are not ethnically Romani) and sometimes "New Age travellers" (including hippies and other drop-outs from mainstream white society). These communities also often suffer prejudice and economic disadvantage despite their different origins.
Traditions and stereotypes
Romani communities have often been nomadic, living on the road in caravans — conventionally horse-drawn wooden wagons, which can still be seen in parts of Eastern Europe, or else modern mobile homes — and moving their camp from place to place, providing seasonal migrant labour and cash-in-hand work, as well as itinerant trades such as mending household goods, selling various crafts, horse trading, and fortune-telling. They are also widely associated with petty crime, and this has often been used as an excuse to justify persecution or expulsion of Romani. The popular image of Romani as rambunctious and superstitious travelling folk is ingrained in Western popular culture, especially the common portrayal of female Romani fortune-tellers, and small children who turn out to be expert pickpockets. Contemporarily, however, said stereotypes have changed somewhat, including to live off collecting scrap, a lack of desire to be helped by social services and/or to send their children to school, to take justice into their own hands, and in general to integrate and merge, weddings included, with non-Roma people.[notes 1].
In November 2016 Clackamas County Sheriffs Office in Oregon received complaints for hosting a class titled "Without Mercy: Criminal Gypsies/Travelers & the Elderly," taught by retired detective Gary Nolte, with "FACT"s like,
“”FACT: Criminal gypsies/travelers make an estimated $17B/annually and don't pay taxes.
FACT: The victims are the elderly 97% of the time.
FACT: The Pacific Northwest is remarkably close to a large Traveler base.
FACT: There are 5 major clans in North America, not just one.
FACT: The criminal Travelers/Gypsies have targeted the Pacific Northwest for decades.
Some Romani communities follow a traditional belief system which is loosely derived from Hinduism and so dates back to the Romani's origins in India. Other Romani communities tend to be either Christian or Islamic, owing to European or Middle Eastern cultural influences.
Romani refer to their own language as "Romanes" or "Romani Chib," which means "the Romani language." Today, there are about 3-5 million speakers of the Romani language in eastern and central Europe.
2016 Bulgarian Anti-Roma Protests
In 2016, a Bulgarian was run over by a relative of an alleged Roma crime boss. In response, over 2000 people in many cities in Bulgaria went to the streets to protest against the Roma and their supposed criminal activity, with some chanting slogans like "Gypsies into glue!" Of course, the fact that protestors focused on the Roma is ironic, given that the Bulgarian mafia is very much a thing. According to the president of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, "Every town in Bulgaria has local crime bosses, be they Roma or ethnic Bulgarian[.] [...] The government has consistently failed to prosecute them." Anti-criminal protests would have made sense. But protests exclusively aimed at Roma, giving non-Roma criminals a free pass? Not so much.
Famous people of Roma descent
- Django Reinhardt: "Gypsy jazz" guitar virtuoso.
- Charlie Chaplin: Silent film pioneer.
- Eugene Hütz: Punk musician.
- Some notable Romani/Gypsies
- On Anti-Roma Statements in Slovakia and Anti-Roma Protests Bulgaria: Statement to the PC, U.S. Mission to the OSCE
- Roma discriminated, segregated in Czech Republic and Slovakia
- Lawsuits filed by Roma challenge racial segregation in Czech schools
- Persistent Segregation of Romain the Czech Education System
- Czech Republic: Systematic discrimination against Romani children in schools
- Italy slammed over attitudes after gypsy girls drown
- 'Why do the Italians hate us?', The Guardian
- The picture that shames Italy
- Are the Roma Primitive, or Just Poor?
- It does not help either the presence of organized groups that use children, elderly, and/or disabled people -or simply pretend to be the latter- as beggars
- See the Wikipedia article on Porajmos.
- On the road: Centuries of Roma history, BBC, 8 July 2009
- See the Wikipedia article on Irish Travellers.
- See the Wikipedia article on New Age travellers.
- Discriminating against Gypsies and Travellers is 'common across Britain', report finds, Chris Green, The Independent, 9 March 2016
- "Gypsy' crime class raises questions about racial profiling", Lizzy Acker, The Oregonian, November 14, 2016
- BBC Voices: Romani
- Matthew Brunwasser (September 27, 2011). "Anti-Roma Demonstrations Spread Across Bulgaria". http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/28/world/europe/anti-roma-demonstrations-spread-across-bulgaria.html?_r=0.