PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
THE WORD “GYPSY” IS A RACIST SLUR USED TO BELITTLE AND ABUSE ROMANI PEOPLE
DON’T TAG PICTURES OF YOU DANCING IN THE WOODS WITH SPARKLY SCARVES AS “GYPSY”
DON’T TAG PICTURES OF ANY OF YOUR OTHER HIPPIE SHIT AS “GYPSY”
DON’T USE THE WORD “GYPSY”
THIS HAS BEEN A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
I'd really love to see some solidarity between the Natives, Rroma, Blacks, Africans, Latinos, and Asians of Tumblr.
Because really, we all face similar struggles (even though each is very different), and we’re all trying to do the same thing: gain fair treatment and respect from a society that marginalizes, stereotypes, and caricaturizes us.
Do people know that "gypsy" is a racial slur against the Romani people and that these people do in fact still exist?
And that being a “gypsy” isn’t exactly correlative to a “love of travel”. The Romani moved around because they had to. Because every country they went to they got ran out and called names…like “gypsy”.
You skinny white girls dressing in color patchwork rags and wearing damn scarves on your head with cheap jewelry and an over-saturated access to Instagram need to sit down.
Right next to the dumb bitches wearing Native war bonnet imitations and standing in some nondescript wheat field looking sullen and solemn like they even know what that thing on their head symbolizes, or if they would even have what it takes to earn a real one.
And behind the wanna be dreadlocking white folks banging on badly-cared-for djembes and jumping around in a circle and calling it African dance.
Feel free to add to this list, folks.
Yes, "gypsy" is a racial slur.
Basically, ignorant people labeled another group of people (the Roma) “gypsies” because they thought they looked like Egyptians, and therefore must have been Egyptians. These same people treated them like crap. Today, the word “gypsy” is loaded with negative stereotypes - in fact, the word “gip” or “gyp” (which means “to con” or “to cheat”) comes from the word “gypsy.”
And that’s what makes a slur.
Laws against Romani people in America
For the person yesterday saying they find it hard to believe that there actually are laws against the Romani people in the United States. These are only a few, some of which are still in effect, the one from New Jersey was only repealed in ‘98.
gypsies … for each county … shall be jointly and severally liablewith his or her associates [to a fine of] two thousand dollars (State Code of Mississippi, Section 27-17-191).
The governing body may make, amend, repeal and enforce ordinances to license and regulate … gypsies (New Jersey Statutes, 40:52-1).
After the passage of this act, it shall be unlawful for any … gypsies … to … settle within the limits of any county of this state [without having first obtained a yearly license to do so] (Pennsylvania Statutes, Section 11810).
Any person may demand of any … gypsies that they shall produce or show their license issued within such county, and if they shall refuse to do so … he shall seize all the property in the possession of such [Gypsies] (Pennsylvania Statutes, Section 11803).
Gypsies [in the State of Maryland] must pay jurisdictions a license fee of $1000 before settling or doing business. When any gypsy is arrested, all his property and all the property of members of any group with which he may be traveling, can be confiscated and sold to pay any fine a court may levy against the arrested gypsy. Sheriffs are paid a $10 bounty for any gypsy they arrest who pays the $1000 fee after he is arrested (Logan, 1976).
Whenever … gypsies shall be located within any municipality … the county department of health or joint county department of health shall have power … to order such [Gypsies … ] to leave said municipality within the time specified (Pennsylvania Title 53: Municipal and Quasi-Municipal Corporations, Chapter xvii, Section 3701).
It is illegal in Pennsylvania to be a Gypsy without a license … Any Gypsy who insists on being what he was born - a Gypsy - without a license, is liable to up to $100 fine and 30 days in jail. A constable may confiscate and sell a convicted Gypsy’s possessions to satisfy the sentence … any person may demand to see a Gypsy’s license. If the Gypsy cannot produce a license, the person may turn the Gypsy in to any convenient justice of the peace (Smart, 1969).
Upon each company of … Gypsies, engaged in trading or selling merchandise or livestock of any kind, or clairvoyant, or persons engaged in fortunetelling, phrenology, or palmistry, $250 [is] to be collected … [from those who] live in tents or travel in covered wagons and automobiles, and who may be a resident of some country or who reside without the State, and who are commonly called traveling horse traders and Gypsies (Georgia Acts and Resolutions, 1927, Part I, Title II, Section 56, p.3).
Texas law refers to “Prostitutes, Gypsies and vagabonds” in the same breath, and charges the Romany people $500 to live there (Bernardo, 1981:108).
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, that it shall be unlawful for any band of Gypsies … to camp in tent, wagon or otherwise, on any public highway in this state, or lands adjacent thereto … Any person or persons violating the provisions of this Act shall be deemed guilty … and upon conviction shall be fined not exceeding twenty-five dollars or imprisoned in the county jail not exceeding thirty days, or both (State of Indiana Statutory Regulations, Section I). “This statutory law has been used so often against the Gypsies in that state, that Indiana has not been visited by Gypsies for a long time” (Marchbin, 1939:152).
So, there you go.
There's A Grief That Can't Be Spoken
When I heard that a big-budget Hollywood movie was going to be made of the musical Les Miserables, starring Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman and a bunch of other very attractive people, I was apprehensive.
I couldn’t say exactly why I was apprehensive. I just was. I have a few friends who are dedicated history buffs who were excited for the movie, and I watched their excitement grow with a detached sort of unease. I think this sense of unease is probably very common - it is the unease that the marginalized feel when romanticized versions of history become popular. Les Miserables takes place in France, in 1815, at a turning point in French history. It is written by Victor Hugo, whose portrayals of Rromani people in Europe and specifically in France were problematic to say the very least.
The cast of the blockbuster Les Miserables movie is quite, well, white. I don’t know the whole ethnic backgrounds of every actor, but I don’t know if it really matters - what escalated my vague sense of unease about the musicals newfound popularity was the casting of the character of Javert, and specifically, the dialogue around it in fan circles.
Take a look at this. A fan expresses the (frankly racist) opinion that a Black actor should not have been cast as the character of Javert. Others point out, correctly, that people of colour existed in Europe in the 1800’s and that the practice of “colourblind casting” (horrible term, good casting practice) has been ultimately beneficial in bringing new, thoughtful, skilled and dynamic artistic takes on old characters.
Then… the subject of whether or not Javert is a “gypsy” comes up.
For the record, the fluent French speakers I have spoken to seem to agree that the idea that Javert is Rromani is incorrect and based on a flawed translation. Javert comes from a “bohemian” family, presumably petty criminals; as an adult, he has grown to hate criminals and political dissidents alike. In the first English translation, “bohemian” was translated to “gypsy”, and Javert was referred to as hating criminality because he hated his own “nomadic race”. It’s a trope that I find particularly troubling; the “gypsy” who is villainous because they hate themselves for being a “gypsy” - that for translators, a hatred of criminality would be read as a hatred of his own race is especially offensive, the implication being that criminality is inherent in his race (“gypsy”), and his conflict with criminals stems from a conflict with himself and his natural inclination to turn towards a life of crime.
But this interpretation of Javert is one that many fans have latched on to. They call it “headcanon” or “fanon” - an interpretation that they hold to be as true as canon, but mostly a matter of personal preference. “Javert is a gypsy!” It goes unremarked-on that this interpretation is rooted in an understanding of Javert that implies some very unpleasant things about what it means to be Rromani. It also goes unremarked-on that it is far less common - in fact, I’ve seen approximately zero cases of this, and I’ve spent the last few days looking into it - for peoples’ “fanon” interpretations of any of the more clear-cut protagonists to be Rromani. Nobody says that Marius or Cosette, the romantic leads, might be part Rromani; nobody suggests that the revolutionary furor of one of the characters leading the June Rebellion might be due to a desire to see some improvement in the lives of their oppressed community.
I am troubled by this because it’s one of those things that well-meaning gadje often fall into - thinking that by championing the idea of Javert-as-Rromani they are championing the representation of us in fiction, when in fact all they are championing is a gadje’s (racist) idea of who we are and what defines us as a people. Meanwhile, in order to be viewed with any kind of true complexity, any dimension beyond the most simplistic (“he hates revolutionaries because he’s a self-hating gypsy”), a character must be read as white. Characters who are not read as such are denied a full understanding of their humanity, their motivations boiled down to an outsider’s impression of their race.
It is good to push for more historically accurate representations of Europe - representations that include Rromani, Sinte, Romanichal, Pavee, and Traveller peoples! But it is also necessary to challenge our understandings of why these representations have been lacking, and where existing representations are coming from. If they do not come from us, who do they benefit? What purpose do they serve?
You know you're Romani when:
- Public restrooms are torture
- You use a million towels in the bathroom
- Someone takes their shoes/socks off in your house without asking and you audibly gasp and back away
- You cook meat alternatives separately anyway
- Certain food combinations make you run screaming
- You wait for your professor/doctor etc to go in to the room first and they think your a bit weird because they told you to go in there 15 minutes ago and wait for them
- You Purell your work space when you get there in the morning and when you leave at night
- Something is lost/moves/etc in your house and you immediately think MULE and put out glasses of water and bokhel’i or marikli or other cake.
- Your bank statement is ten cents off, blame the lying stealing gadje that your grandmother and her mother and your entire family warned you about and go hide your wallet under your mattress. (Then you forget you did that and can’t find it and blame MULE and scream and go put out shit for them!!)
- Vacuuming pennies. Srsly. It’s a thing.
TW: Anti-Rroma slur, Holocaust
One of my followers (but not some one I follow back) just changed their username and the new one has the word “gypsy” in it.
You do know “gypsy” is a slur, right? It’s the word Hitler had tattooed on the arms of the Rromani people that he rounded up and exterminated. It is not wearing long skirts, reading palms, or whimsical skipping through the forest. It is a word that has been used to oppress and kill people.
Here’s a corner:
Now go stand in it and think about what you’ve done.
And don’t come out until you’ve changed your damn username.
hi guys! i started a blog thisisnotromani, which focuses on calling out racist, anti-ziganist people. if any of you could spread the word, that’d be awesome! thank you all<3