What’s up, fam? For International Rromani Day this year, I thought it would be a good idea to maybe post some basic info. So here is your IRrD cultural crash-course cheat sheet:
- The word “G*psy” is an ethnic slur. It comes from the misconception that we originated in Egypt (hint: we did not). Basically, white Europeans were like “hey those guys are brown. They must be Egyptians. lol ‘Gyptians. lol ~G*PSIES~”. AKA, they couldn’t be bothered to ask where we actually came from. Some Rroma have opted to reclaim this word and may use it to refer to themselves. That does not mean that it’s okay for just anybody to use it. Friendly tip: do not use this word unless you are actually Rromani.
- Rromani people trace their roots back to India and some parts of Pakistan (but mostly India?). While many don’t necessarily consider themselves Indian or even South-Asian, we are also not white.
- We are a diaspora group. That means we were expelled from the country/left nationless.
- Rroma come in all colours. Some of us are dark-skinned and some are light-skinned. We are all POC. There are certain physical traits that are common in our ethnic group, but that does not mean that we all have these traits. In fact, many of these traits have been used to stereotype us, which isn’t cool.
- Our culture involves a lot of dancing and music. And food. And our food is generally pretty spicy.
- We are not Esmeralda (The Hunchback of Notre Dame). In fact, that book is hella racist and the movie isn’t really much better. In the book, Esmeralda was a gadje (non-Rromani) girl who was kidnapped by Rroma (stereotype) and raised in their community (stereotype). As you will know from the movie, she dressed provocatively (stereotype) and danced for coins (stereotype). Rroma women are often portrayed as sexual objects, which is really gross tbh. Although the cute lil’ goat friend is 110% factual. I mean, not really. But I had a goat friend. Her name was Rochelle. More on that later.
- Rroma men are often stereotyped as lazy.
- Other stereotypes include fortune tellers, witches, thieves, beggars, and street performers. I am here to tell you that we are honestly no more likely to do these things than any other cultural group so… yeah? And those that do are often forced into these positions by laws and discrimination in their home countries.
- Speaking of which, forced eviction, mass deportation, sterilisation, systematic impoverishment and oppression, workplace discrimination, segregated education, and TAKING CHILDREN AWAY FROM THEIR FAMILIES are problems that Rroma are still facing TODAY.
- Rroma are sometimes known as Travellers because we have historically been a fairly nomadic group (by necessity). Rromani people would (and many still do) travel from place to place, looking for work, only to be chased away by prejudiced locals. Think old man on a porch shouting “Get off my lawn!” at the paper boy. Dumb, right? Right.
- We do not want your children. For some reason, gadje think we want to steal their children? Some even think we eat them??? We do not do this.
- Gadje is not a bad word. It literally means “non-Rromani person”.
- Our language is called Rromanes or Rromani Chib. There are like a gajillion different dialects. Those of us who actually speak our chib might not be able to understand another Rrom because of dialectical differences. It’s complicated.
- We are not a costume. A G*psy is not something you can just become. You can’t convert. You either are or you are not. Wearing long skirts does not make you a ~*G*pSy*~. Being a hippie does not make you a ~*G*pSy*~. Pracitising witchcraft does not make you a ~*G*pSy*~. We are not mythical creatures. You cannot become Rromani any more than you can become Black or Asian or Hispanic. It is especially concerning when people act like we are a style instead of an ethnicity because a) it makes a mockery of our culture, and b) makes it seem like we do not actually exist.