Romano Museum


Anti-Roma racism

The history of the Roma in Romania is the history of institutionalized anti-Roma racism that began with half a millennium of slavery and continued with the extermination during the Holocaust - both representing the racism of exclusion, followed by the forced assimilation policy of the socialist regime - representing the racism of dominance and the explosion of direct and indirect racism after 1990 – returning, in full but not full democracy, to exclusionary racism.

The slavery of the Roma, which lasted for more than half a millennium and was called by abolitionists "social leprosy", not only placed the Roma outside society, but also excluded them from the condition of human beings, being considered chattels.

What followed were centuries of ethnic stigmatization.

The prejudiced collective mind towards the Roma built the negative stereotype, and the collective mind of the Roma, oppressed by a negative self-image due to this negative stereotype imposed by otherness, internalized and reinforced the negative stereotype. The rejection, often by the Roma themselves, of belonging to the Roma ethnicity is the new form of Slavery of the Roma: Spiritual Slavery.

Following this stereotypical system of thought, the dominant attitude and policy of society towards the Roma oscillated between exclusionary racism, which led to the Genocide, and dominance racism, manifested through assimilation.

The study of a significant part of the Romanian folklore, especially the proverbs, oral tales and fairy tales, demonstrates a racist thinking towards the Roma, who are seen as representatives of evil.

The Roma are never defined as they are, but rather they are perceived as they should be in order to justify the policies and behaviors of others towards them. The process of hetero-identification of the Roma must correspond to the collective horizon of expectation, which is eminently negative; therefore any deviation towards the positive is felt to be an exception to the rule. Here we can cite the famous myth of the Roma friend from childhood, the prototype of the good, the exception to the bad "gypsy" norm, often evoked by those who start their speech with the stereotype "I'm not racist, but these gypsies..." and continues with the same stereotype "I had a gypsy friend / a neighbor in my childhood / in my youth, a special man, if all gypsies were like him, how good it would be!". Marked by all the rules of racism, including the avant la lettre apology, the evocation of an indeterminate positive past and the generalization of negative attributes at the group level, this type of discourse refers to childhood as a golden age of absolute tolerance, a time in which could have found out the good "gypsy" as well, certainly an exception to the norm of evil that he embodies.

Exclusionary racism culminated in the Holocaust during the Second World War - the deportation of Roma to Transnistria with the aim of their extermination. Romania holds the record in Europe for the number of exterminated Roma: the Romanian Committee for War Crimes has officially recognized the figure of 38,000 dead Roma, including 6,714 children.

The racism that has dominated, manifested through internal colonization, culminated, as far as the Roma are concerned, with the policy of ethnic assimilation during the socialist regime, the Roma not being recognized as a national minority and being subjected to a harsh process of Romanianization. Under the conditions of this policy of cultural colonization, based on the criterion of numbers and the inflexible autarchic "prototype", the majority holds all the levers of power and the institutions of representation, and the Roma cultural model is subject to stigmatizing negative stereotypes, is perceived as deviant and recommended, implicitly, acculturation.

The great trauma comes from the fact that, even when the Roma individual accepts the rejection of his own system of values and norms and tries to erase their identity and become as "Romanian" as possible, the abandonment of their ethnicity is not rewarded with a real inclusion, they continue to be "the gypsy". As an apparent paradox of the racism of domination, dissociation from the collective self and conversion to the majority educational canon does not help much to the "social integration" of the Roma, who remain excluded.

Individul rrom, oricum “obişnuit” să fie perceput ca locuitor al unei lumi marginale şi deviante, ca aparţinând unui grup social “parazitar”, unei “minorităţi infracţionale”, “obişnuit” cu raziile şi amprentarea întregii sale familii, cu evacuările forţate, cu expulzările şi demolarea caselor, şi aşa aflate deseori într-o  stare de pauperitate absolută, departe de a deveni imun la stigmatizare, îşi proiectează viitorul ca ireversibil negativ, rezultat al unui destin implacabil, al unui blestem ancestral sau al “păcatului originar” de a fi rrom.

After 1990, the Roma, although, finally, after centuries of cruel exploitation, were recognized as a national minority by the Romanian state, they do not really enjoy the cultural rights that derive from this status, precisely against the background of the stigmatization of ethnicity and the persistence of racism in society and at the level of public authorities, the latter often choosing to exclude Roma from the implementation of both civil and ethnic rights. Although a recognized national minority, the Roma are still victims of social exclusion, most of the time, ignored as a national minority and considered only as a vulnerable or disadvantaged social group

Anti-Roma racial bullying in schools continues and worsens. According to UNICEF data ("Violence in school", ALPHA MDN Publishing House, Bucharest, 2006), Romania ranks first in Europe in terms of the number of students between the ages of 11 and 15 who bully other classmates. Almost half of the children in Romania - 46% - were at one time or more victims of bullying, 53% of them being girls and 47% boys. According to the Save the Children study “Bullying among children. Sociological study at the national level" (Bucharest, 2016), the most vulnerable are Roma children. Often, the school environment bullies the Roma child, they are insulted by their peers with the term gypsy, and often at that very moment, they find out that he is a gypsy, and being a gypsy means something bad. No one told them at home that being Roma is not a problem and that it means nothing more than that you belong to a national minority with a different culture, history, and language from the majority. No one tells them this at school. So what is left for the Roma child is to face the racial bullying in the school alone, which starts from irony, goes to insults, yelling, and other forms of verbal aggression, and can even reach physical aggression.

There are still numerous cases of Roma children in segregated schools or classes, where both the quality of the educational activities and the study conditions are far below the minimum standard. With few exceptions, the schools in the Roma neighborhoods are in a very bad state. The teachers are unqualified. The teaching materials are not adequate and the teachers are not interested in Roma students. When we talk about segregation, we are not referring to education in the Romani language, but to schools or classes segregated according to ethnic criteria, but this does not mean studying in the Romani language.

Copiii rromi care frecventează şcoala se confruntă atât cu tratamentul discriminatoriu exercitat de profesori, cât şi cu abuzurile verbale, nu de puţine ori şi cu violenţe fizice ale elevilor majoritari, abuzuri care nu sunt corectate de profesori sau personalul din şcoală. Copiii rromi sunt numiţi “ţigani” şi sunt acuzaţi de colegii lor că ar fi murdari, că ar fi hoți şi că ar avea păduchi sau boli. Uneori, acest tratament este însoţit de abuzuri fizice din partea profesorilor de alte etnii, inclusiv prin folosirea pedepselor corporale pentru încălcări minore ale disciplinei şcolare, cum ar fi vorbitul în timpul orei.

The racism of the Romanian state is at the origin of the ethnicization of poverty. One of the consequences of racism is that, from an economic-social point of view, the Roma community is the most disadvantaged in Romania. The high rates of poverty and the low level of access to the labor market make Roma families dependent on social protection, which, however, is far from ensuring them a decent living.

dr. Delia Grigore/ Translation: Victoria Ducu

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