That day when you stand up in front of 30 people and say

“I’m Romani”

and you don’t explain. You don’t pause for a minute and mumble “you know, Gypsy?”

You just stand there and say

“I’m Romani”.

You see their confused looks, the glances between the two girls at the back of the room, unsure if they should keep listening or not.

The words flash onto the screen behind me
and I start speaking.

I don’t mention the word Gypsy until I get to the Holocaust and then only to state that many hundreds of thousands died because of it.
I mention it before the video of Lunik IX as I state the terrible conditions in Europe that still persist, perpetuated in large part by semantics and stereotypes.

Of course there are the questions

“So is it true that Gypsy, I mean Romani women don’t go to school and get married when they’re nine?”

“Like, if she has 11 kids, and they’re starving like… why? I mean isn’t that just stupid?”

“You don’t look like a Gypsy, I mean Romani”

To which, of course, I ask them what a Romani should look like…

“Browner”, “shorter”, “dirtier”, “they wouldn’t be in school…”

Still.

I’m sure I’ll remember it all my life.

Today was the first time I stood there and simply said

“My name is Qristina and I am Romani”

 

 

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