Every morning I browse the news for articles about the Roma, specifically in Europe. This morning there weren’t any new ones, just regurgitation of a NY Times article in the Washington Times; repetition of the fear that EU states hold about the Roma. As though we’re locusts come to suck the crops dry; or a plague set to kill off the bourgeoisie. This rhetoric of fear seems to percolate through the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Greece, Italy, Russia – and many other countries – like stale coffee. High ranking officials attempt to justify blatantly racist statements by using words like “incest”, “the Roma problem”, “inadaptable”, and “unwilling to work”. They place the blame for our poverty, lack of education, and ill-health back on our shoulders, like a wreath on a tombstone.
Roma are the perennial pariahs. A convenient scape goat for economic and social problems.
We have no voice, no power, no argument.
It seems there are a growing number of Romani academics, lawyers, doctors, authors, and powerful speakers. We are reaching the point where we won’t be silent anymore. But, what do our words mean? We’re continually discounted. Education means we’re not really Romani anymore; we don’t know the “situation on the ground”; we’re wrapped in our ivory towers surrounded by privilege and whiteness.
It’s not like that, at least for me. Every step of the way, I carry the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of Romani women will never have a chance like mine. I carry the knowledge that my light skin lies on my behalf, whether or not I want it to. I carry the knowledge that all the words I’ve read and all the words I will read may never even be seen by so many of my brothers and sisters.I carry the knowledge that I may never be enough.
I carry the names of the dead on my back like bricks. Every day another is added.
I will never forget. I will never forget the sacrifices it took to get me to this point; to provide me with this life. My blood runs thick with our traditions and our words; my heart beats the rhythm of hooves on the road.
I am neither unwilling nor unable to work. It’s all I’ve done my entire life to get me to this place. So many of us have worked so hard, only to have our voices thrown back at us like rotten figs.
We won’t be quiet. We won’t stop talking. We won’t stop correcting your negative, racist, and bigoted views of us.
If the Roma are anything, it’s persistent, tenacious, passionate. We rise a little more every day like the winter sun and soon you’ll be blinded by our truth.