12027773_10207396940458567_4952079491516086772_nYesterday, I discovered (via Facebook) that someone was attempting to sell a shirt via the popular website “Zazzle” (an online retailer that allows users to upload images and create their own merchandise, or buy merchandise created by other users, as well as use images from participating companies), that was extremely offensive.

The shirt, “Gypsy Hunter Badge – We Kill the Gypsies” was for sale by a user called Le Volodya (which when searched links to the profile of Vladimir VolDemar Posokhin and Volodya is a diminutive of Vladimir). 

I was both sickened and outraged.

My family tried to flee the Holocaust, but more than half of them perished. It’s my belief that almost all of those who died did so at the hands of the Einsatzgruppen – the military ‘task forces’ (also known as “Schutzstaffel (SS) paramilitary death squads”) who roamed the countryside literally hunting and killing Romani where they stood (often forcing them to dig their own graves first).

6976985_orig

Slovak Romani shot along the side of the road by SS Einsatzgruppen

This shirt, with it’s “Gypsy Hunter” slogan immediately dragged my mind to that very scenario. There are Romani alive today who still remember being hunted; who still remember the panic and fear of the voices and gunshots in the woods.

But, that isn’t all. According to the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota,

“Also in the 16th century began the “gypsy hunts.” Not unlike a fox hunt, the Gypsies were rounded up and hunted for spor
t. This savage practice was prevalent in Switzerland, in Holland up to the 18th century and reaching as far as Denmark. No crime needed to have been committed by these people in order for them to be incarcerated or hunted down like animals.

In 1589 the King of Denmark decreed that any leader of a Gypsy band was to be sentenced to death. Honors and rewards were given to those who would participate in Gypsy hunts and capture them. These hunts continued as late as the 19th century. A great Gypsy hunt covering four districts of Jutland took place on November 11, 1835. The day brought in a bag of over 260 men, women and children.

A Rheinland landowning aristocrat is said to have entered in his list of game killed during a day’s hunting: Item: A Gypsy woman with her sucking babe. (Kenrick 1972:46)

In Germany and other countries the law supported this treachery. Martin Block, the Gypsiologist, had recorded the following German law enacted in Aachen in 1728: …in order to root out this brood of rascals… whether the Gypsies resist or not, these people shall be put to death. Nevertheless, those who… do not counterattack may be granted at most half an hour, to go on their knees and beg of the Almighty, if they so wish, pardon for their sins and to prepare for death ….(Greenfeld 1977:61).

In an account of the “miserable state of these people,” the scholar Grellman stated, “They were not always looked upon as human creatures, for at a hunting party, at one of the small German courts, a mother and her child were shot like a couple of wild beasts.” (Greenfeld 1977:61)”

While the above information is horrific enough, it’s important to recognize the discrimination and racism that Romani face today – and while not actively hunted in the same sense of the word, many Romani families face violence and hatred on a daily basis, with their homes and lives regularly being destroyed (through evictions, cases of arson and other violence, or pogroms). Our families are still targeted, hunted by authorities, neo-Nazis, and others to be moved on, harmed, or killed.

A screen shot of my Facebook showing the call to action, the link, and some responses (names/images edited for privacy)

A screen shot of my Facebook showing the call to action, the link, and some responses (names/images edited for privacy)

As news spread – via Facebook, email, and other websites – emails were sent en masse to Zazzle demanding removal of the shirt (not only for the reasons outlined above, but also because it directly contravened their own user agreement, particularly User Conduct). I saw at least eight different people sharing the shirt website and contact email for Zazzle, with further commentary, shared letters, and other information. I also shared the information on Tumblr. The Romani news server, Romea.cz also posted information regarding sale of the shirt on their website (which in turn prompted the creation of a separate Zazzle user account promoting a “Romea.cz Oppressing White People” shirt by “Romea_Troll”). Over the course of the day, further emails were sent to Zazzle calling for the removal of the second shirt, as well as Le Volodya’s account from their website. It wasn’t enough simply to ban the offensive t-shirt. Le Volodya had violated the terms of use he had agreed to upon creation of his account – and not in an accidental harmless way. He deliberately sought to create an offensive, racist, t-shirt which promoted the killing of Romani people.

Luckily, the team at Zazzle responded by removing the offensive shirt immediately and later, after further emails, removed the user Le Volodya entirely. Of course, this doesn’t mean he cannot recreate a new profile (I doubt they banned his email address or IP), but for now our collective actions were incredibly successful.

It’s important to note that our calls for removal of the shirt and the user were calm and assertive. Often, I think, Romani are accused of being “over-dramatic” or “angry” in our responses to horrifically racist incidents such as this. While our anger is one hundred percent justified, it’s important to react in a way that others can relate to, without becoming defensive or verbally abusive ourselves. In my experience that only serves to harm our cause rather than aid or affirm it in any way. Sometimes, it’s not possible to be detached or control the anger, so in those situations I definitely advocate asking to copy or edit someone else’s email or letter.

When my son saw the t-shirt (on Facebook), he was confused and upset. He asked why it was available for sale, why no one thought it was offensive (except us), and why we had to continually argue the same points to the (same) people. I wasn’t sure I had answers for him. I showed him our emails and I showed him Zazzle’s response.

He said that although they “did good” they didn’t do “good enough”. I agree with him.

If we have to do this one shirt and one user at a time, we will. There is no excuse for this.

I’ve attached copies of some of our emails below.

A letter written by Lucie:

To whom it may concern I am writing to you regarding an item advertised/sold on Zazzle.de and Zazzle.co.uk on the following links http://www.zazzle.de/sinti_und_roma_jager_shirt_hemden
http://www.zazzle.co.uk/yoda2088


The print on the front side of the T-Shirt reads “Gypsy Hunter Bange: We kill the Gypsies”. The design is by a Ukrainian designer/profile who calls himself LeVolodya http://www.zazzle.de/yoda2088, http://www.zazzle.co.uk/yoda2088Through Zazzle.com, his profile is also connected to this webpage http://www.kitchendiningbeddingbath.com/yoda2088

The slogan is immoral, racist, xenophobic, violent and illegal as it incites to hatred and physical violence/killings/murder of a particular ethnicity (race): the Gypsies.

Would you be selling this item if the slogan on the T-shirt motivated people to kill Jews, Afro-Americans, Rwandans, Armenians, LGBT, or any other minority group which was subject of mass killings/murders and/or the Holocaust?

I am referring to your User Agreement http://www.zazzle.co.uk/mk/policy/user_agreement, particularly para a:
“In using this site, you agree to not a/upload, download, post, email or otherwise transmit any Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, vulgar, harassing, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, profane, indecent, inflammatory, libelous, tortuous, hateful, racially, ethnically, socially, politically, legally, morally, religiously objectionable”

Clearly, the designer’s conduct is in breach of that agreement.

Should you choose to remove the item on the above grounds, you should also ban the retailer and warm them that legal action may be brought against them.

Otherwise, I will be alerting legal entities of this unacceptable, illegal and unprofessional conduct by your company.

 

A letter by Petra:

I am a loyal Zazzle customer and a Romani (ethnic Gypsy) woman. I know Zazzle has plenty of other Romani customers, as we rely on various Zazzle designers for “Roma pride” merchandise. It has come to my attention that a currently available graphic advocates the killing of Gypsies:
http://www.zazzle.de/sinti_und_roma_jager_shirt_hemden

Given that hundreds of thousands of Roma/Sinti (Gypsies) were killed in the Holocaust and that anti-Gypsy violence continues daily in our time, this is in no way humorous and you must ban the design immediately. It is virulently racist, illegal, and in violation of Zazzle’s own standards.

Thank you,

The mash-up version of the above letters that I sent (you don’t always have to be original if, like me, you are working and don’t have much time or you can’t keep calm):

I am a loyal Zazzle customer and a Romani (Gypsy) woman. I know Zazzle has plenty of other Romani customers, as we rely on various Zazzle designers for “Roma pride” merchandise. It has come to my attention that a currently available graphic advocates the killing of Gypsies:
http://www.zazzle.de/sinti_und_roma_jager_shirt_hemden

The print on the front side of the T-Shirt reads “Gypsy Hunter Badge: We kill the Gypsies”.

The design is by a Ukrainian designer/profile who calls himself LeVolodya http://www.zazzle.de/yoda2088, http://www.zazzle.co.uk/yoda2088. Through Zazzle.com, his profile is also connected to this webpage http://www.kitchendiningbeddingbath.com/yoda2088

The slogan is immoral, racist, xenophobic, violent and illegal as it incites to hatred and physical violence/killings/murder of a particular ethnicity (race): the Gypsies.

Given that hundreds of thousands of Roma/Sinti (Gypsies) were killed in the Holocaust and that anti-Gypsy violence continues daily in our time, this is in no way humorous and you must ban the design immediately. It is virulently racist, illegal, and in violation of Zazzle’s own standards.

Your own User Agreement <<http://www.zazzle.co.uk/mk/policy/user_agreement>> [para a] states: In using this site, you agree to not upload, download, post, email or otherwise transmit any content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, vulgar, harassing, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, profane, indecent, inflammatory, libelous, tortuous, hateful, racially, ethnically, socially, politically, legally, morally, religiously objectionable.

Clearly, the designer’s conduct is in breach of that agreement.

Should you choose to remove the item on the above grounds, you should also ban the retailer and warm them that legal action may be brought against them.

Thank you,

Qristina Zavačková Cummings

 

Following removal of the shirt, later in the day we also sent emails regarding his user account. Below is the email I sent:

Thank you very much for understanding the nature of our concerns and for removing the design promptly. However, I’m disappointed that LeVolodya’s profile is still active and they have not been banned from your site for violating your own user agreement in such an egregious manner. I’m sure you would agree that a person who produces such hateful designs should have no place on any kind of marketplace.

I would ask your company to completely remove LeVolodya from Zazzle marketplace. There is no guarantee that he will not simply replace the item he removed or create other items. It wasn’t a case of a small, accidental violation of the terms of service, but rather a glaring, offensive, and hateful design that blatantly violated not only your own user terms, but also clearly stepped into racist hate speech and incitement to violence.

Many Romani use your site. To remove him would show that you take not only our economic patronage of your website seriously, but also respect us as an ethnic group. Xenophobia, racism, anti-Gypsyism and the promotion of hate speech and hate crime has no place in the 21st century.

Now there are further designs being created by what appears to be a separate account (most probably belonging to the same person) that mock our justified concern and outrage. (Found here http://www.zazzle.co.uk/trololo_romea_t_shirts-235103349219363933) Romea demand the shirt be removed on copyright reasons. I personally demand the shirt removed on racial grounds. 

Please remove Le Volodya and any of his other profiles immediately.

Thanks,
Qristina Zavačková Cummings

%d bloggers like this: