It hasn’t escaped my notice, you know. It’s not as though I’m oblivious to it. Nicknames have always brought it sharply into focus,
Parno manřo, thudvaľi kaveja, paješći čirikli.
White bread. White coffee. White wagtail.
parné jakha, loki, khiľavune jakha, jiv.
Light eyes, Light, Plum-blue eyes, snow.
I would ask my grandmother over and again, “Mami, soske man parni? Tumen san kavejoho!” – why am I white? You are all brown!
She would tell stories to me, how the moon cried the night I was born because I was so beautiful; how I just wasn’t cooked long enough, light as an underdone loaf of bread; how God decided what we looked like and he must have decided that this was the most beautiful “me” he could think of.
At school, with the non-Roma kids I wasn’t white enough.
At home, with my Roma family, I wasn’t brown enough.
Straddling two worlds and being not enough for either of them.
It didn’t escape my notice, you know.
Who is more Roma?
It doesn’t matter.
What I look like, doesn’t matter.
Ethnicity is not determined by colour – it is shared language, culture, customs, history. I know my language, I keep Romanija, I honour my relatives with every breath I take. There is no such thing as more or less Roma. We are Roma. Colour doesn’t define how much. The dialect we speak doesn’t define how much. No Roma is purely, genetically, Romani. There is no such thing anymore. Even families like mine, who claim purity, are not. Just take a look at all the different photographs of Roma that you can find on the internet.
I am far more than the colour of my skin.
If you tell me I am not Roma you laugh in the face of my great-grandmother and the “z” tattooed on her arm. You spit on the graves of my relatives who died in the Porrajmos, because the colour of your skin didn’t matter to the Nazis who hunted us like rabid dogs.
Me sem Řomni. Me sem barimangi kajso sim Řomni. Ajso sem barimangi kajso sim Englišajka. Me sem barimangi te avav vi themutni e ljumaki. Miri cipa si importantno? Niči!! Amen savore šeľakò kolurja sem thaj amen savore sa Řoma!
I am a Romani woman. I am proud to be a Romani woman. I am also proud to be English. I am proud to be a citizen of the world. My skin is important? Not at all! We are all different colours and we are all Roma!
As Gloria E. Anzaldúa said,
“I am an act of kneading, of uniting and joining that not only has produced both a creature of darkness and a creature of light, but also a creature that questions the definitions of light and dark and gives them new meanings.”