Thursday, May 27, 2010

Who Are the Roma?

From the Roma Rights Network, an organization whose mission is to "bring attention to plight of the Roma" and "raise awareness of the Roma and the issues affecting them. . . through providing a crucial supplement to the mainstream commercial media representations of the Roma:"

["Seeking: Future. Every day the Roma are victims of racism. That's not the solution. Think about it and stop racism."]

Roma and Sinti, who make up the largest minority in Europe today with some 10 to 12 million members, share with the Jews the terrible experience of disfranchisement, persecution and systematic extermination in Nazi-occupied Europe. Half a million members fell victim to the Holocaust, an experience that is burned deep in the collective memory of the Roma and Sinti minorities, but which is still barely acknowledged by the majority in their countries of nationality. As a consequence of the Holocaust, the international political system is extremely sensitive to the various forms of anti-Semitism, whose rise we have observed with great concern in recent years. In contrast to this, there is neither an awareness of the historical dimension of the crimes of genocide committed against our minority nor of the present-day racism that Roma and Sinti are subjected to in many countries.

In the minds of many people, Roma and Sinti are still associated with homeless “nomads”. This contrasts with the historical fact that members of this minority group have been integrated in and are citizens of their respective countries of nationality for many centuries, particularly in Europe. Therefore, most of the European Governments have recognized Roma and Sinti as national minorities who, in addition to the national culture of the majority, also cultivate their own cultural identity, including their traditional language, Romany.

. . . Since the end of the cold war and the opening up of central and eastern European countries in 1990, the living conditions of the Roma and Sinti minority have drastically deteriorated as a result of nascent racism. However, racist-motivated violence and discrimination against Roma and Sinti have significantly increased in a large number of countries in western Europe. As The New York Times correctly observed in a commentary in March 1996, members of the minority are today subjected to marginalization and racism to an extent that corresponds to the situation of African-Americans in the United States up until the mid-1950s.

More here.

[Originally posted on Tereza Bottman's Advocacy Project blog.]

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