How is Antigypsyism affecting young Roma people nowadays?
Speech from Dec, 7 2016, European Parliament, Conference on Antigypsyism hosted by the S&D Members:
MEP Damian Drăghici, MEP Catalin Ivan, MEP Soraya Post and MEP Peter Niedermüller.
I was born in Romania but I was lucky enough to grow up in Austria as an invisible Romani girl. I was not only invisible to the society but also to myself. It was only at age 13 that realized that I was Roma when my father told me: By the way, you are a gypsy.
But why was it a good thing to be invisible? Why was it a good thing to grow up detached from a major part of my own identity? Why did my family never mention that we were Roma? Why did I never meet any Roma in school or at university, even though I have always been surrounded by Roma people.
When I am in the Metro in Vienna, almost every day, I can hear people speaking Romanes, but how is this possible if nobody is Roma? Why did I have to research my own identity and to google the word Roma? Why haven’t I learn anything about the Roma genocide in history class?
And why am I not the only one to have experienced all these things?
For young Roma people the access to education and work is not easily available. Because of their names or their skin colour or because of their lifestyle basic rights are denied to them. Why do young visible Roma always have to work harder to get where they want to be?
Why are Roma children segregated from other children in some schools? Why do we need a Roma quota in universities or in companies? Why are we still not considered a part of the European society and why do I have to stand here today and ask all these questions?
We have many excellent and brilliant personalities who are Roma but why has nobody heard of them?
Why can’t Roma youngsters have Roma role models? Why can’t we be superheroes?
Why does half of the Roma population not speak Romanes anymore? Why is there no unity among all the Roma people in the world? Why do we still have to fight for recognition or for fundamental rights like housing or education?
To answer all these questions, we have to look back on centuries of discrimination, marginalization and persecution. This is not a new phenomenon, neither a result of the national socialism. But even after passing the worst possible situation with the genocide of Roma people during WW2, many things have remained the same.
How could I identify myself as a romani woman if so many people and governments don’t want us? What benefits would I get if I where to admit that I am Roma? Why should I keep talking this language, if so few people even know it exists?
If you are told for centuries that you don’t have the same values as other people and that you are unworthy of respect – one day you start believing it.
This is where we are now. This is why many of us have low self-esteem and don’t even dare to dream about achieving great things.
This is the reason why we keep fighting stereotypes, prejudices and Antigypsyism. Only if the collective mind-set will change, our reality can be changed.