Saturday, October 26, 2013

Xenophobia's Standard Target: Europe's Roma

Efforts to save a child from the Roma family that stole her were proven to be ill-founded since the girl was proven to be, via DNA, just a wee bit related to the Roma family.  Some folks have discussed the new animus towards the Roma, which just means that they don't know much about Europe. 

The Roma were among the groups most targeted and devastated during the Holocaust.  So, fear and violence aimed at them is nothing new.  More recently, we have seen xenophobes throughout Europe feel as if they can target the Roma these days, since everybody hates them, in lieu of targeting Jews (who you are not supposed to hate/who are too few in most parts to matter/who are too powerful to offend). 

As nationalists consider their checklists of whom it is safe to hate, three groups have remained on such lists: immigrants, Muslims, and Roma.  Ok, checklists do not really exist (as far as I know), but there is a general sense that hating certain groups and not others is good for business, in the business of playing up xenophobia to gain votes. 

Here is a figure we used on the Steve and Bill book that illustrates xenophobia and how the Roma fit in:

"Institutul pentru Politici Publica 2003, 36.  The original figure contains data about other groups as well (Arabs, Chinese, Blacks, Lesbians, Muslims), but I extracted the most relevant ones as well as Homosexuals as they are the focus of the most extreme views. "

The point in the figure is that Roma are the most hated group in Romania except for homosexuals.  As such, they are a convenient target and not just in Romania.

So, when I saw the reports this past week, I only surprised when folks seemed to suggest that anti-Roma fears, attitudes and behavior are somehow novel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I lived in Bulgaria, where there are plenty of Roma, the Bulgarians said they were thieves. We Americans knew better than to discriminate and lectured the Bulgarians on tolerance.

Except over time, every woman I knew was the victim of several pickpocketing attempts, many of them successful. I had my purse partially opened 3 times. Each time after several Roma-looking women had moved very close to me. If you've experienced it, it's weird, as you're in a crowd, but there are too many people too close for even the crowd you're in.

So, we liberal, diversity-loving Americans told each other to hold our purses in two hands when Roma came near.

The thieves may be a small percentage of the Roma, but at least in Bulgaria, the Roma are a very visible percentage of the pickpockets.

Obviously, marginalized groups which get little education and fewer job opportunities might have fewer other options that preying on the people who have excluded them, but I don't think Europe can integrate the Roma without dealing with both the perception and the reality of Roma as thieves.