On December 8, the US Senate passed a bipartisan Resolution “celebrates the Romani American heritage” and celebrates the history, culture, and contributions of the Romani people to the advancement of humanity.
The adoption of the resolution – the culmination of years of activism and lobbying by the people of Romania and our allies – is an important step forward in our long struggle for history and heritage. Romanian heritage is officially recognized and respected in the United States. However, while there is reason to rejoice at this important resolution, our work is far from over.
I am not of American descent, but as a Romani who has lived in the United States for many years, I have experienced and witnessed the disastrous consequences of the American public’s prejudices about the people, history and Romanian culture.
I moved from Romania – where my people have faced racism, discrimination and institutionalized violence for centuries – to the US to attend Harvard University in 2012. rich in racism in America, I figured I would enter an environment where I would be surrounded by people who were knowledgeable about anti-Roma ideas and very adept at talking about their many expressions. .
I soon realized that my assumption was incorrect. Some of the people I meet here, despite their deep understanding of racism, its ideologies and manifestations, casually refer to the myth of the “g*psy crime” as an incident. real or alluding to a particular “way of life” of the Romani.
For example, when I was leaving class one day, a classmate asked me if my family had a “lifestyle” similar to the characters in the reality TV series Gypsy Sisters – one of the series. Follow-up of the very popular American TV series or not. British series Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. His interest in my culture is real, but like many of his compatriots, his perception of the Romani has been distorted by the wave of transatlantic migration of anti-Roman sentiments and the amplification of harmful stereotypes on television.
In a year 2020 learn, As my colleagues at the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and I conducted in partnership with Voice of Roma, two-thirds of the Roma Americans interviewed agreed that the television programs America portrays gypsies negatively. Indeed, shows like My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding present violence, vulgarity, and child marriage as cultural features of the Romani. Episodes in this series carry titles like Birthday Party Turns into a Big Fight, G*psy Truck War, and even Mother Bear Attacks the Bride.
Not only are so-called “reality TV series” centered around Rome, but many American TV shows and movies portray Romanians as one-dimensional g*psy stereotypes. They misrepresent us, as Romani-American filmmaker George Eli once said, “as magical creatures, vampires, vagrants, nomads, criminals, thieves or pickpockets.” . In fact, they not only misrepresented Roman culture as vulgar, lowly and violent, but also sensationalized for their own profit.
This constant distortion and sensationalism affects the everyday realities of Romani Americans. One Roma we interviewed for the 2020 study told us that the school environment, in particular, “is now much worse as teachers can watch the Fat Gypsy Wedding of the I”. “They think our children are worthless scum, that they don’t deserve to be educated or protected in school.” Other Romani Americans agree that their children must suffer because of racist depictions of Roma as inferior or Romanian girls as overly sexual. They said many Romanian children had dropped out of school due to bullying related to their ethnicity and explained that such incidents prompted them to advise their children to hide their national identity and to endure all kinds of problems in silence. prejudice against the Romans they encountered.
Of course, anti-Roma discrimination in America was not invented by reality TV operators. Today’s exploitative TV shows simply amplify ingrained stereotypes and allow them to spread far more widely than in the past. Decades ago, in the 1964 and 1989 Change in Status polls, U.S. adults rated “g*psies” as having “the lowest.”social status“. In fact, they rate the Romanians, along with Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, as inferior to an invented ethnic group, the “Wisians”.
Of course, anti-Roma prejudices do not stand alone. As is the case in other parts of the world, cultural and racial prejudice against Romanians justifies and reinforces deeply harmful discriminatory actions such as racistinstitutional neglect and disrespect towards members of our community.
So it’s time for a change. The recent Senate resolution honoring Romani-American heritage is a good starting point, but we need more. We need to stop exploiting Roman culture and spreading damaging stereotypes about Roma in popular culture. One way to achieve this could be through ensuring Romanians take on leading roles in writing, producing, directing and acting in TV series and movies. We need American policymakers to take meaningful action so that we can regain full control of our identity, history, and heritage – and ultimately, we can feel see Romani Americans as highly regarded and respected members of American society.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.