Can European Roma Learn from African American Rights Struggle?

"... When I hear Roma say they are inspired by the American civil rights movement and that they see that movement as a model, I am proud of what my country has accomplished. But I am also mindful that we are not done here, either, and that while there are many similarities between the experiences of African Americans and Roma, there are also many differences." - Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (The U.S. Helsinki Commission).

Can European Roma Learn from African American Rights Struggle?

Yes because... No because...

It is about the fundamental issues

Yes, Roma can learn from this struggle much more than just on civil rights under law, because this struggle is also about fundamental issues of freedom, respect, dignity, and economic and social equality. This is not only about formal policies, but on the radical change of society in direction of tolerance, equality and justice. Roma should learn more on this!

America has long been considered “The Land of the Free”. Many Europeans came here to be free of oppression in their homelands. It is interesting to note that while they wished for freedom they did not allocate these same rights to other races and religions. The blacks of America were able to capitalize on this ideal. Freedom for whom? If it is the land of the free then why were they not able to participate as full citizens. In America all races and religions have these rights on paper and for the most part there is redress now. Europe has no idealized philosophy. To borrow a term I first read in the Calgary Herald years ago from Richard Wagamese, “white, might and right”, seems to fit the European way of thinking. They don’t want them there, never have and never will, period. Most Europeans do not want to look at themselves and see what part they have played in the present demise of the Roma. What you see is a symptom of this xenophobia. Having the incapacity to see the Roma through the Roma’s eyes and how they have been affected by slavery, WWII, genocide, forced sterilizations, forced removal of children from their homes, poverty, being marginalized, vilified and being defined by others. I am amazed that they have survived at all! In one of Alice Miller’s books I remember reading about German girls being questioned about how they could participated in these atrocities while they sat there like they were attending a social event. The gist of it was that was how they were raised and did not see the Jews and Roma as human. Some still don’t see them as human. (Farmers treat their livestock more humanely!) This is hard for me to imagine. In my family we don’t eat fish. Nothing wrong with fish but it was not available on the farm 80 years ago. Now I grew up in the city but my mom never cooked fish. We used to joke around as children that the daycare down the street served fish with eyes...silly and stupid, I know. I find fish repulsive. Before it even gets to my mouth I gag; therefore, I don’t eat it. Now if you were told that “Gypsies” are really bad all your life you internalize it. I don’t believe that a Martin Luther King approach will work in Europe. What is needed is for the EU, The United Nations, Canada and the U.S. to put pressure on Europe to treat the Roma with respect to counter this internalized historical feeling of revulsion. Everyone who believes in democracy needs to be more proactive and put more action into their words. Appeasement is how we treated Hitler but appeasement does not change the fact of what is going on over in Europe. Europeans want to look good without being good. I believe we all need to put pressure on Europe to treat their citizens with more respect. I don’t believe if the Roma used non-violent tactics it would not work unless others stood with them. People would use violence against them and justify their actions using legal means such as the police and governments who would just poopoo their concerns and not be fair and objective, kind of like the “ole boys club” mentality. The world needs to step up to the plate and say remove the barriers and treat these people with respect. It is the responsibility of the EU, the United Nations and every democratic country in the world to stand up for them. Let them know that they are not alone. If it is not fair for one group then it is not fair for all.

Can European Roma Learn from African American Rights Struggle?

Yes because... No because...

Roam need to learn the resistance srategy of direct action

The civil rights struggle was a grassroots popular movement. It wasn't about NGOs sprouting like mushrooms and a Decade of Inclusion run by the rich. It was mobilizing people to throw a wrench in the gears of everyday life. Sit-ins at restaurants, marches on Washington (when has there been a Roma march on Sofia or Bratislava?), smaller radical groups of high visibility like the Black Panthers.

It was about getting people out to vote, power at the ballot box. But the power of masses to demonstrate in inventive forms of Direct Action. This means getting ordinary Roma en masse into the streets of Europe, from Turkey to Spain. It means getting Dom into the streets, in Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere.

Voices like Senator Cardin (above) represent the corporate world. Banks and corporations that controls most politicians and the media in the US and Europe, esp. the European Union. The Roma need to look to independent socialist movements for radical change, in many respects the political opposite of parties like Fidesz in Hungary. The Socialist Party USA might be one prototype: http://socialistparty-usa.org/

Votes are mentioned, and will be useful in some systems, particularly proportional representation systems that do not have barriers to entry. However this is where there is a big difference between African-Americans in the US and the Roma in Europe. Simple numbers. There are at most about 10 million Roma people in Europe compared to 37.6 million African Americans in the US across a smaller total population. The Roma are also very spread out throughout Europe making it more difficult to get MPs elected in national parliaments particularly in first past the post systems. In Britain for example it would be almost impossible except to work through the existing parties. The African Americans often are a majority in their district making them powerful in electing the congressman. This does not mean that getting the vote out would not work at all, in those countries where there are more Roma, probably where they are more than about 5% it could make a big difference. But because Europe is still divided success in one state will not mean benefits in the others.

Can European Roma Learn from African American Rights Struggle?

Yes because... No because...

We have to ask is cultural sensitivity

If we want to be involved in this area and arena we have to be aware that every society have their zone that they are comfortable poking their jokes here and there and their self impose lines that respected members of society can not cross, and if they crossed they have to face consequences socially even if not legally.

50 or 100 years ago it was possible to say things against afro-Americans that you can not say now. What happened? They work hard, they strive, they made it such that this thing became TABOO. Afro-Americans made sure that these issues became TABOO. Can we Roma work hard, educate ourself and make our issue an cultural TABOO? We Roma have to do same things like the Afro-Americans have done, and what we have to ask is cultural sensitivity.

Sometimes is not that the government set this laws it is society norms and cultural value. Every single society have certain issues that are TABOO and you not talking about that, or if you do you must pay a price. Maybe not to go to jail but you will pay a social stigma, in the way that you will pay that your value be lost in society. For example racist stereotypes in America, speaking ill on Afro-Americans it is not illegal, you will not go to jail if you are a racist but what it has to be happened if you open your mouth and start criticizing African-Americans, stereotyping them using the n word? What it would be happened if any self respecting politicians, dignitary, media person use that word? He will not go the jail, it is not against law. What happened with the Michael Richard when he in certain comedy show he wanted to stereotypes the African-Americans when he says something vulgar and evil? It is not illegal, he did not go to the jail but socially he was stigmatized to that level that he have to come forward and say: “ I am racist, and I made mistake” he had basically to admit that he made evil error.

I am not convinced that making something taboo is necessary or constructive. It is mostly things that are considered insulting that are taboo and should be made taboo. Of course this should be the case for things the Roma think insulting as well as anyone else. But should we talk about Roma issues, their culture, and the problems communities have with them? Certainly. Making talking about Roma taboo would be a step backwards as dialogue is needed to solve these problems. The change that is needed is not a whole load of new taboos but cultural understanding. Often taboos simply serve to freeze things as they are, if we won't or can't talk about issues we cannot progress.

Can European Roma Learn from African American Rights Struggle?

Yes because... No because...

power in numbers /// overcoming the illusions of NGOs

Roma in some villages and smaller towns are a majority, there they can elect their own representatives.Th9is is the case in Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria. Elsewhere they can form voting communities together with others, coalition politics to influence voting patterns and elect some common representatives who support their needs. Where Rom numbers are not influential, Direct Action is even more essential. The political party system is often corrupt and can't be relied upon. But people in numbers can show their presence. This takes courage. Many NGOs are organized to pacify Roma, to control them. Roma cannot continue to exist in European states with eyes wide shut, betrayed by their own elites. That is one fundamental lesson of the Decade of Inclusion.

Can European Roma Learn from African American Rights Struggle?

Yes because... No because...

It is all in how they manage it

Northern Ireland modeled their civil rights protests on MLK and the Civil Rights action.. British shot marchers and opened support for sectarian war.

The Rroma themselves need to lead their struggle. From the top down will not work. Thousands of African American people fought and won their civil rights. It was not just MLK and Rosa Parks, but actions like when the people who boycotted the busses in Montgomery for a year walking miles often to their jobs as servants in White homes.

Can European Roma Learn from African American Rights Struggle?

Yes because... No because...

Inspiration is great, but continued learning lessons in society one was forced to live in also a factor.

I see the Roma people as a people who have a lot of pride in their culture, their strong family values, and their lives are full of struggle, very much like the African American in the USA. Can the Roma use the African American as a role model for change? yes of course they can. How much would they have to give of themselves to be socially accepted into the European countries they live in now? If cultures see them in a negative fashion it will always be hard on them to right past wrong, or even the way people say they act as a people.

African Americans are precieved as a problem group on a negative factor always around the world in general, we have to earn respect by upleftting ourselves, by learning the education which is free for all, learning culturally what others expect of us just to be acceptted. It's like having 2-3 "selved" in one body. This we do to protect each other & the way people see us. When a people have no nation they can truly call their own or fall back on for support, one is not respected. When a persons cultrual history is not remembered, instead of taught " as their history" you will also never gain respect. African Americans are the product of slavery & in some many ways I see the Roma in various countiries as "slaves". They must act as a group of one to overcome the injustice being done toward them, but they also must not be lazy and shiftless, like people expect them to be. Look at the way they portray the Roma people all over the world: as uneducated, evil, dirty, everything that a Black persons has also been called in the past, and presently still are. The Civil Rights Movement could not have happened in the favor of the African American if other races did not help get out a walk, bleed and die for Human Rights. The worl must see the conflict & injustice being done to the Roma. The Roma must fight for every right they want, it is never, never, OVER. Racism & the plight it cause is very hurtful. We can not go back, but press on.

Debates > Can European Roma Learn from African American Rights Struggle?