It was sometime during the 13th century that the
Gypsies entered Europe. Because of their different appearance and misunderstood
habits they were soon branded and persecuted as enemies by European society.
Soon the Gypsies were driven into a life of mobility. Many times they would
escape into the forests for refuge and those who looked upon this assumed
this habit to be a carefree and chosen lifestyle of the Gypsies. And so
one of the very first stereotypes of the Gypsies had developed. Many to
this day mistakenly and foolishly believe that they can become a Gypsy
if they choose to lead a nomadic lifestyle. Soon this nomadic stereotype
became widely accepted among the gajze, and Gypsies became what
the gajze thought they were.
History has taught Gypsies that the less contact they had with gajze
the better off they would be. For this reason Gypsies were able to survive
much of their persecutions, yet for the same reasons they are cursed today.
If someone slandered the Gypsies with a name unbecoming of them there was
no one to protest. The Gypsies were so segregated and afraid of the gajze
that they lacked the capabilities to fight the slanders that were made
against them. They were forced into distancing themselves out of fear.
And so Gypsies have become society's easiest targets for blame.
When we pick up an article on a crime believed to be a crime committed
by a Gypsy, based on misguided information about Gypsies, we find words
like Gypsy crime and Gypsy scams. How unfortunate it is for
Gypsies to be the only race to be identified by a particular crime based
on someone's negative experience of someone they presumed to be a Gypsy.
In all my experiences I have not come across many Gypsies who were happy
to reveal they are Gypsy. I cannot possibly see how a Gypsy involved in
a criminal act would identify themself as Gypsy.
So, by what method are these people identified
as Gypsies? Simple, the answer is misguided generalizations and sterotypes
of what Gypsies are. There are many Gypsies who have given much and are
continuing to add much to this world. There are Gypsies who are actors,
factory owners, lawyers, teachers, and so forth. Yet, because of the many
negative generalizations against Gypsies, these successful people fear
losing their place in society once they have exposed themselves as Gypsies.
However, the media chooses to avoid those Gypsies who are brave enough
to be noticed. A Gypsy scam makes much better headlines in the media
than a Gypsy teacher taking an active role on behalf of his people, for
The media has even managed to have Gypsies change their last names.
For example, the last name Kwiek is as popular among Gypsies as is Smith
among gajze. The major difference is Smith does not receive bad
media, but Kwiek does. Imagine you have the last name Smith and are denied
entry into a country solely on the basisof your name, or try picturing
yourself receiving constant police harassment because your last name is
Smith. I imagine if this was the case not too many Smiths would be around!
We are called by the name Gypsy, and I must
acknowledge this fact when this word refers to my people and me, although
our preference is to be called Rroma. The only way I foresee for
us to change misconceptions of us, and for the gajze to call us
by our proper name, Rroma, is for all of us to educate others by
whatever capabilities we have.