All Roma need is work and respect in order to change their lifestyles

By • on July 15, 2013

We are living in times of the financial crisis and high unemployment, when racism and xenophobia are widespread. The lack of financial resources for everyday life results in tension and spitefulness towards the Roma, a vulnerable group that becomes an easy target for assaults.

Even if Roma succeed and advance in life, instead of praise and appreciation they receive an even higher dose of humiliation and hatred. Not from everyone though, but there are enough out there who have no hesitations to present their racist approach.

However, positive news has recently appeared in the media. The Roma from Zámutov, a town from the Vranov nad Topľou district in eastern Slovakia, have been building very nice houses for a few years now, and their living standards have been above average. Most of these Roma work in the building trade, and some of their houses seem nicer than the houses of their non-Roma neighbors. Thanks to their work experience, most of them are young people who understand, like any normal person, that employment can embetter their lives, and that a salary is always more than social support.

Many older Roma live in Zámutov as well. They are retirees who earned enough for their pensions during Communist times by working in surrounding woods. So the people in Zámutov built their houses from clean-handed money. Even Dušan Višňovský, the mayor of the village, praises the Roma in Zámutov and their lifestyle. They even have their own representative in the local municipal council, Jána Tancoš, who is also a businessman.

Tancoš stressed that local Roma do not want to live in rented flats. They want to have their own houses. The only problem they need to deal with is the lack of land for new constructions. I also agreed when Tancoš said that if Roma do not get work, then the so called “Roma problem” will never be solved.

I know well the Zámutov village and its inhabitants. They could be an example for many non-Roma. Sadly enough, there are many non-Roma whose envy and hatred show in manifestations of open racism. We learned to ignore the daily attacks on social networks, but some reactions bring me to my knees. Of course, Zámutov inhabitants get their dose along with the others. How could they have earned enough for their pensions if they did not work all their lives? Or if they did, but only on the black market, as the prejudice goes? Such assumptions are just another proof of how hatred and envy blind common sense.

This is simply a situation that makes no sense. We do not work, we live in shacks, so we are parasites sucking on the social system. We work like ordinary people, we have beautiful houses, so we are thieves and dodgers. So what does this society actually want from us, other than to make us disappear for good?

I read through some comments, which make my hair stand on its ends. There are people who never achieved anything, who have been living off their parents or on welfare, and yet feel in the right to openly request the extermination of Roma, to order us to go back to India, or to say how many children we can have.

It shocks me that someone can set up a Facebook account called “Death to Roma Children,” and that such an account is not blocked immediately. Many people have reported it, and yet it was still there. Many people have also called the police, and it was still there. It was finally deleted only after some time. Its existence was due to a 19-year-old student, who was allegedly a Satanist according to media. The account was his reaction to the birth of the first Czech quintuplets of Roma origin. I wish that nobody should feel what this young Roma family must be going through. Verbal assaults have already targeted the newborn babies, already seen as parasites that many wish to see dead.

Facebook is an amazing thing. It connects thousands and thousands of people in a fraction of a second, and it carries news at high speeds. But it is also a dangerous tool for people with racist ideas. They get an incredible media outlet to express their hatred, many times without any punishment. I suspect that Facebook is partially responsible for the worsening of the relationship among Roma and non-Roma. The daily offenses and reactions to them only heightens the existing tension. I fear that one day all those assaults on Facebook will turn into reality in the streets, and we will kill even for a nasty look.

But there are also many decent Roma and non-Roma, who think critically about the future, and try to avoid violence and blood. They do not want to fear, and all they want is that specific people should be punished for their crimes instead of a whole ethnicity or nation. But the spiteful ones are those who make themselves heard everyday trying to set us against each other. They spread their poison born out of frustration more and more widely.

But I hope that their poison will not touch us, and that racism will not gain new ground among normal people. However, if someone has financial problems that he cannot solve, taking the anger out on someone can be handy, even if they do not mean it.

Some want to earn their fifteen minutes of fame so they post the most absurd things just to earn as many Likes as possible. Should we kill in the streets and fear for the lives of our close ones just because of such people?

I think Facebook should set up very strict rules against those who use its services to promote racism, and delete immediately the accounts with such content instead of waiting for unknown reasons for a while.

Some say that Roma are no good, neither if they are adaptable nor if they refuse to be so. But why should we listen to the threats of racists and obey their “manuals” for how we should live? Why should they have the right to steer our lives? They themselves live on the margins of human society and are potential murderers. They prove this through their comments on social networks, while bringing up their children and posing as model mothers and fathers. But what kind of generation are they bringing up?

I recently experienced a quite normal situation that had an interesting turn. I was entering a Post Office building, but I was not able to hold the door and steer the pushchair at the same time. A young couple was just watching me, without bothering to give any help. But then suddenly a sturdy non-Roma guy wearing working trousers jumped up to hold the door for me. I could read in his look that he was embarrassed by those around him. This happened around the time when the Roma quintuplets were born.

It was a small and yet such a grand gesture at the same time. People like that live among us, giving us hope that we can uproot racism out of our world, out of the world of normal people.