A couple of years ago, I wrote how anti-Ziganism (racism against Roma, Sinti and other travellers) is still socially acceptable in Europe, while anti-Semitism is now seen as unacceptable (with certain exceptions – Hungary, for example). Since then, we’ve had the trashy Channel 4 series, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, where viewers were invited to gawp and poke fun at travellers. We’ve also had the mass eviction of travellers from the Dale farm site outside Basildon. This prompted a rash of anti-Ziganist comments from the usual quarters. “If they’re travellers, then why aren’t they travelling?”, was just one of the many bigoted comments made.
So today as I’m reading one of Damian Thompson’s blogs, I came across these two comments.
“Palfreman” talks about “real Romanians”. I wonder if he knows anything about Romania other than the drivel he’s read in the Tory-supporting press? He/she/it talks about “repatriation to India”. Does that sound familiar? People said the same thing in the 1970s. It’s the language of the National Front and the Monday Club. But “Dalek_1963’s” comment uses the same language as the Nazis used about the Jews and Roma in the 1930s and talks about them as a form of contamination. He/she/it describes them as “third world savages”. The real “savages” are the knuckle-draggers who want to create a “pure” British nation; a limited gene pool in which they can cling onto their congenital defects.
I reported both of these comments and wasn’t surprised to see that both of them were still there. This is free speech, Torygraph-style.
But here’s what prompted those comments.
How much of our anxiety about Romanians flooding into Britain is actually about Roma gipsies? It’s a sensitive topic, as I discovered at a seminar devoted to it at the LSE. The lecturer deplored the obstacles faced by illiterate Roma in Britain. I suggested they should learn to read. It was one of those “I’ll get my coat” moments. Luckily the Government agrees with me and is taking radical steps to address the problem. Roma are now exempt from library fines for overdue books. And if they borrow a book from one library they can return it to another. Which, when you think about it, definitely makes sense.
You will notice how Thompson universalizes illiteracy with the Roma. There are plenty of Britons who cannot read and many of them are in our prisons. Does Thompson know this? If he does, he won’t let on. This fear of a “flood” of immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria is not about those people per se, it’s about a disgust of the Roma; a people who have been persecuted for centuries. Many perished in the Nazi death camps during WWII but there’s little mention of that in the Torygraph or elsewhere.
Last year, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, opened a memorial in Berlin to the Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust. It has taken over 70 years for some kind of memorial to be built.
Meanwhile the abuse and persecution continues.