Our history books are full of ethnic and religious groups who have been
mistreated. However, these books say very little, if anything at all about the
Gypsies. In this paper I am going to discuss a few of the many hardships and
prejudices that Gypsies have faced, and continue to face today.
Throughout time Gypsies have suffered ?disproportionately from poverty,
unemployment, interethnic violence, discrimination, illiteracy, and disease?
(Lewy 1). One may wonder exactly who these people are who seem to be the
targets of so much violence and hostility. Well, the Gypsies are an inclusive
group, they have their own language and they are nomadic, which means that
they travel around in clans, usually looking for work and pay. It is extremely
difficult to learn the origin of these people, because they have no written or oral
history. The number of Gypsies in the United States alone estimates to be
between one hundred thousand and one million, however their names still do not
appear in any census (Lewy 1).
Many of the hostilities that Gypsies have faced are due to the prejudices
that others have against them, simply because they are different. This is similar
to the way that African Americans were treated in America, on the fact that the
color of their skin is a different . In fact a 19th century French observer referred
to them as ?Europe?s negroes? ( ?A Gypsy Awakening? 1). Actually, African
Americans seem to be more well off, because over time they have established a
better way of life for themselves, and overcome many hardships and prejudices;
whereas the Gypsies remain as they have always been. These people can also
relate to another group, the Jews who were victims of the Holocaust; for they too
were victims of this horrible occurrence in history. But unlike many of the Jewish
families who were able get their life back on track, after the war, with help from
banks, and charities for victims of the Holocaust; Gypsies had very few assets,
and nobody was interested in their story ( ?A Gypsy Awakening? 3). Jewish
people actually tend to hold the Gypsies responsible for countless misdeeds and
crimes that occurred. The stereotype of this group is a universal fact. It can
also be seen in the English language ?to gyp is to swindle or cheat, a gypsy
moth is a parasite whose larvae feed on the foliage of trees, and a gypsy cab
driver is someone who picks up passengers without a proper taxi license?
(Lewy 3). The Gypsies are a strong group of people, and the majority of them
scrounge for every dollar they get, and every morsel of food they eat. Just
because their lifestyle is different and may not live up to the standards of others
does not put them out for public ridicule or prejudices.
?They are Europe?s most unwanted people? (Kim 1). Although the
Gypsies live in small shabby villages on the outside of town, their presence is
very much resented by the Eastern Europeans. The majority of Gypsies in these
parts, as well as others, are poor, and most can not read or write. Statistics
state that over 60 percent of Gypsies are unemployed and when economic
hardship arises, they are the first to be laid off. In many countries they are
denied basic human rights, such as, voting and holding public office, along with
many other social benefits (Lewy 6). All throughout Europe these people are to
often, and most unfairly stereotyped as beggars, thieves and swindlers
( ?Europe and its Roma (Gypsies)? 1).
Are the Gypsies looking for a better life? Are they looking for social
acceptance, the end of prejudices, and a way to overcome the many hardships
life has shown them? The answer is, yes. Recently over thirty-six Gypsies?
corpses were washed up along the shore of Montenegro. Probably more than
one-hundred drowned, when their boat sank. Where were they going? They
were being smuggled to Italy. Why? ?…they had hoped against odds to make a
new life? ( ?A Gypsy Awakening? 1).
Little is known about this band of nomadic people, because there is very
little history found on them. However one thing is for sure, they are people, and
like everybody else, are subject to fair treatment and basic human rights.
Throughout the world these people have been unfairly judged, ridiculed, and
overlooked in our history. Something needs to be done in the governments and
the attitudes of all humans to see that not only the Gypsies, but all people are
given a fair and equal opportunity to make a stable life for themselves.
? Europe and its Roma (Gypsies).? Christian Science Monitor 19 Aug. 1999: 1-2.
? A Gypsy Awakening.? Economist 11 Sept. 1999: 1-3.
Kim, Lucian. ? Kosovo Gypsies Caught Between Serbs, Albanians.?
Christian Science Monitor 23 June 1999: 1-3.
Lewy, Guenter. ? The Travail of the Gypsies.? National Interest 1999: 1-9.