What is a 'gypsy'?

After years and years of watching role playing, SCA, anime, hippie, new-age, fan-fic freaks use the word for all manner of ridiculous things, I vowed that I'd use it to educate people about what a 'gypsy' really is.... one German blogger who used to write about living the 'gypsy life' because she moved around a lot really got an earful from me. She claimed it was harmless and 'all in good fun' when she said she chose the name because people have always called her a gypsy for moving around so much, to which I replied, 'I can put this very simply... the very fact that you call yourself a 'gypsy' because you have "moved around", as you call it, from jobs or living spaces is the whole point of this issue. As a WHITE, non-minority individual you moved around because you WANTED to - by CHOICE - not because you had to flee for your life. Not because you were run out of wherever you would have liked to call home. Now do you understand?' Turns out, she did, and she took the blog down. Afterwards, we had a lovely conversation.

It's not that I'm trying to be a bully... but when I see people talking up and romanticizing being a 'gypsy', naming their pets after us and dressing up as gypsies for Halloween, I think of this little girl and how she has had to learn that being a 'gypsy' means living in fear. The real life of a gypsy isn't romantic. The same people who were (and are) kicking gypsies out of their towns and villages, evicting them and burning down their houses are the ones insisting we are a free-spirited, nomadic people who prefer to live on the outskirts of society. I learned, from the conversation with that German woman, that there is a song she grew up with called "Lustig ist das Zigeunerleben' ("How fun is it to be a Gypsy"), and her romanticization of our culture started there. I didn't want to tell her that this very song is likely Nazi propaganda, teaching young children that Gypsies live on the outskirts of towns and don't go to school with German children because they don't want to... their lives are far too 'carefree'... and not because the Nazis almost wiped them out in the Holocaust. She told me herself that she was never told about the Romani victims of the Holocaust in school. It simply wasn't taught. No one cares ~ and because we are largely a culture that has learned not to trust outsiders, and many Romani people in Eastern Europe and Italy are illiterate and too poor to speak up and say otherwise, there's no one to refute this crap. So, I speak up... for that little girl, for her family, for every Romani person, every GYPSY that has been marginalized, harassed, injured or killed behind this curtain of ridiculous exotification. As an American, I could turn my back and not care... but as a Gypsy, I cannot. I will not. When I see people making money on sites like Etsy, selling "gypsy love spells" and other nonsense, I am livid. How dare they use that word, a word that we have suffered and DIED for, to add a little mystery and intrigue to their items and a little more cash to their bank accounts.

I actually had a friend's husband ask me the other day if I could read his palm... he looked utterly heartbroken when I told him that fortune-telling and crystal balls were a scam to trick the gadje (non-Romanies) to give us money, and to fear us a little, maybe give us a little of the power back that they were always trying to take away.

But that's 'gypsy life' for you.. people always ask me why, if others have such a positive view of our culture (here in America), should we be offended when they use the word? Hmm.. can't imagine why that would be. Can you?

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Special K said...

Oh, your German 'friend' should at the very least be called out for her white privileged. At the very least.

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