text by Vladan Jeremic and Rena Rädle
Antiziganism and Class Racism in Europe by Vladan Jeremic and Rena Rädle, April 2009 The Roma have a long history of migrations that repeatedly brought repression to their people over the centuries. European countries began introducing laws against migrating peoples (i.e. nomads, travelers) in the mid-Fifteenth century (1). Migrants were perceived as an unsettling factor, even as a threatening and invading group, one that jeopardized the safety of the majority population. Without a registered identity, many Roma remain completely isolated as citizens in the societies on whose territories they live. Being constantly relocated and repopulated, many have been migrants over the centuries; even within the boundaries of the countries whose citizenship they hold. Apart from accusations, disappointments and misunderstandings in their relations with the majority population, we are still facing deep discrimination of Roma, which doesn’t have its roots only in ethnic and cultural racism or anti-Roma sentiment. Poverty and nomadism are threatening factors for all of those who live in social systems based on the system of ownership, accumulation of goods and territorialism. Western policies have tried for centuries to include the poor in the system of social protection, or to get rid of them: to banish or eliminate them. Roma are, for the most part, an ethnic class characterized by extreme poverty that can present an obstacle to national or European integrations. It appears that the relation between Roma and non-Roma is, first and foremost, defined by the borderline between wealth and extreme poverty. The situation of Roma in EU member countries is precarious and in countries populated to a greater extent by Roma, such as Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and in the former Yugoslav republics (especially in Macedonia and Serbia) – the situation is alarming. The situation in which most European Roma find themselves is similar to that of a holocaust. One of the basic problems facing a Roma man or a woman is the issue of belonging to a marginalized social class that is exposed to drastic pauperization, in addition to the problem of the national identity itself – the fact of being Roma.