I get told often that I am “angry” and I should just ‘chill out’ and ‘knock it off’…
No one ever listens to why I am angry, in fact, I don’t think anyone ever asks.
But, I’m going to tell you anyway.
This morning I was very upset by a tweet that Joey from A Softer World tweeted—something about driving over a gypsy. Understandably, or so I thought, I was upset.
It’s not funny. It’s not quirky. It’s not edgy.
In 2008 two Roma girls corpses were found on the beach in Italy. From news reports:
The bodies of Cristina, 12, and Viola, 11, were left on the sand after they drowned in rough seas as holidaymakers carry on sunbathing nearby
People didn’t care enough to help the girls, or to even respect their bodies. Instead, they carried on getting a tan and eating lunch.
In 2011 a white Italian girl claimed she was raped by a Roma man. From the Guardian:
A 16-year-old Italian girl whose claim that she was raped by Gypsies prompted a furious mob to launch an arson attack on a Turin Roma camp has admitted to police that she invented her story.
Tweeting that you “ran over a gypsy” is dangerous. It normalizes violence against my people. It says that it’s funny and not serious.
Tell that to the families of those girls, or the people whose houses, shacks, and caravans were burned.
The thing that makes me very angry—and I know I am stepping on dangerous ground talking about this—is the lack of seriousness when racism is called. The same people who scream and shout about the use of other racist slurs will turn around and use the word ‘gypsy’ freely, with no remorse, and then argue with me after the fact.
Usually I’m told that ‘gypsies’ don’t exist; the meaning of the word has changed; or I’m being a reverse-racist. If I counter any of these arguments I am consistently told:
STOP BEING SO GODDAMN ANGRY/TOUCHY/IGNORANT.
It happened today in a business meeting. Talking about two different sets of performers:
J: Oh, those guys were the great African dancers, they were wonderful, I think they’re from the local African-American community right here!
M: What about that steampunk circus thing? Could we get them?
J: Oh, they’re great—but they were gypsies! Who knows where they are now—probably stealing someone’s baby!
* raucous laughter*
I understand that the tweet was a direct reference to the movie “Thinner” in which a guy runs over a gypsy woman with his car. I don’t care that this was the fact. I don’t care because both the premise for the movie and the tweet are racist.
The same with the movie Borat:
Borat: If this car drive into a group of gypsies, will there be any damage to the car?
Car Dealership owner: It depends on how hard you hit them and all that.
Car Dealership owner: You might-if somebody rolls on the windshield, they could crack your windshield.
Borat: How fast do I need to go to guarantee I kill them?
Car Dealership owner: Uh-let me tell you something with this vehicle here probably doing 35-45 miles per hour will do it.
This is socially acceptable racism; institutionalized racism. These are merely two examples of it in recent years. There are others—Sherlock, Law & Order: SVU, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Drag Me To Hell, Mystery Men, and on and on—and no one cries foul. Instead we have legions of little white girls who want to run away and become a gypsy; who put feathers in their hair and prat around in fields; who long to be Noomi Rapace,
and we have shitty webcomic authors who think it’s okay to talk about running over gypsy ladies
because it’s just a horror movie thing.
Well, it’s not ok. We’re not just a trope or a stereotype. We’re a people—a real live people who face discrimination and oppression every.day.of.our.lives.
Why is it so hard to get it into your heads that the meaning of the word cannot change just because YOU want it to? How hard is it to understand that talking about “running over” gypsies is offensive and racist—no matter the intent.
It will never be funny. Not when we live in fear of someone ACTUALLY running over us; or setting fire to our houses; or watching us drown.
So, don’t say my anger is unfounded.
AND don’t tell me that I don’t know what I am talking about.
Until you’ve lived it, you have NO RIGHT to tell me to calm down, shut up, or fuck off.
Posted on Monday, 12 March 2012