European Roma Learn from African American Rights Struggle

Roma populations across Europe face new and acute challenges. Longstanding material deprivation and social exclusion have been compounded by a steep rise in violent and often lethal attacks on Roma communities in EU member states.

What makes the current situation even more alarming is that this spike in extremism is occurring in parallel with continued efforts to elaborate a comprehensive and integrated approach to Roma inclusion.  For example, the Decade of Roma Inclusion is approaching the midpoint of its mandate; the EU hosted the first ever European Roma Summit in September 2008; and an EU Integrated Platform on Roma Inclusion was launched in 2009, its priorities directly reflecting Decade goals.

To address the new challenges that face the Roma, a more community-based approach to resolving conflicts where they actually occur must complement the plethora of top-down, policy-oriented advocacy efforts.  To learn more about effective methods of community organizing, six Roma activists from Bulgaria, Hungary, Kosovo, Serbia, and Romania visited the United States to learn about African-American communities and their struggle for civil rights. Despite differences in context and characteristics, many analogies have been drawn between the two communities, and the meetings provided valuable lessons for the Roma activists.

In one of the videos above, Zeljko Jovanovic, a senior policy officer at the Open Society Institute Roma Initiatives discusses the group’s visit.

Marian Daragiu, one of the founders of the Ruhama Foundation in Romania, also participated in the visit. In the video, he describes the work of the Ruhama Foundation in the field of educational and social inclusion for Roma children and their parents.

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"... When I hear Roma say they are inspired by the American civil rights movement and that they see that movement as a model, I am proud of what my country has accomplished. But I am also mindful that we are not done here, either, and that while there are many similarities between the experiences of African Americans and Roma, there are also many differences." - Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (The U.S. Helsinki Commission).

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If we want to be involved in this area and arena we have to be aware that every society have their zoom that they be comfortable poking their jokes here and there and their self impose lines that respected members of society can not cross, and if they crossed they have to face consequences if not legally that socially.

50 or 100 years ago it was possible to say things against afro-Americans that you can not say now. What happened? They work hard, they strive, they made it such that this thing became TABO. Afro-Americans make it shore that this issue became TABO. Can we Roma work hard , educate ourself and make our issue an cultural TABO? We Roma have to do same things like the Afro-Americans done, and what we have to ask is cultural sensitivity.

Sometimes is not that the government set this laws it is society norms and cultural value. Every single society have certain issue that they are TABO and you not talking about that, or if you do you must pay a praise. Maybe not to go to jail but you will pay a social stigma, in the way that you will pay that your value be lost in society. For example racist stereotypes in America, speaking ill on Afro-Americans it is not illegal , you will not go to jail if you are a racist but what it has to be happened if you open your mouth and start criticizing African-Americans, stereotyping them using the end word? What it would be happened if any self respecting politicians, dignitary, media person use that word? He will not go the jail, it is not against law. What happened with the Michael Richard when he in certain comedy show he wanted to stereotypes the African-Americans when he says something vulgar and evil? It is not illegal, he did not go to the jail but socially he was stigmatized to that level that he have to come forward and say:
“ I am racist, and I made mistake” he had basically to admit that he made evil error.

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