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Romany and other Travellers in Britain
June 18, 2005 9:37 PM   Subscribe

"Gypsy" Travellers have a long history in England, but continue to face a great deal of prejudice. Many people are angry when they camp on public land, but when they try to buy land for sites, they are often refused local planning permission. [more inside]
posted by jb (77 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Here are what some young Romany and travellers have to say about their lives, and why they like travelling, despite the trouble people give them - it's very worth listening to.

Both the last link and the prejudice link have short audio excerpts, in Real Audio.
posted by jb at 9:39 PM on June 18, 2005


Cool links. Was this the group portrayed in Snatch? As an American, I didn't realize this was a large-scale phenomenon.
posted by bardic at 10:00 PM on June 18, 2005


For those interested, the autobiographical book "Jessie's Journey" is the story of a young Scottish traveller girl. It has an interesting twist in how traveller fables are weaved into it. I found it a great read, but then the author is the aunt of a friend of mine.

On preview, yes Snatch was (according to my friend) pretty accurate ... and she was impressed with Brad's Pitt accent.
posted by forforf at 10:03 PM on June 18, 2005


Last year I finally read a book I'd had for a few years, Fraser's "The Gypsies". It was very informative and it's a fairly well regarded history of the Rom. I recommend it.

I also have Yoors's "Gypsies", which I've not yet read. It's a fairly famous book by a man who lived with the Rom during the summers in his youth. The book was originally published in 1967. It's my understanding that there is disagreement about the accuracy of some of what he describes.

They were probably originally a dispossessed people from India. "Rom" and "Romany" are related to the long time that a portion of them stayed in that part of Europe. "Gypsy" comes from "Egypt" because sometimes they were thought by Europeans to be from Egypt and, in fact, this supposed origin was (IIRC) part of the, um, scam by which they moved into Western Europe supposedly under the protection of the Church.

Whether or not Irish (for example) and American "travelers" have their origins from the Rom is unclear. In some cases it's certain--some American "travelers" are clearly Rom in origin. In other cases it's not clear. There's always been indigenous itinerant populations in all these cultures, of course.

The Rom are heavily persecuted in Europe, it is one prejudice that is completely acceptable almost everywhere. Also, of course, a large number of them were killed in the Holocaust.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:04 PM on June 18, 2005


By the way, the Rom are one of the cultures that have a very strong clean/unclean fixation; both in regards to contamination by outsiders and, of course, female anatomy and menstruation. In spite of their constant dealings with other peoples, they are extremely insular with many, many cultural rules that isolate them. But this is fundamental to their remarkable ability to have been almost continuously itinerant and fragmented throughout their history yet retain a strong cultural identity.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:10 PM on June 18, 2005


The biggest hash dealer, or so *cough* the story goes (we're talking years ago) in Redding was a gypsy with no front teeth. His 4 year old son would light his cigarettes and smoke the first few puffs and be rewarded with a whack to the cranium for which he thanked his dear shabby dad before handing over the ciggie. It was a little strange.
posted by peacay at 11:24 PM on June 18, 2005


The are asked "what are you doing with a car like that?" They are stopped regularly by the police in their new Land Rover Discovery.

gypsy is the new black?
posted by flaterik at 11:28 PM on June 18, 2005


I certainly won't claim to have any personal knowledge of the situation, but I've had co-workers who lived in small villages where these folks showed up.

Things changed after that, and not always for the better.

Also, they sorta seem to do whatever they want and where they want :

"...Travellers have moved on to a village recreation ground for a second time..."


"FIVE caravans and mobile homes have been removed from green belt land at Waldens Farm as the row over gypsy and traveller sites rumbles on."

"TRAVELLERS who "flouted" planning laws by setting up camp without permission "


They are always in the news over here, and it's usually in an unfavourable light. One interesting characteristic that always seems to be pointed out is they are cash and asset rich, but don't appear to have means to support themselves. Their flash vehicles probably doesn't endear them to the locals.
posted by Mutant at 12:01 AM on June 19, 2005


Thievin' pikey bastards, the lot of 'em. A bit of a broad generalisation, but well, the ones I knew did steal a lot of shit. Every time they were in my village (annually) shit would get nicked. Anything. If it wasnt nailed down, it was gone. Sheep, lead flashing from chimneys, cars - the lot. The Gypo's came, and everything walked.

Mind you, if you wanted anythin, you know, like mutton, lead, or a new motor - the pikey's were the chavvies to go to. Dawdy. And they always had weed.
posted by BadSeamus at 12:53 AM on June 19, 2005


The travellers aren't the only ones who have trouble getting planning permission for development.
posted by grouse at 12:54 AM on June 19, 2005


Highly recommended: Bury Me Standing by Isabel Fonseca
posted by moonbird at 4:15 AM on June 19, 2005


I fondly remember Viz Comic's "Those Thieving Gypsy Bastards" strip, which earned them (Viz) a lot of stick. It was pitched at the level where you really weren't sure whether they were being ironic or not, which is often the best sort of irony.

My own exposure to gypsies happened mainly as a youth in the north of England. They certainly never nicked anything from me although I heard plenty of people say they'd been robbed. I always asked "How do you know the gypsies took your stuff" and the answer was always along the lines of "Well, nobody around here was getting stuff nicked until that lot arrived; now there's been loads of thieving." Which never quite seemed enough, to me.

Having said that, I did get "cursed" on several occasions by the old door-to-door flower sellers. They definitely preyed on the superstitions of people who believed in that shit. My grandmother, for instance, who was a tough old boot in most ways, would always give some silver to the crafty buggers rather than risk the curse. She believed in that stuff.

To me they seemed to be a group of poor folk living outside mainstream society and generally doing what they could to get by. I had, and have, no big problem with that. In fact I admire it in some ways.
posted by Decani at 5:31 AM on June 19, 2005


When I was in Tashkent, the local gypsies trained their kids to mob European-looking people outside the airport-- 8 or 10 kids would run around you and paw at you like an untrained dog to confuse you while one of them got in your pockets. Fortunately, I was warned about this before I got off the airplane and moved everything to my carryon. I left a few worthless coins in my pocket to see if they'd be gone and of course they were.

I realize that not every gypsy is a thief, but it isn't hard to see why people resent a group so unrepentant about their history of parasitism.

What makes it all the more irritating to me is the PR campains that pop up periodically-- reminders that many gypsies perished in the holocaust and how hard gypsies have it. Like that's going to make me willing to have my pockets picked. That energy and money spent trying to make me like gypsies would be better spent trying to make some gypsies stop doing that shit that makes me avoid all of them.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:02 AM on June 19, 2005 [1 favorite]


English people pick pockets in London. I don't want to say anything about the English, but it isn't hard to see why people resent a group so unrepentant about their history of parasitism.
posted by jb at 6:49 AM on June 19, 2005


In case you didn't read the links - the history of gypsie "parasitism" in Britain is doing such parasitic things as - picking fruit, weeding and picking hops, sharpening knifes, etc. In North America, we call them itinerant workers, though I don't know that we treat them much better.
posted by jb at 6:52 AM on June 19, 2005


Saying "gypsies" are indigenous to "England" is vague - what about Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland? Also, most "gypsies" in the UK are of Irish descent, travellers, and not related to Roma or Sinti nomadics. Personally, I've always been impressed by the Roma word for the Nazi genocide: Porajmos, or "the devouring", which to me is a lot more evocative than Shoah, or calamity.
posted by meehawl at 7:11 AM on June 19, 2005


Here in Ireland the term "Travellers" is the politically correct term for "Knackers" or "Tinkers" (both prejudice terms)

"Travelers" are not Roma but Irish and Caucasian. They are are not popular for the same reasons though. But to say all travellers are thieves, prostitutes, and land wreckers would be a generalization.

BUT...

I have traveler women who hang out the internet cafe I work at who are prostitutes and traveler kids frequently leave without paying and steal peripherals.

BUT...

Not all travelers are bad. I have a "knacker name" (my surname is a common knacker last name). :-)

The thing is most knackers have a distinctive accent that singles them out of crowd.

Also, on side note, the traveller community is very tightly knit and almost exist as a nation within a nation. They regularly have large gatherings that bring members of the clan from all over the U.K. and Ireland.
posted by Livewire Confusion at 7:17 AM on June 19, 2005


I have traveler women who hang out the internet cafe I work at

I mena to say ...who hang out IN FRONT of the Internet Cafe I work at.
posted by Livewire Confusion at 7:20 AM on June 19, 2005


jb: I'm sure that there are English pickpockets in London and elsewhere, but I've never met any. I've met lots of other English people, however, and they've shaped how I think of the whole lot.

Mabye this is just one of those crazy strange coincidences, but just like the Mayor, the only Romany people that I've ever met were trying to rob me (that was in Warsaw, while I was there as a tourist). Wait, there was also a Romany girl that I once saw walking around a busy shopping street with a piece of cardboard around her neck saying "one fucky fucky 5$."

As for second-hand anecdotes, a friend of mine once made a TV documentary about gypsy pick pockets (kids around 10-12 years old) in Cologne. He also visited their families and said they were really really nice and charming people. Except that they train their kids to be pick pockets.

But I'm sure all of this is purely coincidental and has nothing to do with there being less regard for personal property among Romany people.
posted by sour cream at 7:24 AM on June 19, 2005 [1 favorite]


English people pick pockets in London. I don't want to say anything about the English, but it isn't hard to see why people resent a group so unrepentant about their history of parasitism.

You're right. Gypsies are just as law-abiding as any other group of people. Their reputation as thieves everywhere they're found in any concentration is a coincidence or conspiracy.

You're free to ride your naive hippy love train. Just don't leave your wallet in your pockets-- you'll need money for return fare because your destination doesn't exist.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:26 AM on June 19, 2005




Where I grew up (SW England) the problem was with "new age" travellers (not gypsies, as far as I know) and their practice of colonising a nice field for a few months then leaving it behind as a wasteland of rubbish, slurry and burnt out vehicles.

Even the 'law-abiding' ones operated on the very edge of legality (making a living doing shoddy building work for gullible old ladies then disappearing before it all falls down, for example).

It's not just racism, it's a real incompatibility between the structure of our society (based on land ownership, taxes, laws, etc) and the way of life they wish to lead (i.e. to do whatever the hell they want).

The only actual 'gypsy' I met was a kid in my school who got expelled after a month or two there for biting part of someones ear off.
posted by cell at 7:58 AM on June 19, 2005


BadSeamus: It's often the case that, because Gypsies have this reputation, local non-Gypsy scalliwags use Gypsy presence as a cloak to nick things themselves. People will do some pretty crazy things if they know that someone else will always take the blame.

There was a documentary on TV a while ago featuring Robert Kilroy Silk (execrable right wing bigot) spending a week living with Romanies. It turned out to be excruciating, and no-one came out of it well. Kilroy spent the first two nights in a nearby luxury hotel because he refused to sleep in the caravan (the toilet was outside, and there was no hot water on demand), and the Romany family, despite initially seeming like good, honest people trying hard to get by, ended up not doing themselves any favours. But I wouldn't want to tar all Romanies with the same brush any more than I'd want to dismiss all Englishmen as smarmy, fake-tanned middle class racists based simply on Kilroy's behaviour.
posted by nylon at 8:10 AM on June 19, 2005


But I wouldn't want to tar all Romanies with the same brush any more than I'd want to dismiss all Englishmen as smarmy, fake-tanned middle class racists based simply on Kilroy's behaviour.

No one's doing that. Me, I'm merely claiming that every romany that has ever had contact with me has begged from me or tried to rob me. I realize that there were probably hundreds of other Romany nearby who didn't try to initiate contact with me and would never steal. But given the very social mores discussed in the linked articles, I will never meet them because they have strong taboos about associating with outsiders. Which means that the gypsies I will have contact with have a high probability of trying to steal or get baksheesh. And I don't want to be robbed or begged at.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:25 AM on June 19, 2005 [1 favorite]


meehawl - I didn't intend to suggest that the Roma lived primarily in England - it's just that the post came out of a conversation about Roma and other travellers in England, and I found the interesting Romany heritage site on the BBC Kent webpage.

Livewire Confusion - I have been confused about the relationship between Roma and Irish and other travellers. I think in England, some of the Irish travellers have taken to calling themselves "gypsies", while on the BBC Kent site, many of the people talk about themselves specifically as "Romany". There do appear to be different groups, and perhaps some conflict between them (this is all from the Romany point of view).

Further on evictions of travellers, in this case originally Irish from the London Line

Mayor Curley - maybe you'd like to become familier with the little concept psychologists like to call "stereotyping". Or try inserting another ethnic group into your sentance.

Of course, every Irish person I've met has been a very shy scientist or statiscian - clearly, it's a nation of quiet, retiring people who don't socialise much.
posted by jb at 9:24 AM on June 19, 2005


Again, the relationship of UK and American "travellers" to the Rom is unclear. In some quite authentic traveler communities (in all the Anglophone countries) there are many cultural practices which are identifiable as being Romany. In others, not so much. I strongly suspect that insofar as these traveler communities are insular, distinct, and very old, they're more likely to be of Rom origin than not.

I'm pretty sure that when this subject has come up before, Mayor Curley has expressed his bigotry. It's not surprising, all modern bigots think they're realists who are independently minded and not afraid to "tell it like it is".

I think, unlike a lot of other lefties, that it's absurd to claim that there aren't "better" and "worse" cultures, assuming there's something we can all agree could decide "better" and "worse". And thievery is probably one of those things, no matter how relativistic anyone is.

But let's assume that both culturally and practically the Rom are as unremittingly larcenous as many claim. What level of general approbriation--exclusion, the denial of housing, education, employment--would be commensurate with such a cultural vice? Would contempt and hatred and even violence be proportionate? And even if we assume this sort of retributive justice is appropriate, how much long-term social utility does an eagerness to embrace such a condemnatory viewpoint have relative to the opposite impulse?

I think history answers that last question.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:30 AM on June 19, 2005


It's not surprising, all modern bigots think they're realists who are independently minded and not afraid to "tell it like it is".

You're assuming a lot, Chatty Cathy. All I've "told like it is" is exactly what my experiences with gypsies have been. I've stated EXPLICITLY that I don't think even most gypsies are thieves and beggars. How does my saying that my every experience with gypsies has been negative equal bigotry.

Because of my experiences, I don't particularly care about the plight of the Romany people, but that merely makes me indifferent. Say "callous" if you want, because you'll want to put a negative association with it. But that doesn't make me a bigot. I don't care if you live or die, either, but that doesn't make me bigoted against blowhards with an inflated sense of their own intelligence.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:24 AM on June 19, 2005


I'm assuming nothing. Your words here say everything that needs to be said. The fact that you can't hear what you're saying is no suprise. I experience the same thing all the time with Southern rednecks who explain that they're not bigoted against "those people". Keep digging your hole, it's amusing to me.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:39 AM on June 19, 2005


My experiences with Romany are very similar to the Mayor's experiences. I have no idea what being Rom is like, but is it beyond inconceivable that a group that considers itself outside mainstream society would not respect the laws or norms of that society?
posted by Falconetti at 11:54 AM on June 19, 2005


"...but is it beyond inconceivable that a group that considers itself outside mainstream society would not respect the laws or norms of that society?"

No, it's not. The question is whether the hostile response to that, both on an individual and social level, is commensurate. We are sort of naive about bigotry, I think. Perhaps in a necessary way (which is the point of view I'm asserting). Persecuted groups have always been told that "they deserve it", that's always the excuse for how they are treated. And where we may be naive these days is in insisting that no stereotypes are true in any way, that in no individual or collective sense can a culture be criticized morally. In thinking this way, we can comfortably tell ourselves that all bigotry in the past and that other people display really was bigotry, while our generalized claims against an entire class of people is valid because, well, the things we're describing are true. We've seen it. It's happened. So we're not bigots. It's the people who claim things that simply aren't true that are the bigots. That's what we tell ourselves.

But my point is that instead of thinking that it's the exception when a stereotype is validated, and therefore a generalized negative prejudice is justified, we should consider the possibility that stereotypes are almost always validated to some degree, to a limited degree some prejudicial judgment is almost always valid. If we consider that possibility, we then have to deal with the difficulty of reconciling, on the one hand, our intuitive moral certainty that a given bigotry is wrong with, on the other hand, a recognition that some amount of prejudicial, negative judgment, is in that case nevertheless reasonable.

And if you see that, you begin to easily see that it's hard to find any instance in history where an actual generalized bigotry against an entire class of people has ever been commensurate with whatever vices they may actually have had. Instead, you see time and time again that those vices are used as a springboard for a much larger number of accusations, stereotypes. They provide a basis upon which people build their hateful bigotries that go far, far beyond anything we could actually justify.

And if you see that, you'll turn back to your own supposedly justified prejudicial views about classes of people and recognize that, first, you're almost certainly greatly exagerating their vices without realizing it; and, second, that even if in this one case you are not, and your evaluation is accurate and fair, the world will be a better place if people make it a habit of deliberately erring on the side of assuming virtue in these cases, rather than vice.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:40 PM on June 19, 2005 [1 favorite]


the world will be a better place if people make it a habit of deliberately erring on the side of assuming virtue in these cases, rather than vice.

He's totally right. If you see a bunch of gypsy children swarming over people, you should assume that they're elated to see strangers. You make the world a little worse if you move your wallet to your front pocket. Sure, if you follow EB's advice, you'll be victimized a lot more often, but that will hardly matter-- eventually if we stick to this plan, the world will have constant beautiful rainbows and hilltops everywhere will be covered in smiling, happy children of all colors dancing arm-in-arm.

Isn't a ruined vacation a small price to pay if it eventually gives us a smiling sun like I've seen on the raisin bran boxes?
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:59 PM on June 19, 2005


Resentment at the flash cars: a moment's thought tells you that if you don't sink all (or indeed any) of your cash into rent or mortgage payments, you can afford a very nice ride indeed.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:03 PM on June 19, 2005


Do you really think this is an ethnic issue? I mean, not that the Romany don't have their own culture and ethnicity, and that that ethnicity doesn't suffer persecution, but that it is their lifestyle that causes people's mistrust and aversion, and the ethnicity only seems to suffer because of prejudices associated with the lifestyle.

I don't know for sure, I'll be honest and say that I was raised in a decently ethnically diverse group, but that in terms of lifestyles we all pretty much lived in suburban houses, had two cars, all the children went to college and everybody watched the Simpsons in the afternoon. If there had been any itinerant people that attempted to settle around they would have been cleared out no matter what color they were. (It might have been worse on them if they were dark-skinned, but being blue-eye'd aryan blondes would have bought them only another day at most).

Even if they don't steal, local laws are designed to outlaw this kind of lifestyle, it reminds me of a description of the homeless as people who seem to break the law simply by existing. If they found a loophole whatever local board(s) that could would be falling over themselves to close it.

Bligh does have a point, and I really liked his 2:40 post. The idea wasn't that by blinding ourselves to reality we can only perceive a world of positive ideas, (I think anyway), but that focusing on negative stereotypes, and creating widespread cultural judgements has a fantastically bad historical track record, unless people really think genocide is a positive solution. I don't think that your choice about moving your wallet is going to change the world, but what would be a good solution?

It isn't really likely that these people are going to be lined up and shot, (I don't think that anybody is suggesting it is), they are being told to leave a community that does not want them to behave in a certain fashion. Does that community have the right to make that choice? It seems like there is always going to be some sort of line in the sand when people live in groups, and some groups are going to set it in different places than others. That seems to be a lot of what cultural identity is about to me. I don't think many communities do this on racial grounds anymore, but many/all of them do set standards for how they expect their neighbors to live. I just can't picture a modern place where this sort of lifestyle is going to be accepted. I don't know what the solution to this sort of thing is.
posted by SomeOneElse at 5:28 PM on June 19, 2005


Mabye this is just one of those crazy strange coincidences, but just like the Mayor, the only Romany people that I've ever met were trying to rob me (that was in Warsaw, while I was there as a tourist). Wait, there was also a Romany girl that I once saw walking around a busy shopping street with a piece of cardboard around her neck saying "one fucky fucky 5$."

As most of them don't wear signs then how do you know how many you've encountered?
posted by biffa at 3:20 AM on June 20, 2005 [1 favorite]


As most of them don't wear signs then how do you know how many you've encountered?

It *is* difficult, isn't it, to be sure? I propose we make them wear identification badges. Brown or black seems to be traditional.
posted by meehawl at 4:07 AM on June 20, 2005 [1 favorite]


It *is* difficult, isn't it, to be sure? I propose we make them wear identification badges. Brown or black seems to be traditional.

"You shouldn't say anything negative about them because some people unconnected to you did awful things to their grandparents."

Communists perished in the Holocaust, too. I should become a communist. Then I can do any number of anti-social things, and anyone who objects is an asshole because of Nazi atrocities. Right, meehawl?
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:33 AM on June 20, 2005


anyone who objects is an asshole

And who are you calling an asshole, exactly? It's a little vague. Is there a badge for that?
posted by meehawl at 4:37 AM on June 20, 2005


This thread has gotten to be more about Mayor Curley toward the end, but I have to say that based on my experiences with a community of Irish travellers in Belvedere, SC that he has a point. These people were involved in many of the criminal activities described on this website including a well-publicized attempt to defraud Disney World by staging a rape in one of their hotels. I have known personally a number of people (usually elderly) taken in by or approached about their home-repair and paving scams. In a less illegal but still obnoxious vein, my friends in the food and beverage industry dread serving travellers because they run the servers ragged with trivial requests, don't tip, and often leave with some of the tableware. They have been written up repeatedly in the local media for arranging marriages between underage girls and older members of their group; the SC attorney general a few years ago successfully lobbied for a law to increase the penalties for underage marriage because of their antics. The film Traveller could easily have been based upon this group. They are also a very insular community, so it may be that the majority are law abiding, but if so, the community needs to do more to police those who form its public image. This is my experience with one group, others may be different, and Romany travellers are a completely different (if somewhat superficially similar) group, so none of this applies to them.
posted by TedW at 9:26 AM on June 20, 2005 [1 favorite]


I have known personally a number of people (usually elderly) taken in by or approached about their home-repair and paving scams

I know a bunch of older people taken in by Enron and WorldCom pension fund scams and who lost everything. I gather that the ringleaders of the gangs involved were generally white anglo saxons. They are an insular and secretive group, with deep family and blood kin connections and rarely marry outside their own group. It is possible that the majority of corporate white anglo saxon males are law abiding, but my experience of their proclivity for criminality and social psychopathy here may have coloured my perceptions somewhat.
posted by meehawl at 12:00 PM on June 20, 2005


I gather that the ringleaders of the gangs involved were generally white anglo saxons.

Guess what meehawl, so are Travellers. Are you going to keep drawing an equivlance to prejudice against an ethnic group to disliking the illegal and unethical activites of an insular social group? Or am I a horrible bigot if I don't like the Mafia, or racist skins?
posted by Snyder at 1:19 PM on June 20, 2005


so are Travellers

Travellers are Irish, not Saxon ("sassanach", meaning 'stranger'). You aren't up to speed on your European ethnicities. An Éirinneach nó Sassanach tú?

Sarcasm is *difficult*, isn't it?
posted by meehawl at 1:27 PM on June 20, 2005


You aren't up to speed on your European ethnicities.

meehawl,

You should know that in the US, it doesn't matter what kind of white you are, and it hasn't mattered, at least not since the early 1900s or so. Sure, if you're Latino, or black, or (until the 60s) Jewish, that makes a big difference, but in the US, it doesn't matter if you're English, German, Italian, or Irish, you're all part of the happy white family.

So, while it may make a big difference in Great Britain and Ireland whether you're literally Anglo-Saxon or not, in the US pretty much all white people (okay, so not the Italians) are placed under the WASP (white Anglo-Saxon protestant) label even if they are actually WICs (white Irish Catholics).

Snyder's point is that while the Romany people share an ethnicity, they're considered more of a social group than as an ethnic group. If a member of Romany were to decide to leave his family and become a lawyer and walked around in a suit, I highly doubt that anyone would think, "I don't want get near that Gypsy lawyer; he'll rob me blind." They'd just think, "I don't want to get near that lawyer; he'll rob me blind," instead. Okay, bad example. Imagine that he became a basketball player instead, or a movie star, or a doctor. No one would think "That person's a gypsy, they're going to steal or beg," even if they know that that person comes from a Romany background.

I notice that a few people here decided that it would be perfectly all right to label those who hold prejudices "rednecks". How exactly is that different from making generalizations about the Rom? Oh, because redneck describes a kind of person, and not their ethnicity. Huh, that's funny. I've never heard of that many redneck Asians.

The truth is, there are plenty of "Travellers" of many ethnicities. Most hobos are standard, run-of-the-mill White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, and many of them, surprise, surprise, beg and/or steal.

Any travelling-based community has made a decision to be separate from society, but they still need things from that society, and that means money, which means either begging or stealing, if they're not willing to work. And many aren't.

Truth be told, I have nothing wrong with them begging so long as they do so politely and don't treat me like shit if I tell them I'm out of change or can't help them out.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:07 PM on June 20, 2005 [1 favorite]


It is possible that the majority of corporate white anglo saxon males are law abiding

No, those are almost all criminals, much like politicians
posted by TedW at 2:10 PM on June 20, 2005


You should know that in the US, it doesn't matter what kind of white you are

Ah, so that's why TedW's website is careful to collect together articles describing the behaviour of Irish Travellers in the US. Prejudice still remains.

And you are spectacularly missing my point. The thread is about "gypsies" in the UK, some of whom are Roma, and some are Irish. Some people have seen fit to state, and repeat, their perceptions of these ethnicities as prone to criminality, based on their own anecdotal experience.

I challenge them to show me that the crime statistics for Roma or Travellers, on a per capita basis, and controlled for socioeconomic status, are markedly different from a control group withing similar socioeconomic circumstances. I also state, based on m own prejudice, that a higher social status enables members of an in-group to practice criminality of a different sort. Less obvious, not on the street, more hidden, but no less criminal. Or confined to a single steretypical group.

By the way, I am well aware that the saxon upper-classes in the US eventually co-opted the Irish and Italians into their ranks, mainly as a defensive measure against encroaching darker-skinned individuals. Don;t forget that IQ tests were originally devised, in part, as a convenient way to label Irish, Italilians, and other non-Saxon "whiteys" from Europe as "different" from the average white USian. I come back, as I often do, to a particular favourite book of mine:

How the Irish Became White

You may also like:

Making Whiteness : The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-194

No one would think "That person's a gypsy, they're going to steal or beg," even if they know that that person comes from a Romany background.

Really. Let me give you some anecdotal evidence. I work in an ER. Last week, a woman was neing neglected, on a stetcher, in the hallway, in a location of the ER usually reserved for "trouble" patients. I inquired as to her status. I was told, in hushed tones, by one of the Jamaican NAs, that she was a "gypsy". I asked why nobody was interested in following up on her statement of sharply increased stomach pain. I got a shrug. I tended to her. Around 15 minutes later I a security guard asked me: "is the gypsy causing trouble"? Honestly, I was astounded at his attitude.

Two more people during the evening managed to state to me, apropos of anything, that "she's a gypsy", and her ethnic status was being actively discussed in the staff break room. I watched as this woman was discharged, still complaining of increased stomach pains, while the results of her follow-up scan were still waiting to be processed by a specialist.

This is not the kind of care that most people obtain. Given her statements, and her outstanding scan, she should have expected to remain in the ER overnight, or for as long as it took to get an all-clear. Instead she was pushed into out-patient status. Why? Her extended family, all four of them, were in the waiting room, and the security guard stated that he was "nervous" about having "so many" gypsies in the ER. And "the other people" were probably uncomfortable. the behaviour of her relatives was no more bizarre than much of what I have seen worried relatives exhibit while they while away the hours.

This was in a US hospital. Now, you can tell me there is no ethnic prejudice against various flavours of caucasians, but my anecdotal evidence seems to contradict your presumption.
posted by meehawl at 2:51 PM on June 20, 2005


Finally, I posit a question. How is begging for money using deception or children different from cheating on your taxes by filling in extra deductions, inflating an expense, or using kid's deductions improperly? Both are equally questionable, morally, and both are against the interests of the state. Yet I venture to guess that while some street people engage in unethical behaviours, and many millions of taxpayers engage in unethical behaviours, that the proportion of street people "done" for their offences far, far, far outstrips the proportion of taxpayers "done" for their offences. One behaviour is the provenance of "gypsies", the other the provenance of the middle-classes, and the laws of society, both in their framing and their execution, present very different outcomes for each class of practitioner.
posted by meehawl at 2:57 PM on June 20, 2005


but in the US, it doesn't matter if you're English, German, Italian, or Irish, you're all part of the happy white family.

I don't know that everyone accepts Italian-Americans as "white."

How is begging for money using deception or children different from cheating on your taxes by filling in extra deductions, inflating an expense, or using kid's deductions improperly?

You're seriously making an analogy between inflating one's charitable donations and making a child an accessory to theft? Not to mention the fact that those 8-year-old kids are doing the equivalent of work instead of getting an education or playing like kids are supposed to?

Are you doing that? Because this thread is about to get more interesting if you are.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:36 PM on June 20, 2005


You're seriously making an analogy between inflating one's charitable donations and making a child an accessory to theft?

When did I mention charity? However, if you use your children improperly to claim extra taxback, then I honestly fail to see much clear water between that and using them to beg. The IRS faces a perennial problem with extended families improperly "distributing" multiple children (past the 2-per threshold) in order to claim the EIC. And whatever about massive nonpayment of the "nanny tax", many self-employed filers pay spouses, under-18 children, and relatives for "services rendered", (including childcare) up to threshold limits insufficient to trigger FICA and Medicare. Such finessing of the tax code generally manages to remain legal, but is it ethical? Or do you believe that it is every filer's duty to secure as many credits and deductions as legally possible? And if that's so, then what do you think about street people maximizing their returns?

By the way, I said "begging". You said "theft". One of us is conflating the two behaviours, either consciously or unconsciously, and it isn't me.

Sometimes unethical behaviour is organised by gangs, or ringleaders. I am unwilling to venture an opinion as to their ethnicity. Let's look at some examples:

Johnson was convicted of providing the names, social security numbers and dates of birth of disabled school children attending the Helen Keller School to an income tax return preparer in a false dependent tax scheme. The tax preparer, Ernest Baskin, was convicted in 2002 for tax fraud conspiracy whereby he “sold dependants” to tax customers for a fee in order to increase the taxpayers’ refund amount.

Peters prepared false federal income tax returns and sent them to the IRS claiming refunds that individuals were not entitled to receive. As part of the scheme, Peters purchased social security numbers of children whose mothers were unemployed and then sold the information to other individuals to carry as foster children on their tax returns.

"Gypsy criminal gangs" organizing children have got huge press, ever since Dickens. But I hear very little about "CPA criminal gangs" organizing children.
posted by meehawl at 4:17 PM on June 20, 2005


How is it even legal for those kids not to be in school? Even homeschooled kids have to pass the same state exams as everyone else, right?
posted by Kellydamnit at 5:18 PM on June 20, 2005


Without touching on the larger question, one difference is that coercing or "teaching" your child to beg physically impinges on your child. Lying on your tax return about your child does nothing to physically impinge on your child. Would you rather your parents had you begging on the streets when you were eight or would you rather they lied on their tax returns? What would you rather do to your own children?

I don't fully disagree with the points you are making (other groups do bad things and don't get called out on it often), but your analogies are ridiculous for the most part.

I would love to see some crime stats on Travellers, Romany, whatevers also.
posted by Falconetti at 5:28 PM on June 20, 2005


How is it even legal for those kids not to be in school?

That is part of what attracted the attention of SC SLED (State Law Enforcement Division) to the Irish travellers of Murphy Village
posted by TedW at 5:43 PM on June 20, 2005


How is it even legal for those kids not to be in school? Even homeschooled kids have to pass the same state exams as everyone else, right?

It's not. But it's just their way.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:48 PM on June 20, 2005


Would you rather your parents had you begging on the streets when you were eight or would you rather they lied on their tax returns?

I'd rather they did neither - as long as they had a choice. Do we encourage children to play with toy guns, or to ape military behaviour? I guess that depends very much on the moral values of the parents. For instance, at an early age I was taken along to witness the eviction of Travellers from an illegal encampment in south Dublin and the burning of their caravans by local armed militia aligned with terrorists. Now, as a seven year old I was aware enough of what was going on to be appalled, but I know other friends of mine who were thrilled at the excitement and spectacle. Some of them have grown up into prejudiced adults. Should I blame their parents for training them in anti-social tendencies, or applaude them for teaching their children to deal properly with necessary social planning? I have a definite suspicion that my social background and yours differ greatly, and we are talking to each other from different social worlds.

your analogies are ridiculous for the most part.

Thanks, I am trying very hard.
posted by meehawl at 6:32 PM on June 20, 2005


I'd rather they did neither - as long as they had a choice.

Why did you bother to acknowledge the question's existence if you were going to evade it anyway? I can think of 10 ways off the top of my head to segue tangentally into the story you told without bringing up the fact that you made an indefensible comparison.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:46 PM on June 20, 2005


Finally, I posit a question. How is begging for money using deception or children different from cheating on your taxes by filling in extra deductions, inflating an expense, or using kid's deductions improperly?

I was just answering your question. I said one way in which it was different, a way I think is important and relevant. I don't think there is a moral equivalency between the two and I feel that way about a lot of the comparisons you've made.

And yeah, of course partially blame their parents for creating prejudiced adults by inculcating prejudice when they were young. I don't see how that is responding to me. By the same token, having your children beg might create adults who think its acceptable to prey on others for their livelihood.

I have a definite suspicion that my social background and yours differ greatly, and we are talking to each other from different social worlds.

I don't know what that means but I've worked with extremely poor Lao and Khmer and we were able to have a conversation and understand each other, so whatever the difference between us that you believe hinders communication I hope is not all that great.
posted by Falconetti at 6:52 PM on June 20, 2005


nylon: It's often the case that, because Gypsies have this reputation, local non-Gypsy scalliwags use Gypsy presence as a cloak to nick things themselves. People will do some pretty crazy things if they know that someone else will always take the blame.

Yes very very true. My point is not unfounded though. I'm not unfamiliar with gypsies having spent much time in their company - most of the ones I knew were reminiscent of Egyptians. Black hair, olive skin, egyptian shaped eyes, gold teeth.

But, they have (or at least had 20 years ago) a separate economy, and a separate set of values that meant stealing stuff from non gypsies and selling it back to non gypsies was, pretty much OK - encouraged in fact. Steal another gypsies horse though, and expect to not-wake-up in a shallow pit in the woods.

So, I'm not saying they were unprincipled, but their principles involved stealing shit from gaja (that would be us non gypo's). I have much first hand evidence.

As an aside, there was a gypo I knew (a true Rom) who would poach salmon with a rope and a glass bowl. He'd hold the glass bowl in the water (helped him see) and hold the two ends on the rope so a loop dangled in the water. Then he'd walk up stream at dusk looking for salmon just holding against the current. He'd shuffle up behing them, still looking through his bowl, and drag the noose over the fishes head. When he got it past the gills, he pull forward and up and just throw the fish onto the bank in one motion. I kid you not, he could catch more salmon than we could carry before it got too dark to see. He was also a pretty deft Trout Tickler. But he definitely was a theiving pikey bastard. And he was proud of it.
posted by BadSeamus at 11:49 PM on June 20, 2005


The crime stats issue hides the real issue here. If you make assumptions about one person based on the actions of another individual who happens to be in the same racial or social group you are a bigot.
posted by biffa at 3:07 AM on June 21, 2005 [1 favorite]


"If you make assumptions about one person based on the actions of another individual who happens to be in the same racial or social group you are a bigot."

I think that's too expansive a definition.

What is really going on in bigotry is more subtle, hard to articulate. I can best describe it indirectly: it's when these generalizations about classes of people are comfortable--when the generalization exists for reasons beyond a disinterested description of reality.

This is partly why people that go out of their way to defend these sorts of generalizations are automatically suspect. Their rationales are ultimately almost always anecdotal, though they typically won't offer their anecdote till after they've argued more abstractly.

Indeed, I think that the tales people tell of their own experiences to validate these sorts of points of view are in a sense private versions of the same sort of cultural-level things as we find in urban folklore. It's a story that makes a tight-little package, a fencepost in the psychological structure dividing "us" and "them".

There's a lot of subjectivity in this definition, a lot of assumptions about what's going on in someone's head. But I think the product of this is objectively identifiable. I can very quickly hear the bigotry, even when it's very subtle, in someone's voice as they generalize. I think a lot of people can. The speaker describes the group, and individuals in that group, in a subtly abstracted way--they don't really see the person there. They mostly see a sort of terra incognito in the map of their empathy; there are no people there, but symbols serving an individual and cultural purpose like "here there be dragons" or the myth of Prester John. It's not so much the act of generalization, and it's not so much a specific generalization. It's the nature of the generalization.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:38 AM on June 21, 2005 [1 favorite]


whatever the difference between us that you believe hinders communication I hope is not all that great.

I apologise, I thought I was referencing Mayer Curley's comments. Mea culpa.
posted by meehawl at 10:34 AM on June 21, 2005


Why did you bother to acknowledge the question's existence if you were going to evade it anyway?

The question relies on an a priori assumption, that is to say, a relative denunciation of the benefits to a family of either a) begging, or b) stealing monies from the state using deception. Now, the tradition of almsgiving within Western cultures has both diminished and been privatised greatly over the years (which is par for the course within market economies), but I do believe that, within public space, all individuals and/or organizations have a right to plead for monies or gifts, with or without the expectation of an exchange of objects. You may not like some of the methods employed, by either charities, individuals, or families, or you may disagree with the purposes to which such monies are put, and that is your perogative, and I believe that within an ownership society you are free to prohibit such solicitation within private territories controlled by you. Nevertheless, I don't believe that within a polis, owned in common, you have an absolute right to ban such behaviour.

And to answer the question more directly, I believe it is regrettable that parents would do anything that would involve children in illegal or immoral behaviours or contracts, based mainly on the principle of the diminished responsibility of minors, as we have come to understand that concept since the Enlightenment.
posted by meehawl at 10:45 AM on June 21, 2005


One caveat about "immoral" behaviours, of course, is that one person's "acceptable" is another person's "immoral". And that's really what I meant with my "social worlds" concepts. Some people see begging as immoral, others as regrettable.
posted by meehawl at 10:59 AM on June 21, 2005


Travellers are Irish, not Saxon ("sassanach", meaning 'stranger'). You aren't up to speed on your European ethnicities. An Éirinneach nó Sassanach tú?

Sarcasm is *difficult*, isn't it?


You're right. Irish are not Saxon. But who cares about my larger point? Deathalicios got it, while you ignored it. In favor of showing off. The point was, that in the late 20th/early 21rst centuries, Irish (and possibly Rom,) are generally considered white. So you have one anecdote, of a Rom gypsy, being treated badly. That sucks. How do you know it was prejudice against Rom and prejudice against their culture? Nevertheless, this is all a red herring.

I don't think that anyone is "presuming" that ethnic prejudice against Roms (or even Irish) exists. What they are saying is that there are ethnic "gangs/communities" that prey upon people, usually through cons or petty theft. To which you respond by accusing them of being bigots. Let me ask you my question again, point blank. I'm curious to see if you'll ignore it again.

Am I a horrible bigot if I don't like the Mafia, or racist skins?

I mean, speaking as an American, it's moderately known that there are itinerant con men of the same ethnicity, (generally Irish,) that form communities based around this lifestyle. I am also aware of problems, in some Italian cities, of small gangs of children groomed by their parents for petty theft. They appear to be Rom. But I do know there is a huge amount I don't know about gypsies in Europe.

Now, I won't deny that itinerants have often got a raw deal, to put it mildly. But meehawl, what you are saying is that there are no ethnic gangs anywhere, are people who acknowledge them are bigots, that there is no functional difference between tax fraud and Fagin-like thief grooming, and that individual criminals are the same as communities of such. (This in addition to your dodging allot of points that people have made.)

I think crime stats are a red herring. (Though it would be interesting to see, but I haven't found them yet.) I would not be surprised if the relative crime stats were comparable, assuming you could get a viable reading of socioeconomic status. This wouldn't mean that ethnic criminal communities don't exist.

Acknowledging people's points instead of self-aggrandizing is *difficult* isn't it?
posted by Snyder at 1:26 PM on June 21, 2005


Am I a horrible bigot if I don't like the Mafia

No, but you would be a bigot if you said, 'I hear the Mafia are bad and Italian, therefore all Italians are bad', which essentally is the case some people have been making in this thread with regard to gypsies.
posted by biffa at 1:35 PM on June 21, 2005 [1 favorite]


To which you respond by accusing them of being bigots

I have never used the label "bigot" within this conversation. It is indeed interesting to me that so many people are unable to express their opinions concerning this matter without interjecting repeated assurances that they do *not* label themselves as "bigots".

what you are saying is that there are no ethnic gangs anywhere

If you look closely at what I have said, I have never stated that. I am examining how and within what range you classify a "gang", that is to say, along which socially constructed racial or ethnic demarcations, and the kind of (un)conscious stereotyping that ensues from using such short-cut psychological labelling. People's behaviour or in-group/out-group status is perceived very differently based on the labels that have been assigned to them. The interesting thing is that these "changes" in behaviour are sometimes internalised by the subjects, and reproduced. We are social animals.

people who acknowledge them are bigots

Again with the anti-bigot statement. Interesting.

there is no functional difference between tax fraud and Fagin-like thief grooming

And another conflation of begging with thievery. Interesting.

Am I a horrible bigot if I don't like the Mafia, or racist skins?

1. Again with the "bigot".
2. Is there such a thing as an un-horrible "bigot"?
3. I would say that if you use your (presumably) 2nd-hand "knowledge" of the behaviours and social representations of the "Mafia" to frame your interactions with Italians or Italian-Americans, then you are probably doing yourself a grave disservice.
posted by meehawl at 3:31 PM on June 21, 2005


What is really going on in bigotry is more subtle, hard to articulate. I can best describe it indirectly: it's when these generalizations about classes of people are comfortable--when the generalization exists for reasons beyond a disinterested description of reality.

Like when someone on a grounded airplane says "gypsies are going to try and steal your shit" and sure enough, gypsies try to steal your shit? Is that "beyond a disinterested description of reality" or is that an accurate description? Feel free to assert that the larcenous parties were American, Belgian or Colorforms. Anything that doesn't damage your argument.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:54 PM on June 21, 2005


Any travelling-based community has made a decision to be separate from society, but they still need things from that society, and that means money, which means either begging or stealing, if they're not willing to work. And many aren't.

If you read the original links, you would know that the travellers and Roma in England traditionally did migrant labour - fruit picking, hop weeding, knife sharpening, etc. They are a large minority in Kent because of those crops there. Some of this has now been mechanised (especially the hops growing), but fruit must still be picked by hand.

I had hoped that people would read and listen to the links, which talk not just about the prejudice, but about why they travel and what they do when they travel. They work - one boy was talking about how he didn't really like school, and just wanted to be working outside.
posted by jb at 11:21 PM on June 21, 2005


I have never used the label "bigot" within this conversation. It is indeed interesting to me that so many people are unable to express their opinions concerning this matter without interjecting repeated assurances that they do *not* label themselves as "bigots".


You're not the only one talking. Plenty of others have made that accusation. While I was generally addressing you, I, and everyone else on this thread, am writing for an audience, and may bring in things that you did not personally say, but that you certainly
implied.
It is indeed interesting to me that you are unable to express your opinion with having more than a superficial recognition, (at best), of what other people are writing.

If you look closely at what I have said, I have never stated that. I am examining how and within what range you classify a "gang", that is to say, along which socially constructed racial or ethnic demarcations, and the kind of (un)conscious stereotyping that ensues from using such short-cut psychological labelling. People's behavior or in-group/out-group status is perceived very differently based on the labels that have been assigned to them. The interesting thing is that these "changes" in behavior are sometimes internalized by the subjects, and reproduced. We are social animals.


Uh huh. So, what your saying is, as you presume my race to be white non-Italian, non-Irish, and non-Rom, that I seem to be part of the great non-ethnic baseline, the one whose society determines these ethnic groupings. So Italian, Irish, Rom or gypsy is never self-applied, but only applied by the great non-Other. You're doing some serious presuming yourself, sport. I wonder what you're basing your assumptions on? Could they be stereotypes? Shock horror! Perhaps you had better link to some more Wikipedia articles, their really proving whatever your point is, even though they are based, yet again, on either in inability, or lack of desire, to pay attention to what has been written here. Let me help you a little. This is the definition of gang. Read the first definition. Ethnic gangs are gangs based around a self-applied ethnic group. Now, you can either deny these exist, or not. I also suppose you could run around and make up your own interpretations of what is being said, or ignore it, in order to continue to make your argument, which appears that you either have a fetish towards the Other, (in which they are relatively harmless nonactors in the Saxons world,) or you think that any accusation of a crime that includes an ethnic identifier is akin to the most repugnant and foul of prejudices.

Again with the anti-bigot statement. Interesting.

Again with the lack of reading comprehension. Bo-ring!

And another conflation of begging with thievery. Interesting.

If by "conflation of begging with thievery" you mean "talking about thievery", which is what Mayor Curley was talking about (namely, his pickpocket attempt,) when you first accused him, and what I was talking about. It must be fun to make up your own posts to respond to!

1. Again with the "bigot".
2. Is there such a thing as an un-horrible "bigot"?
3. I would say that if you use your (presumably) 2nd-hand "knowledge" of the behaviors and social representations of the "Mafia" to frame your interactions with Italians or Italian-Americans, then you are probably doing yourself a grave disservice.


1. Again with harping on a non-issue.
2. Is there such a thing as using an adjective for emphasis?
3. Yeah, and you'd be right. But your presuming again, and bringing up a behavior that can only be vaugely attributed to anyone on this thread.
posted by Snyder at 1:20 AM on June 22, 2005



No, but you would be a bigot if you said, 'I hear the Mafia are bad and Italian, therefore all Italians are bad', which essentally is the case some people have been making in this thread with regard to gypsies.


I haven't really seen that on this thread. I have seen people write that all their expirences with gypsies have been bad ones, and this makes them more suspicious of gypsies in general, but not of any given Rom or Irish person. Can you point out one or two examples?
posted by Snyder at 1:23 AM on June 22, 2005


How can you be suspicious of a group in general without applying that to individuals? How does your suspicion actually manifest if not in your dealings with individuals?
posted by biffa at 2:11 AM on June 22, 2005


People amaze me. Again, most here arguing on behalf of the generalization clearly have some emotional investment in doing so. That tells you almost everything.

If I walked into a crowd of gypsy children, I'd protect my wallet. Because that would be an application of the rule "protect wallet from potential pickpockets". As it happens, I protect my wallet if and when I expect to be in any crowd situation. But that's a digression.

Bigotry is making these generalization as part of the act of drawing lines in the sand, the expression of innate xenophobia...these boundaries are the boundaries of one's self-identity. What is outside those boundaries is the Other. I don't much care whether some, most, or all gypsies are thieves and con artists. That determination has no emotional resonance with me--and whatever the determination is, gypsies are not Other to me, they're inside my boundaries.

A generalization can be a generalization that is a practical rule-of-thumb. Or a generalization can also serve to help define identity and social relationships. The more the latter is true, the more someone has a deep emotional investment in the generalization, and the more that this generalization becomes more real to them than the actual people, collectively or individually, that are being generalized about.

If I say once, "Women do X", Or "Homosexuals do X", there's not much basis upon which to evaluate whether that statement is an example of bigotry or not. But in any extended conversation it is in my experience pretty easy to tell when that generalization is simply a statement of experience or actually an expression of bigotry. It's in how that statement is functioning within that person's worldview.

For example, I'm bigoted against Republicans and cultural conservatives and Christian conservatives. Each of these things[1], taken as a class, is more important to me than the individuals which they supposedly represent. When I talk about Republicans, there is very little empathy in me--I am aware as a factual matter that this represents a person, even one of my family members. But the personhood of Republicans factors very little in all the symbolic weight that term has for me and how I use it. It has everything to do with identity, and everything to do with self and other, family and alien. The generalization I may be making about Republicans may be factually correct or it may not--that's not the point. The point is that I've already taken the step of denying in some practical, psychological sense their personhood. Many people would argue a moral philosophy that regards that step as the greatest crime against someone, the practical outcome irrelevant. But I'd argue that this step looms very large in utiliatarian terms as well; while this step doesn't require gas chambers, it allows them. And, you'll notice from the fact that I very often play devil's advocate for these groups, I am aware of my bigotry and I fight it continuously.

1 Notice my choice of language.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:21 AM on June 22, 2005 [1 favorite]


Like when someone on a grounded airplane says "gypsies are going to try and steal your shit" and sure enough, gypsies try to steal your shit?

My friend, it seems as if you are being *pursued* by wild hordes of little 'orribles, determined to divest you of life and limb. Everywhere you go you encounter great teeming masses of thieving gypsies. This is indeed a serious situation. Does Elvis talk to you? Does he tell you to do things? Do you see spots?
posted by meehawl at 3:51 AM on June 22, 2005


So Italian, Irish, Rom or gypsy is never self-applied, but only applied by the great non-Other.

Read closer. Take deep breaths. You obviously missed the part where I mentioned how we can occasionally internalise social representations, and create and (re)produce our own ethnic identities. We are social animals.
posted by meehawl at 3:55 AM on June 22, 2005


How can you be suspicious of a group in general without applying that to individuals? How does your suspicion actually manifest if not in your dealings with individuals?

I think you misunderstood me. "Gypsy" has become, to an extent, a noncultural-specific term, at least in America, hence Rom gypsies, Irish gypsies, whatever. I've seen police refer to "gypsy criminals" as roving/itinerant con artists that are part of a community of like-minded and often ethnically similar people. So when I was talking about being suspicious of gypsies, but not individuals of that ethnic group, I meant being suspicious of groups of itinerant people who are all ethnically similar. We also know that there is a history of criminal acts by certain ethnic types of gypsies, so one might be more suspicious of say, Irish-American groups, then say, Hispanic ones. This is not an indictment of all such groups however, and it doesn't mean you can write them off either. I'm just saying that these suspicions can have a basis in common sense/shared experience.

And even if someone is suspicious of such groups, (say, Rom gypsies,) if they met a Rom in a store or at work, he would not necessarily be prejudiced against them.

(I would also like to add that these criminal groups often don't act as a group, [for example, Irish-American gypsy con-men,] so of course, one would have to have some basic knowledge of how they operate, in addition to just general suspicions. In fact, I think this is important period, it's vital to know fact-based specifics of how one can be victimized, then just having a general sense of "Gypsies steal stuff, watch out!" I mean, in the same way someone should know who the mafia targets, and how not to get caught up with them, as opposed to "They kill people and run protection rackets.")
posted by Snyder at 2:10 PM on June 22, 2005



Read closer. Take deep breaths. You obviously missed the part where I mentioned how we can occasionally internalise social representations, and create and (re)produce our own ethnic identities. We are social animals.


Hey, I'm not the one who breathlessly brings up Nazis.

No, I didn't miss it. It's the part you quoted, in fact. That only the great Universal Subject makes social representations, and ethnic types can respond by internalising them, or reacting in some other manner, but not, y'know, actually acting under their own volition.
posted by Snyder at 2:25 PM on June 22, 2005


biffa: After looking at my first response, I don't think I was clear. So, to boil it down:

I think someone can be aware of a voluntary and self-applied criminal group that exhibts certain traits, so when one sees such a group, that fits enouigh of these traits, they'll be suspicous of said group, for example, a group of Rom gypsy childern hanging out by an airport with a lot of toursit traffic. At the same time, if this person met a Rom in a situation where it appears he is not part of such a group, or not doing something that fits those traits, they would not be suspicious. I hope that's clearer.
posted by Snyder at 2:33 PM on June 22, 2005


I'm not the one who breathlessly brings up Nazis.

I also brought up Victorians, but they always got better press. And stand by my assertion that "Devouring" is wildly more evocative than "Calamity".
posted by meehawl at 7:18 PM on June 22, 2005 [1 favorite]


And even if someone is suspicious of such groups, (say, Rom gypsies,) if they met a Rom in a store or at work, he would not necessarily be prejudiced against them.

Except that in England right now Romany are being turned away from caravan sites they booked - in that case a man who lived in a house, but just wanted to holiday in a caravan. They are denied service in stores, and one girl tells a story about how when she's dressed in the "gypsy style" she is followed around stores - when she dresses conservative they don't bother her. It is discrimination against an ethnic group, though some can try to pass.

This is all in the links on the site.
posted by jb at 9:55 PM on June 22, 2005


jb:

I'm not debating that. There's no doubt in my mind that undue prejudice against gypsies has existed and continues to exist. I'm just believe that it's possible to be suspicious of certain groups that are known to exhibit certain behavior, where ethnicty might be a possible identifier. Like the example I used above.

Moreover, my original point was that there are certain voluntary associations of criminals that have ethnicity being a element of memebership, i.e. the Italian Mafia, Chinese Triad gangs, or certain gangs of Rom or Irish gypsies. I don't believe that saying "Watch out for the Mafia," or "Watch out for the gypsies by the airport," is prima face bigoted. It can lead to in unjust bigotry against an ethnic group in general, or a guilty until proven innocent mindset, but I don't think it's any more idiotic then denying that these groups exist.
posted by Snyder at 12:47 AM on June 23, 2005


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