naïve and romantic in my position toward Gypsies. I kept no notes, so
this is from memory. They are all alike, the person stated, and
proceeded to tell me what had happened to them in Italy. Namely, Gypsies
had entered a store, had separated this couple into different corners,
took their wallets and left.
1. Anybody who grows up in a war is ever naïve; they would never live to
tell the tale.
2. Gypsies had entered the store. Were they wearing traditional cloths,
hat, neck scarf and all? The only indication to me that these may have
Gypsies is they left this couple alive.
3. This brings me to the cause of such behavior, should they indeed have
been Gypsies. I grew up in part in Italy. In my days there were Roma,
established Roma there, they bothered nobody to my knowledge. In those
days, the fifties, poor, underprivileged Italians were doing the
stealing, although they often did not leave their victims alive. The
problem with Roma arose with a sudden influx of Yugoslav Gypsies, many
of whom had served as human shields during the brutal wars in that
corner of the world. Now in Italy, they have no place to stay, no work,
no protection and on and on. They have two options to survive: beg or
steal. Which would any of us chose? Growing up in the war, everybody
stole. The German Catholic church had a word for it, "Mundraub" i.e.
food theft, and declared it not a sin.
4. This person's knowledge of Gypsies, if that is indeed who they were,
is basically that one run-in. She is now ready to condemn 12 million of
them. I have known Gypsies/Roma all my life. I have encountered them in
the woods during the war, I have lived with them, have been close to
them. I have never felt threatened, nor been afraid they would steal my
belongings. Would that be true for all? No! They are people like us.
They have their bad and their good.
So how do you deal with racism? This person, however hard I tried to
convince him/her of the contrary, had turned into a racist who will
spread his/her very impassioned impressions to whoever will listen to
it. Worse he/she will pass it on to their children. And there lies the
true root of racism. Racism starts in the home. In the interest of world
peace and survival: fight racism at its roots.