Animated video reveals what’s systemic about anti-Roma racism in Hungary today

30 November 2020

 

By Bernard Rorke

The newly-released six-minute animated film entitled Why do Roma children have a more difficult life? sheds much-needed light on the systemic racism and exclusion that Roma face in Hungary today. Produced by the Rosa Parks Foundation, it provides vital historical context to better understand how discrimination and prejudice is reproduced across generations, and continues to thrive in a deeply-damaged democracy. 

The film explores the lives of two boys – Jani who is Roma, and Tomi who is not – to show how their life-chances, prospects and opportunities differ from the moment of their birth; and reveals in a clear, straightforward narration how their very different family histories shaped their present, and how structural discrimination today impacts on Jani’s prospects for the future.  

As head of the Rosa Parks Foundation, Adél Kegye put it, “exclusion and systemic racism deprive young disadvantaged Roma of the opportunity to create a better life for themselves”. According to Adél, who is a lawyer with a mighty track record in litigating against separate and unequal schooling, “Segregated education reproduces poverty, instead of developing children's abilities and giving them a real chance at a successful adult life”.

The release of this film is very timely, given the Hungarian premier Viktor Orban’s recent racist reaction to a Supreme Court ruling that awarded damages to Roma families for a decade of school segregation as “violating the people’s sense of justice”. Orbán stigmatized the Roma families as workshy, their children as violent, unruly and un-educatable. He called it unacceptable that “in order for a minority to feel at home, the majority must feel like strangers in their own towns, villages, or homeland. He declared that “as long as I am the prime minister, nothing of the sort will happen. Because this is the country of the natives, our country …” 

In a country beset by wild conspiracy theories and saturated with toxic official propaganda, this video is a ray of light and reason that deserves the widest possible audience. The film does not set out to make people feel remorseful or guilty, according to script-writer Ágnes Kende. The aim is rather to enlighten: “We believe that understanding the complex phenomenon of systemic racism or antigypsyism brings us closer to acceptance.” 

Though the video is primarily aimed at a Hungarian audience, it is very pertinent for the whole of Europe, especially in the wake of the latest EU anti-racism action plan 2020-2025, with its  recognition of the extent to which discriminatory behaviours are embedded in the social, economic and political structures of our societies. How this complex phenomenon impacts on politics, policy and everyday life to the detriment of racialized minorities is narrated in the video with consummate clarity from the viewpoint of the character Jani; and through the eyes of his non-Roma peer Tomi, we see how privilege thrives on inequality.

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