What kind of representation of the Roma ethnic minority makes most sense? The lack of effective political representation of Roma is often put down to the communities’ inability to elect their delegates. Often ONE representative is requested, the mythical vajda – a natural traditional leader. The argument then goes that poor representation of Roma in public life is down to the fact that we simply don’t have vajdas. The traditional forms of organization in Roma communities are no longer in place and we’ve yet to adapt fully to the new.
For generations Irish Travellers have been discriminated against and made feel unwelcome in their own country. Roma, many having arrived in Ireland only in the last two decades, are now experiencing similar discrimination. Media outlets revel in portraying stereotypical and negative images of Travellers and Roma, readily pointing to ethnic markers if someone who is a Traveller or Roma can be connected in any way to any scandal. As for the impact of such media representations – well Ireland made headlines when a Romani girl was taken by police from her parents in Dublin after a woman contacted the presenter of a trashy TV programme (which sometimes featured trashy hysteria about Roma in Ireland) claiming that the child didn’t look like her parents (and that Roma rob children so that they can get child benefits). The child was eventually returned to her family, and apologies were forthcoming (although not from the TV station), but the damage had already been done.
Valeriu Nicolae, We are the Roma! One thousand years of discrimination, Seagull Books, 2013
Valeriu Nicolae packs one thousand years into one hundred pages in this bracing manifesto for the 21st Century, covering racism, identity, mass media, slavery, ghetto life, affirmative action, social inclusion and much more.