“Ten people are dead. My community, myself, my family, my peers are hurt, and we are angry because we see this as an avoidable incident.”
Brigid Quilligan, Irish Traveller Movement
It’s been just over five months since the citizens of the Republic of Ireland were basking in the afterglow of the marriage equality referendum; the resounding ‘Yes’ vote gave the wider world an impression of a country ditching the prejudices of old for something altogether more edifying.
Justice Minister László Trócsányi’s attempts to deny linking Roma with radicalized Islamists prompted blogger Eva Balogh to reach for a term which has a particular resonance in Hungarian: kakistocracy meaning “government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.”
Hungary’s ever-diminishing international reputation took a double hit from the European Union within the space of two days. Hot on the heels of a damning ECRI report on racism in Hungary published on Tuesday June 9, came the harshest condemnation yet from the European Parliament concerning Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s illiberal excesses.
Many of us accept that certain groups of people are excluded, marginalised, and disadvantaged due to their ethnicity - but how many of us are willing to take a further step and accept that we might enjoy advantages or privileges because of our ethnicity? We do not actively seek these advantages, but we do enjoy them. We are not conscious of these advantages until we actively articulate them, write them down, and reflect on them. They are invisible and remain invisible to most of us most of the time.
When it comes to Roma, everybody seems to be an authority on the subject. Everybody knows what all Roma look like, that they can’t possibly be blond, that they all hail from Romania (Roma – Romania, of course); everybody knows that they beg, that they don’t like to wash themselves, that they don’t want their children to have a proper education, that they want to live in camps encircled by barbed wire; everybody knows that they don’t want to assimilate, prefer to live as nomads, all the while exploiting Europe's generous welfare States; everybody knows that they practice magic, that they are all gifted musicians and circus people; and – last but not least – that they steal (babies and more).