When I tell people I’m Romani, I usually have to clarify by adding Gypsy. Even then, I usually receive blank stares. However, if people do say anything, they generally say something along the lines of, “Oh! You mean like Esmeralda!” Sometimes, I even get comments about living in a caravan, marrying my brother, or questions about how many fights I get in or how many children I have.
This is largely because most people, if they have any awareness of “Gypsies” at all, usually only have information provided by media - such as cartoons, news reports, or documentary TV shows.
The word Gypsy, as anyone knows who follows this blog, is considered a slur by many of the people mislabeled underneath it (but certainly not by all). In the US alone, there are over two million “Gypsies”… but what does that actually mean?
Well, in the US there are four main groups which are considered ethnically to be “Gypsy” -
and Roma (Romani)
In many cases, the Irish Traveller, Romanichal, and Romany populations have been in the US since the US began - brought over from the UK as slaves or indentured servants. However, often times families were required to sneak in, since if a ship was known to be carrying large numbers of “Gypsies” it was refused port and turned around… which often meant certain death to those on board. There are tales of “Gypsy” families being pitched overboard before docking so that the ship was allowed to make port. Irish Traveller groups have often been conflated with Scottish Travellers, even though Scottish Travellers are often of Romani heritage, but I don’t know of any groups in the US who specifically identify as “Scottish Traveller”.
The Black Dutch/Chikkener are German Sinte and Roma who came over between the 1700s and early 1900s. They settled mostly in the NE of the US, though there are some populations throughout the Eastern coastal states. Many of these families intermarried with Native American and African American families and so are often of mixed heritage.
There are many older Roma populations here - the majority are of Vlax heritage it seems (Kalderash, Lovari, and Gurbet), with smaller pockets of Balkan (Ursari, Kalajdži), Northwestern (Sinte), and others. There are also larger groups of recent Romani immigrants, particularly from Hungary, Slovakia/Czech Republic, and Romania.
Generally, those families who’ve been here longer tend to call themselves “American Roma” or “American Travellers”. Though, this isn’t always the case.
So, even here in the US, where people think that “Gypsies” are mythical, magical, and ‘not a real people’ (I’ve actually had people tell me “I thought you were extinct!”) or are the mafia-esque tropes from NatGeo and TLC shows like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Gypsy Sisters, and American Gypsies …. there are millions of us living from many different groups.
We don’t all speak the same language, and even if we do, we don’t all speak the same dialect. We don’t all uphold the same cultural traditions. We’re not all of the same religion.
I think, most importantly, we’re not homogeneous. There are many ways to be and look and live as a “Gypsy”. We might have white skin, brown skin, black skin. We might be Orthodox, Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist, Muslim, Pagan.
We might speak Romanes, we might not.
We might live with our families, we might not.
We might maintain our traditions, we might not.
So please don’t mistake that the word Gypsy ONLY equates to Romani. This simply isn’t the case.
Imagine an America in which the government can deny protest in any public space it deems fit. Where wearing a dissenting shirt around an elected official could be construed as a felony. Where First-Amendment protections become privileges subjectively doled out by the state. Sadly, that America is pretty much here.
In March, Congress passed HR 347, a bill that limits Americans’ ability to protest in public and on government grounds. Mainstream media didn’t raise peep, but now there’s finally some anger building. The bill, passed almost unanimously, makes it a federal offense punishable by up to ten years in prison to “knowingly“ protest in the vicinity of the Secret Service—that is anywhere the Secret Service “is or will be temporarily visiting.”
It also makes many public events impervious to lawful protest. Any “National Security Special Event” (NSSE) requires Secret Service protection. NSSE-designated events have proliferated since 9/11 to include Super Bowls, concerts, campaign events, and now any public event that Very Important People want protest-free.
Most dangerously, it criminalizes protest. Under the bill, “disorderly or disruptive conduct” or activities that “impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions” could warrant felony charges. What constitutes such “disruptive conduct” rests in the eye of the beholder—or the eye of Eric Holder. To put it plainly: the government can decide where and when free speech is allowed and severely prosecute any “disruptive” activity, while we’re confined to “free speech zones.” We can help fix it, however! Join our petition below to protect our speech rights!
PETITION TO CONGRESS: We treasure our first amendment rights of free speech and public assembly! HR 347 limits valid arenas of peaceful public protest, and broadens the government’s ability to curtail civil liberties. We demand that Congress amend the bill to provide clearer language as to what constitutes “disruptions”; to allow for reasonable, peaceful protest at NSSEs and around Secret Service; and to ensure that no peaceful protest can ever be deemed a felony.
TL;DR: Guys, this is REALLY fucking important. Under this bill Occupy Wall Street, the March on Washington & virtually ANY other protests could not have happened. Peaceful protests are an important part of our political process (not to mention our Constitutional Rights!) Please take a moment to sign & reblog this. Thanks!