Ida Kelarova: Together against RACISM
Whenever I hear the word racism, it makes me feel bad. What right did we, the people of this planet,ever have to invent that word and all it entails? All the people of this world belong here. What we make of our lives cannot be determined from the color of our skin, but from whether we are able to learn from one another and share values. In my opinion, racism equals human stupidity – and yet, people are not stupid. We are intelligent. Nature has given us intelligence and sentience, compassion and love. If we must make distinctions, they should not be according to skin colors, but according to those who are sensitized and those who are less sensitized. At heart, we are all beautiful.
A sensitized person cannot be a racist. It is clear to the sensitized that we should not be judged according to our skin color, but according to our acts, our deeds. I know many Romani people who are admirable and sensitized, full-hearted, like my father was. I also know Romani people who are degenerate and primitive “thanks” to our society. Many generations ago, their predecessors found themselves living in situations which they did not choose freely – unfortunately, they were forced into such situations when society made them outcasts. Very few of us are aware of our shared responsibility for this situation, the responsibility we all bear for the sins and murders committed by our society (i.e., by us all).
The Roma have been living here for more than 500 years, but society has not yet managed to accept them. Some members of society try to help the Roma, but when they are not rewarded for that help, they give up, join the other side, and contribute to everything that keeps racism alive – this is how racism becomes more entrenched and gains in strength. No one has yet found a way to truly help the Roma, because the Roma remain unknown. Not knowing what the Roma really need, the aid provided does not benefit them, and the wall between Roma and non-Roma becomes firmer and stronger. Racism and mistrust grow on both sides of that wall.
Every minority in the world suffers this, not just the Roma in the Czech Republic. In this society, people reject everything that is unfamiliar. We live with customs, defamations and prejudices that are so strong they can even lead to the murder of innocent children. This is why it is impossible to breathe freely here. People here learn to lie - we learned this during the communist regime - from the time they go to kindergarten. Dishonesty is part of us from a very early age. We lie to ourselves, we lie to our children, and we lie to one another. This is about fear.
The media feed our society with the most powerful food for racism. I have no memory of the media ever writing or broadcasting something interesting or positive about the Roma issue. I have no memory of ever hearing Roma music on the radio – with the exception of one Roma-language broadcast, I could count on my fingers the number of times I have heard Roma music in the mass media. Whenever I watch television I see the media have once again chosen to broadcast images of the most primitive Romani woman - toothless, chewing gum, unable to speak – and I am both angry and sad over how low those in power can sink. Do they not realize that by deepening racist sensibilities and feeding the seeds of racism in each of us they are creating hatred, violence and war? If I had never had the opportunity to spend part of my life with the Roma, if I had never been sensitized in this area, might I also believe the media? I don’t know, I have no idea – I never believed the media and I went to experience that world for myself.
Some of those who are not sensitized make use of the media’s enormous power to create pressure on this issue. It is an open question why those in power never point out the genuinely good sides, the better qualities, of the Roma, as well as the fact that the majority of Roma really do live lives for which they need not be ashamed. They work and make money, they care for their children with love, and they live as best they can. Members of the Roma community must work twice as hard as non-Roma in order to convince non-Roma that not all Roma are evil, smelly thieves.
Then there are the neo-Nazis, who do the dirty work of the other racists – and people are counting on them to clear the Roma out and “clean up” the country - but the opposite is taking place. Once again, through their lack of awareness, these people are committing more and more of the evil and hatred which has always led to wars. What sort of game are we all playing here? None of us wants war. We all want to be happy, to live in love and peace.
People in our society do feel the need to have a clear conscience, so they help out in Africa (which I do not mean to depreciate). However, many are unaware that we have “Africa” right here, even though we are an EU Member State. I believe that if we do not help those who are vulnerable, those who need our assistance (and it will be demanding work), then we can never be happy together. We reap what we sow. I firmly believe that everyone, irrespective of skin color, has the right to life, to the same opportunities as everyone else, and to the same rights as everyone else. I do not want to preach to anyone how they should behave. This article is intended as a contribution toward touching our awareness and our conscience.
I can see those beautiful Romani children, full of hope and light, in my mind’s eye. When non-Romani parents, through their lack of awareness and strong prejudices, keep their own children from sharing a school bench with a darker-skinned child, they are committing an irrational spiritual “murder”.
I do not want this article to offend anyone. My deep desire and wish is for us to live in such a way that, when we die, our children will continue together on the road of full-hearted relationships, of love, tolerance and understanding. I firmly believe that if we manage to achieve this in our lives, we will deserve a beautiful death, and we will be prepared to deeply exhale that last breath.
This article of mine may be harsh, but reality is harsher. Naturally, the events now taking place are a matter for the media and state policy. However, it is not only Roma matters that are reported by the media in a blatantly biased way, lacking context, unlinked to other events - untruthfully. There is no doubt in my mind that the approaches taken by some governments and countries toward the mutual co-existence of nations and races are examples of human stupidity. However, I am concerned that this is not just a problem of a single instance of racial intolerance in one little state, but it is truly a question of our humanity, of ethics. Let us have no illusions about human beings and their level of development, their perception of their relatedness not only to one another, but to everything living on this planet. Peope lack esteem and respect for the other beings on this earth, and they lack humility. How many wars have people conducted which have been presented as just, as struggles for freedom and non-violence? How many animals have we killed out of our vanity? How many ways have we destroyed the ecology of this planet?
Naturally, this does not mean that I do not believe individual instances of injustice should not be highlighted. I have the feeling that what I do for both the Roma and non-Roma, by teaching art, is an amazing, nonviolent connection of cultures. I give to my students what I know best, as best I can. I belive in this path, which I am truly fulfilling to the maximum amount possible in these times. Again and again, I lead the people around me toward love and reciprocity. This is not easy work, but it is meaningful. I firmly believe that if we were each to begin with ourselves, we would succeed in creating a better world together. We were created in order to create, not to destroy – or is it the other way around?
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