Renata Berkyová on wall demolition in Slovakia: What principles do we honor?
Several days ago a report came out about the demolition of a wall at the Luník VIII housing estate in Košice, Slovakia and a visit paid by activists to the residents of Ostrovany there. The media reports that this was the work of activists from abroad, including the Czech Republic.
"Stop barriers! Stop segregation!" That was the message of the activists' visit - but what the local Romani people think of this action, their exclusion, and those walls we only hear second-hand.
The physical erection of segregating walls is a clear signal of the barriers that exist in people's minds. This spatial segregation overlaps with the social exclusion of this particular group - in addition to making sources of subsistence inaccessible to them, it degrades their human dignity and self-respect, without which these people have little chance of joining society.
That is probably the philosophy of the activists who went to the Romani settlement of Ostrovany. Even though their intention was to destroy the wall separating Romani dwellings from the houses of the gadje, after discussing the idea with local Roma they did not go through with the action.
The next stop was Košice. There, too, they did not manage to convince the occupants of the excluded Luník IX locality that they should demolish the wall at Luník VIII themselves.
However, the activists took justice into their own hands there anyway and partially demolished the wall. By the time it was repaired within a couple of hours, the activists were long gone.
We cannot deny that the activists have succeeded in sparking discussion about these walls and once again drawing attention to the exclusion that many Romani people in Slovakia unfortunately face. The question is whether such an action is still acceptable and excusable when activists, as foreign elements, invite themselves to interfere in the affairs of a locality and take over the initiative from those living there.
Doesn't that approach meet the definition of part of that famous slogan "Nothing about us without us"? Is a person with good intentions justified in interfering with the decisions of others, or should the limits of that person's aid end where the free will of other individuals begins?
Can we say that what is good for us is also good for others? When we think of activism, we mostly think of intensive advocacy of certain aims on the basis of our personal convictions.
What constraints, however, are we under during this advocacy? On the basis of what principles of respect and solidarity should activists operate?
These questions raise even more questions. That's why I cannot unequivocally give a "thumbs up" to this action.
- Commentary: When walls go up, freedom is brought down
- Another wall separating Roma from non-Roma planned in Slovakia
- Amnesty International criticizes walls around Roma neighborhoods of Slovak towns
- Commentary: The current situation of Roma can only be considered European Apartheid!
- New wall separates Roma from non-Roma area of Slovak town
- Houses to be demolished in Matiční street, site of the wall affair 10 years ago
- Czech town says planned wall not ethnic motivated - press
- Wall to separate problematic renters in Czech town - press
- Wall of earth to keep out gipsies
- Wall separating Czech Romanies from locals exhibited in UN
- Slovak Prosecutor: Fascist pandemic is just as dangerous as COVID-19, trial of extreme politician begins tomorrow
- Czech expatriate Romani community in the UK targeted by social media hoaxes to create demand to leave because of COVID-19
- Slovak Education Ministry establishes expert team focused on solving problems with the education of members of national minorities
- Czech health official's ignorant claim about COVID-19 response in Romani settlements in Slovakia prompts pushback from MEP
- Hungarian Supreme Court: Romani children deserve financial compensation for school segregation
- Slovakia: Six more inhabitants of Romani settlement test positive for COVID-19, are relocated to facility
- Karolína Bánomová: Saste Roma – Info pal o koronavirus can be trusted about COVID-19, ignore the brainwashing conspiracy theories
- Slovakia: COVID-19 still spreading in Roma settlement, quarantine center will be built there and across-the-board testing undertaken
- Slovak Interior Ministry Inspectorate begins prosecution of officer who assaulted Romani children
- Commentary: CNN Prima begins its Czech-language broadcasting with stereotypes about Romani people
- Slovakia: Three Romani communities in Krompachy out of COVID-19 quarantine, movement restrictions only remain in Žehra
- Slovak MEP from Romani community strongly condemns police beating of Romani children in quarantined settlement as unacceptable