Commentary: Social Exclusion is a Global Issue
The issues the Roma face in Europe are issues that many minorities around the globe face as well. There is unequal distribution of education, employment, and housing.
Poverty is rampant. People feel the prejudice against them, and it is important for us to know that this issue does not only affect the Czech Republic or the United States.
- senior at Lehigh University;
- pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics;
- sprinter on Lehigh's track and field team;
- sister of Mu Sigma Upsilon Sorority, Incorporated, the first multicultural sorority in the United States;
- plans to attend graduate school to become a physical therapist
This summer, I have the amazing opportunity to leave my home in the United States to work with the campaign for social inclusion in the Czech Republic. I have been interning with an NGO, Romea, to help with the social inclusion of the Roma people.
The Roma have faced persecution over many generations, including the mass genocide of their people during the Holocaust. Unfortunately, the Roma are still widely persecuted today due to the color of their skin and a negative media portrayal of them as criminals and thieves.
Human rights are defined as rights that inherently belong to every person, regardless of race, religion, national origin, or any other status. Every year, the United States releases a human rights report on countries around the globe, including the Czech Republic.
Romea covers such reports through their news server, Romea.cz, and the challenge arises when we see how many members of the majority group are actually willing to change their thoughts and actions in order to alleviate feelings of exclusion for minority groups. In their 2016 Human Rights Report, the US states that "Societal discrimination against the Romani population in education, housing, and employment remained a serious problem."
Very few of the socially excluded Roma participate in Czech political life. The 2016 report from the US says "There were no Romani members of parliament, cabinet ministers, or Supreme Court justices; in the regional elections, Romani candidates had no success winning office."
Without political representation and policies advocating for the respect of basic human rights for members of marginalized communities, exclusion will be difficult to address. Exclusion manifests when members of society are silenced.
The US human rights report also mentions the Czech Republic's rejection of "a bill proposed in September 2015 by the minister of human rights on compensation for persons, most of them Romani women, who were sterilized without their full consent between 1971 and 1991." However, the US has its own extensive history of practicing compulsory sterilization, and not all victims of these practices have been compensated there either, although some states have taken steps to redress the past.
Now, you may be wondering why you should care. How does this affect you?
The "-isms" - ableism, antigypsyism, racism, sexism, classism, antisemitism, ageism, heterosexism, and more - are global problems. Our fellow human beings are dying because others cannot tolerate difference.
What I want you to know is that it is okay to be different. Embrace your own culture.
Live how you want, and let others do the same. That's how people grow, learn and discover new ways to flourish.
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