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August 10, 2022



Commentary: Czech philosopher Daniel Kroupa has crossed the line, or: What is racism?

2.7.2020 12:38
František Kostlán. (Photo: Archive)
František Kostlán. (Photo: Archive)

Even a master carpenter can injure himself, and that has just happened to the philosopher Daniel Kroupa in his commentary for Czech Radio entitled "Carefully against Racism." In an otherwise good exploration of current issues, he has committed a foul, most likely due to little knowledge of his subject matter.

Kroupa has written, among other things, the following: "I dare say that the vast majority of our [i.e., Czech] people are not bothered if their neighbors are of Romani origin, but are bothered if those neighbors behave in the way they see them behaving during visits or in the television footage from the so-called excluded localities inhabited by Romani people. They are not, therefore, bothered by race, but by unacceptable, callous behavior that sparks an aversion which may be exaggerated, but is understandable - and which is not racism, but could easily become racism if some zealots mistake it for racism."

Kroupa should not have "dared" in this direction. I have been involved with this issue for 30 years as a journalist, a publicist, and a member of the nonprofit organization ROMEA, so I dare say that I know something more about this than he does.

While the expression "majority society" may be frequently used - which in and of itself excludes minorities - in reality we live in one society, together. Also, nobody doubts that there are some Romani individuals whom nobody wants as neighbors here - not even their fellow Roma.

I have heard, more than once, from local Romani residents in excluded localities (where people actually do live in social exclusion) that they don't want to live next door to this or that family, or next to Romani people who have just relocated into the locality. However, those were judgments about specific individuals - and in exactly such a way, many Czechs and Roma would also not want to live next door to some individual "gadje" [non-Roma] because of their lifestyles.

This is clear. However, most of the time, among whites in the Czech Republic who don't want Romani neighbors, what I have encountered is pure racism.

The reason these non-Roma reject Roma is, first and foremost, the fact that they are Romani. I have actually heard many expressions like "cikáni to the gas chambers", "bury them alive", "burn them out", "black swine", "colas", "hoses", "brownCzechs", etc. from these supposed "non-racists".

In addition, naturally, there are also Czech people who have allowed themselves to be influenced by a single example of Romani behavior they experienced during a visit, or who are being manipulated by the clamorous anti-Romani campaigns in the media here. Among them are people who actually are not racists, just as there are racists among them for whom the anti-Romani media campaign, or the example experienced during a visit, have merely confirmed what they already believed.

I dare say, therefore, on the basis of my many years of experience, that most of those who do not want to live next door to Romani people in the Czech Republic are racists. The very fact that they generalize from the behavior of some individuals to all Roma as a whole is proof of that.

It is dangerous to describe this aversion in the way that Kroupa now has, because by doing so, he is relativizing racism. I do greatly appreciate him for what he has done in the past, he has written a great deal that is brave and useful - but, he also should know that the kind of audacity he has attempted must be filtered through a deeper knowledge of this issue, not just on the basis of one's own feelings and impressions.

fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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