Karel Holomek: The census is about facts, not feelings
I am hearing many people taking exception to the participation of Roma assistants with the census commissioner during the 2011 census. Jan Kysela, an expert in constitutional law, claims that the use of Roma assistants is a sin against the objectivity of the census because it will influence who people feel they are. Mr Kysela is grossly in error, because the census is about facts, not feelings. He is thinking of Roma people who might be influenced by Roma assistants to the census commissioners to believe that perhaps they don't have to feel they are Roma. What a bitter - and ridiculous - commentary that is!
Is it not known in this society who is Roma and the role that identity plays in discrimination in the Czech schools, in high unemployment, in a life somewhere in the town outskirts in the worst localities? The census is concerned precisely with the statistical determination of these facts in order to assist in providing solutions to these problems.
People are born Roma and remain Roma their entire lives! Nothing can change that, not even the feeling that for an easier life - or out of fear - one "feels" like someone else. Through various anthropological features and through his or her language, that person will be different from everyone else. Those who want to change this will recognize, once they are a little wiser, what an unfortunate position they are in. Not to mention the fact that everyone around them perfectly recognizes their identity without any difficulty whatsoever.
It is a far greater sin against human rights to leave Roma people in a state of "uninformed" unawareness than to provide them with "informed" assistance on how to complete the census. There are two reasons why this assistance is purely desirable form the point of view of human rights: There are concerns that the census could have dangerous outcomes, and there is very low legal awareness about - and related low expectations of - actions like the census. For Roma people the whole affair is just a total enigma!
Cultural anthropologist Marek Jakoubek also considers the participation of Roma assistants during the census counterproductive. Yes, I agree - but counterproductive only according to his sick theory that Roma identity does not exist and that Roma people do not have their own culture, but live in the "culture of poverty". The census can reveal the danger and deviousness of such absurdities should they take root in society.
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