Monika Mihaličková: Czech President should take a look in the mirror and give himself a slap - "gypsy" is an insulting term
"I do not perceive myself to be an elite Romani person," says Monika Mihaličková in an interview with the journalist Jindřich Šídlo for news server Seznam. The former MP in the Czech Chamber of Deputies is currently working for the ROMEA organization on a program that supports Romani students.
"We want to expand the middle class of the Romani community here over the long term. The number of Romani secondary school students is growing, about 1 000 Romani students successfully graduated from high school last year. That is many more than 20 years ago," Mihaličková says.
Immediately at the beginning of the of interview the former MP expressed her view about the use of the term "gypsy" in the public sphere. "I perceive the word 'gypsy' to be derogatory. That is a name we were given by the society around us. It has a very derogatory subtext. What's more, there is a very subtle difference between saying the word 'gypsy' in Czech [cikán] depending on whether you say it with a 'k' or with a 'g'. The word with 'k' sparks very negative emotions in Romani people," she explained.
"The word gypsy [cikán] is a synonym for a thief, a criminal, etc.," Mihaličková said. She went on to reject the recent claim by Czech President Zeman that 90 % of the Romani people in the Czech Republic do not work.
"The President should take a good look at himself in the mirror and give himself a slap for how he is behaving. He is surrounding himself with xenophobes, with populists, he is dividing our society and he is attacking the most vulnerable. He does not represent what the head of state should represent in the least," she said.
Her reference to a "slap" was evidently a response to Zeman's recent reminiscences about how Romani "work crews" in communist Czechoslovakia would allegedly "slap" each other around in order to maintain discipline on the job. He followed those remarks with his claims about most Romani people not working for a living.
"Many Romani people are in the debt trap, in collections proceedings. For that reason, Romani people frequently work under the table, and the owners of the firms who pay them that way are making money off of that. The state needs to prosecute working under the table and, at the same time, the state needs to aid people with getting out of the debt trap," she explained.
"We cannot just do one of those things without the other," the former MP added. She admitted that especially in some excluded localities the situation of Romani people is very complicated and addressing it will take a long time.
"The majority of students in our scholarship program are from excluded localities. We received 150 applications, but we were able to support just 60 of them. People are doing their best to succeed, even in socially excluded localities," she emphasized.
According to Mihaličková, people in the Czech Republic do not know how to defend themselves against discrimination - she then described the case of a Romani student who was not hired by McDonald's. She also expressed appreciation for the fact that the Czech state has bought out the pig farm that was located on the Romani genocide site in Lety u Písku.
"I am enormously glad, I thank the Czech Republic for that," she said. "It is, for me, an important gesture, the Czech Republic has accepted that the Holocaust of the Roma was part of her history. I did not believe it could take so long for that to happen and I am grateful it has succeeded."
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