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February 19, 2020
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Monika Mihaličková: The basis for institutional racism was laid by work of the kind the Czech Human Rights Commissioner did in the 1980s

18.1.2020 10:42
Monika Mihaličková (PHOTO: Jan Mihaliček)
Monika Mihaličková (PHOTO: Jan Mihaliček)

Helena Válková, the Czech Human Rights Commissioner, contributed to academic work alleging Romani people are predetestined to commit crime. Yesterday the Seznam Zprávy news server published the information that she contributed during the 1980s while working at the Criminological Research Institute of the Prosecutor-General of the Czech and Slovak Socialist Republic to research focusing on the delinquent population of juvenile "cikáni".

The relevant text in that anthology, which I also read a couple of days ago, states, for example, that "cikáni" are not suitable for secondary school education, but for manual labor. It is exactly people of this type who established the basis for the institutional racism from which we have not managed to extricate ourselves even 30 years after the Velvet Revolution.

When I sat for the entrance examinations to secondary school more than 30 years ago, I was not accepted. That was strange to me, because I was certain that I had performed well on them.

When we dug around for an explanation as to why I had not been accepted, it was drily stated to us that "You know, we already had one cikánka here and she got pregnant at 16. We don't want any cikáni here anymore."

Thanks to my parents, however, I got into that school on appeal. The bad taste in my mouth from that experience remained, though.

Here I'm not even talking about how many people ended up in the "special schools" who should not have been there. When I later presented a bill in the Czech lower house to amend the Education Act, in which discrimination was anchored in the sense that the graduates of "special schools" were actually banned by law from studying at college preparatory secondary schools, the lifting of that ban was just the smallest of crutches, but some people did grab hold of it and, thanks to that amendment, eventually graduated from secondary school.

I still know several of those people personally. How many of the measures adopted and announced through professional manuals like this criminological one developed in the 1980s are still considered valid in our society?

Formally their validity may no longer apply, but negative convictions about Roma and their "predestination" certainly do. A bad taste in my mouth from the text of the handbook on which Válková also worked will remain with me a very long time.

Monika Mihaličková, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Komunismus, Zmocněnec, zprávy, 20. století



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