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Patrik Banga harshly criticizes Romani people on Czech Television's "Hyde Park"

Prague, 22.3.2012 18:15, (ROMEA)
Journalist and online discussion administrator Patrik Banga (PHOTO:  Repro Česká televize)

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Yesterday Patrik Banga, a contributor to news server Romea.cz and an administrator of the iDNES.cz web server, was a guest of television station ČT24's "Hyde Park" program, where he harshly criticized Romani people and discussed the causes of their situation in the Czech Republic. Banga also criticized the Czech schools, in particular the practice through which Romani children end up in "special education", and generalizations that tar all Romani people with the same brush. Banga also does not like the populist behavior of some politicians, including mayors. He also discussed the behavior of the Czech media. The program is available online (in Czech only) here: http://www.ceskatelevize.cz/specialy/hydepark/21.3.2012/

Banga used one of the strongest slurs in the Romanes language, "degeš" (someone whose behavior, mind and morals are impure or unclean), to describe people who, for example, trash the apartments or homes in which they live. He said he would be in favor of punishing Romani people who repeatedly commit misdemeanors or disturb night-time quiet by reducing their welfare. Banga also said the communist-era law on "parasitism" had been a good one. Under that law, the totalitarian regime punished people who did not work. (Prior to November 1989, everyone in Czechoslovakia was required by that law to be employed somewhere.)

Banga said that Romani people should go to work, humbly reflect on their own behavior, incorporate themselves into society, and send their children to school. When asked by moderator Daniel Takáč why Romani people are not incorporating themselves into society when it is relatively easy to do, Banga responded:"Try to imagine a ghetto where 400 – 500 Romani people live together, everyone lives in the same way, and their progress ended at some point in the 1980s, when their behavior was still relatively, quote-unquote, normal. They have no chance of seeing that the world operates differently. In my home we had positive role models, we were raised differently, that's why we function normally. However, I can imagine that if you are from the fifth or sixth generation of children who see their parents receiving unemployment or welfare, then you will grow up to be exactly like your parents on welfare."

What about the expression "Gypsy" (Cikán, Cigán). Does Banga consider it offensive?

"Someone has invented the idea that we are Romani and that it is polite to write the word Rom or do my best to write the word Rom. When I speak privately, or when I give interviews to iDNES.cz, I use the term Cigán, because that is what I'm used to. I was born a Cigán and I will die one, I didn't come up with the idea of being a Rom."

What about Romani people's relationship to work?

"You can't make the blanket statement that Romani people don't honor work. Romani people live from day to day - when they get money they start drinking, they have parties, they make sure they buy enough food. Because they have enough, they have the feeling that they don't have to go to work. It's because we don't think very far ahead. We don't know how to think over the fact that the money will run out in 15 days and that we will need more. That's the primary failing behind why Romani people don't go to work," said Patrik Banga.

A viewer of the program wrote in to say that Romani people hold parties and disturb the nighttime quiet of the people who make the money that goes to their welfare. Banga responded:

"Those are people who have no respect for anything. However, we're not talking about Gypsies here, we're talking about troublemakers. I wouldn't say this only concerns Gypsies, it's a general problem. If someone is an inadaptable 'degeš' and wants to have parties at night when people are sleeping, the police must intervene together with the municipal authorities and not be afraid to deprive them of their welfare if nothing else works."

One viewer claimed that welfare for Romani people (i.e., not for everyone, but just for Romani people - sic!) is too high. He gave the example of a Romani family with 12 children who in his view would receive altogether much more than CZK 30 000 monthly. Moderator Daniel Takáč corrected that estimate to approximately CZK 29 000.

Banga said even that amount was enough: "The social welfare system here is poorly configured, and for a long time that has been one of the reasons why Romani people are in the position they are today."

The moderator then asked whether it would be better to introduce a ceiling for welfare, or better to take some of that welfare away when there is a problem?

"It would more effective to take away the welfare. In the case of misdemeanors, in the case of behavior that doesn't meet the standard, the state should generally have a tool available for taking away welfare. However, on the other hand, I want to say that this should concern the inadaptables, it can't concern Romani people, Gypsies across the board," responded Banga.

Of course, Banga criticized more than just "his own". One viewer noted that the same Romani children who have been attending "special schools" in the Czech Republic have succeeded in mainstream schools in Great Britain: "Does it mean British schools are very poor, or on the contrary, very effective?"

Banga responded: "I think the Czech schools are poor, at various levels. Often it happens that gypsy children are automatically enrolled in the 'special schools' according to their skin color. I am saying this completely openly. I know, for example, what it was like at the end of the 1990s in the Žižkov neighborhood of Prague, where they took all of the Romani children out of the schools and threw them all together into the school on Havlíčkovo náměstí. We addressed this frequently in practice by having the children undergo psychological tests – and according to the results of those tests they were completely normal children, with normal intellects, but according to the conclusions obtained by the school, they were half-retarded children who belonged in 'special school'." Banga said that when he attended elementary school, Romani children had to undergo such a selection.

Banga hopes the situation is different today, but gave the example of the town of Kladno, where there are "Romani children in the special school who have no business being there given their intellect." Every support for the education of Romani children is correct, in his view, because education is the path to including Romani people into society.

When asked about the Parlamentní listy hoax revealed by news server Romea.cz and the fact that several Czech media outlets reprinted it without verifying it, Banga responded in these words:

"I am surprised we are only discussing that 46 minutes into this interview. I was immeasurably surprised that no one verified that report. František Kostlán and I knew just a few hours after the report was broadcast in the media that it was a deceptive fiction, pure invention. It took some time before we succeeded in correcting it. However, given the fact that so many media outlets reprinted that report, our correction of it essentially had no weight. Some media outlets apologized. I think iDNES.cz, through Michal Hanák, took a very good position on it. However, we have also determined that the Romani topic is very popular. The words 'Rom' or 'Cikán' in headlines attract readers. We have seen many people sharing such articles on Facebook. It is clearly evident from this that the gypsy situation is so tense that any reports about Romani people that are negative will be read the most."

How does Banga see racism in the media?

"Many media outlets, including the tabloid Parlamentní listy, because they print unfounded, unverified reports, de facto support racism in Bohemia, or rather, they support the anti-Gypsy mood. However, with a few exceptions, I don't believe the media do this on purpose, rather, I believe they are interested in profit and readership."

Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
Views: 876x

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