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January 16, 2021



Renata Berkyová: How a Czech gadjo from Reflex magazine couldn't help showing his racism

30.5.2018 12:40
Renata Berkyová  (PHOTO:  Private archive).
Renata Berkyová (PHOTO: Private archive).

The discussion of what words we are supposed to use to refer to people who are not Romani has apparently been underway since the term "Rom" became domesticated as part of Czech journalistic discourse. The Editor-in-Chief of Reflex magazine, Marek Stoniš, published a commentary on 24 May in which he objects to the term "non-Rom", specifically, the term "non-Romani children".

When it comes to correctly expressing ourselves with regard to everybody here this is actually not an easy task, especially if we want to avoid writing lengthy descriptions, but Stoniš lacks the basic knowledge about these concepts, lacks any sense of detachment from his own stereotypes, and may even lack the ability to conceal his own actually racist tendencies in order to form an opinion of any merit. The very first sentence of his article, after the opening paragraph, gets everything wrong.

Stoniš is somehow erroneously deducing from a report released by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) about the Czech Republic that it is not possible to be "non-Romani" and "Czech" at the same time. Of course, if the people whom we are discussing are Czechs in the sense of citizens of the Czech Republic, then I must disappoint him, because it is not just the "whites" who live here who are Czechs, but the Romani people living here as well who are Czechs!

Romani people have Czech citizenship and in many respects sincerely identify with the Czech Republic (currently, for example, on the occasion of the World Championship in ice hockey) - they are proud to represent it, and they may also have "white" friends or life partners. Of course I must reveal one more fact, perhaps for the first time to many readers, and that is that such Czech citizens simultaneously proudly espouse their Romani identities, their own Romani culture, and their own language, which is Romanes.

The fact that the benefit of Romani cultural heritage is appreciated by only a very few people, and that we are rather tending to divide ourselves into "us" and "them" in the Czech Republic, is not a consequence of the behavior of one or another group - rather, this lack of appreciation causes people here to act as they do. In addition to having an ethnicity, of course, we are also partners, spouses, parents, Christians, atheists, employees, athletes, musicians, etc.

Stoniš apparently considers himself just a Czech - and one who cannot also be referred to as "non-Romani". In his article he takes the ideas of "non-Czech" and "non-Roma" to absurd lengths that would be more appropriate for a conversation in the pub over a beer, and there is no point in commenting on them.

It is apparent that the editor has not actually come up with any actual proposal for how to refer to "those who have Czech citizenship and/but do not identify with Romani nationality" without insulting or offending somebody (and he most probably never will). He is not actually interested in this discussion, though.

In actuality, the editor is unable to accept the fact that anybody in the Czech Republic would dare base their identity on a connection with Romani people. What's even worse for him is that he now has to think about the identity of his own son as compared to the identity of a Romani child (although eventually he probably might like the idea of positing his son as the antithesis of his notion of "Romani").

Stoniš absolutely betrays his real intentions in his final two paragraphs. While he pretends to be a journalist correcting the record, and while you will not find the word "Rom" in that part of the text, it is clear to all who read it what he is actually talking about.

You can find there, for example, the absurd claim that today "Czech" people are being deprived of the opportunity to educate their children as they see fit if they have to send them to preschool with those with whom they would rather not associate. It is the lament of a poor Czech Daddy calling all "normal" parents to his side who have not yet figured out how to "address" this "problem".

We shouldn't much worry about this commentary, though. I find it a rather weak contribution to this discussion, made in the style of somebody posting to an online social network discussion - however well-aimed it may be from a marketing standpoint. After all, it is well-known that the word "Rom" and all its derivatives is part of the basic vocabulary deployed by Czech tabloids to increase their readership.

The reader of average intelligence probably won't fall for this clickbait. That, however, is apparently not who Reflex is looking to reel in.

Renata Berkyová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
Views: 796x

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