Over the past couple of days I wrote a letter, protesting the inclusion of a clearly defamatory and racist statement in a required reading textbook in Hungary. Initially the letter was only supposed to be on behalf of myself, but news that I was composing it quickly spread and now it is an official document. Although I am part of several groups (World Artists Initiative “Khetanes” and O Porrajmos Education Society to name two), I have never written a letter on behalf of a whole group of people like this.
Not in regards to my own cultural heritage.
Since I’ve been running my own blogs and being more outspoken, people have told me repeatedly that I am not welcome to speak out on behalf of anyone. That I may be Romani, but my light skin and light eyes mean I am not adequately representative; that my college education marks me simply as a privileged gadže.
When I started all of this, it was more about getting in touch with myself. It was more about writing out my own history so that I could piece together all the things that didn’t make sense. The small words passed between families that should never have made sense. It… it wasn’t meant to lead to this. I am proud to be Romani, whether or not I fit your stereotype, but I don’t mean to speak on behalf of anyone. I don’t mean to take anyone’s words.
I know that many Romani are afraid to speak out – my own mother and her family were terrified of claiming what they were. They wanted to leave it behind. My father’s family wanted to let everyone know we were proud of who we were. I was caught between two sides of the same coin. I was never sure what I wanted to do. I spent years hiding behind my passing privilege, denying that I was anything at all. When people recognized my surname or my location and asked if I was “Gypsy” I’d always shake my head silently; when they said I looked “something” and ask where I came from, I’d laugh and say I didn’t understand and change the topic.
Yet, now here I am.
Still with a foot in both worlds. Considered an unfortunate disaster because I am here without family; considered a traitor for staying in education and learning academic talk. I don’t know if I’m the right woman for the job. What use are my words if they are not desired? If they only do more harm? I don’t want to hurt anyone.
Na džanav so majinav te kerel. Ko bi džanelas te budinel kher a na kampelas bi leske karfa? Me avava zoralji?