This week a teenage Romani boy was beaten almost to death in France on suspicion of stealing. We all acted shocked and thought to ourselves, “however can these people be so terribly racist?”
To me, a Romani woman, it’s no surprise. Not really. I see and hear it every day; politicians, news anchors and reporters, teachers, doctors, all of them perpetuating negative stereotypes about my people, even without proof (remember that story last year about little blonde Maria? Stolen by gypsies and forced into prostitution at age 4? Yeah. None of that was true, it was even proven so – she was Roma, living with Roma, and her biological mother was found. But, now Maria will be raised in foster care, ripped from her family and her culture because of more suspicions).
One place I don’t expect to confront it – Facebook. However, almost every day I see something that is incredibly racist and offensive. There are many pages supporting ultra right wing anti-Romani rhetoric, such as this one:
Titled “Zbavme Beztrestně ČR cikánů” (remove Czech Gypsies with impunity”) the tagline states, “Více informací o spolupráci na likvidaci černých sviní” (“more information on cooperation in the liquidation of black pigs”). The graffiti in the cover photo spits, “DEATH TO GYPSIES” … and in case you’re wondering, “černé svině” means “black pigs”.
As you can imagine, pages like these are deeply offensive (and honestly, quite terrifying) to Romani. To use the phrase “liquidation of black pigs” is a direct reference to days of the Porrajmos (Holocaust) and the “final solution” Hitler sought for the “Gypsy problem”. Other photographs on the page are equally as offensive.
Comments on the page include such gems as “Správně, čím víc zabitých cikánů, tím líp!” (That’s right, the more Gypsies killed, the better!)
I reported the page, as did other Roma and non-Romani friends. The response? The usual: “Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the Page you reported for harassment and found that it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.”
Yes. You read that right. According to Facebook, this page DOES NOT constitute hate speech. These so-called “Community Standards” of theirs proclaim that “Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition” …
So… overt racism, hate speech, and threats towards Romani are considered humorous? Not serious? Pages glorifying Hitler, who murdered hundreds of thousands of Romani, are not offensive?
Usually, it takes multiple people reporting a page multiple times and reporting every post on the page to get something like this removed. Even then, they often resurface only hours later looking exactly the same and we are forced to go through the whole rigmarole again. Sometimes, the pages NEVER get removed. I personally reported the page mentioned in this post over 20 times, along with each of the posts in the page. I know I am not the only one to do so.
It is still there.
I have started a Change.org petition calling for Facebook to step it up and take such threats and hate speech seriously. Please sign: