Tuesday, August 14, 2012



the lowest form of television” (LA Times, July 16)
it is doing Gypsies no favors” (NY Times, July 16)
without wit, insight, or anything else” (The Detroit Free Press, July 17)
likely to turn ignorance about Roma people into all-out prejudice”(The Guardian, July 28)
Jersey Shore meets the Sopranos” (The Examiner, July 27)

 Leaders of North America’s “Gypsy” community are making plans to take the National Geographic Society to court for the “slanderous and racist” TV series “American Gypsies” unless John Fahey, the Society’s Chairman and CEO, cancels the show immediately and issues a formal and public apology.

National Geographic’s cable TV channel is currently broadcasting a nine-part “reality” series entitled “American Gypsies,” which focuses on one family in New York City. But the series title and tagline suggest to viewers this dysfunctional family is representative of all “gypsy” Americans. The series tagline — “You don’t know Gypsy” — not only indicates this show is meant to be a broad ethnic portrait, but it’s deeply offensive too: “Roma” is what community members prefer to be called because “gypsy” is considered an serious insult. (Just imagine the public outrage if National Geographic ever produced a TV series called American Niggers, or American Kikes, or American Wops. Now reflect on the media’s silence about American Gypsies.)

Compounding the injury, Ralph “Karate Kid” Macchio, the series’ executive producer, has repeatedly compared the show’s “gypsy” family to the Mafia — one odious part of a repugnant marketing campaign to persuade people to watch this malicious show.

TV critics advise against it. The series is “deplorable,” says The New York Times. “The lowest form of television,” says The Los Angeles Times.

It's an abomination,” says Dr. Ian Hancock, Director of The Romani Archives and Documentation Center in Austin, Texas: “Our people have a long and fascinating history, but National Geographic slanders us with old and very dangerous stereotypes: the mysterious rogue; the dark, treacherous gypsy; the genetic criminal.” National Geographic’s TV series, says Hancock, “has set the cause of Romanies back decades.”

Hancock and a new organization called Rromani Zor, Inc., are organizing a class action suit to hold National Geographic responsible for all damages which their show has or will cause with its racist, slanderous content. “Hitler used the same type of propaganda to poison people’s minds against the European Roma, who were slaughtered by the Nazis,” Hancock says. “Our history teaches us that silence in the face of such hatred is a death sentence.”

Today, Hancock and members of Rromani Zor are calling upon National Geographic to (a) cease broadcasting “American Gypsies” immediately, (b) never again distribute the program, and (c) issue a public apology to the Romani people.
Vlax Roma, from whom National Geographic’s representative family directly descends, were held in slavery for five and a half centuries until its abolition in 1864. Nothing was done to integrate the freed slaves into society. They were abandoned. Many managed to come to America, many others were sent back.

Hitler’s Final Solution of the Gypsy Question initiated the genocide of an estimated one and a half million Roma in the Holocaust. Following the Second World War no Roma were called to testify at the Nuremberg war crimes trials and no reparations were paid to the survivors. Again they were abandoned.

Roma remain to date the most persecuted people of Europe. Almost everywhere, their fundamental human rights are threatened. Racist violence targeting Roma is widespread in the last years. Discrimination against Roma in employment, education, health care, administrative and other services is observed in most societies, and hate speech deepens the anti-Romani stereotypes typical of European public opinion. (European Roma Rights Centre, 2001: 5).

Romanies in Europe were ‘at the bottom of every socio-economic indicator: the poorest, the most unemployed, the least educated, the shortest-lived, the most welfare dependent, the most imprisoned and the most segregated. (The Economist, 2005).

Roma are the most prominent poverty risk group in many of the countries of central and Eastern Europe. They are poorer than other groups, more likely to fall into poverty, and more likely to remain poor. In some cases poverty rates for Roma are more than ten times that of non-Roma. A recent survey found that nearly 80 per cent of Roma in Romania and Bulgaria were living on less than $4.30 per day … even in Hungary, one of the most prosperous accession countries, 40 per cent of Roma live below the poverty line. (World Bank Report, 2006).

In September 2001, the council of Europe ‘issued a blistering condemnation of Europe’s treatment of the Roma Gypsy community, saying they are subject to racism, discrimination and violence … the United Nations says they pose Europe’s most serious human rights problem. (BBC, 2001)

On 1 February 2008, the Associated Press issued a statement released by the European Union beginning, ‘the Roma, also known as Gypsies, remain frequent targets of racist attacks, abuse and police harassment.’

On 3 February 2008, ERIO, the European Roma Information office, posted the following: ‘During 2007, several events reflected the continued fragility of the fundamental rights of citizens of Roma origin: racist riots against Roma in Bulgaria, the collective expulsion of Romanian citizens in Italy, and the extreme patterns of social exclusion faced by the large numbers of Roma throughout Europe indicate the urgent need for fundamental changes in EU and national policies.’

A Czech fascist party which plans to be vying for power in future elections is releasing a ‘Final Solution’ for the Roma. The Czech National party wants to succeed in the general elections in 2010 with radical anti-Romani rhetoric formulated in a 150-page study called ‘the Final Solution to the Gypsy Issue in the Czech Lands’ that it will present this month (August 2008). The nationalists claim they do not want to kill the Romanies, but that they want to buy land in India and to relocate Romanies there. [Himmler addressed the Endlösung der Zigeunerfrage in document S-Kr. Nr. 557/38 dated March 24th 1938, which was announced publicly in the NS-Rechtspiegel on February 21st 1939].

Only in Europe? In colonial times, Gypsies were sent as slaves to the American colonies from England, Scotland, France and Spain. In 1885 U.S. Immigration policy forbade Roma, along with the ‘criminally insane,’ from entering our country. In 1992, The New York Times published the findings of a 25-year-long ongoing public opinion poll that ranked the degree of prejudice directed at 58 different American racial, religious and ethnic groups. “Gypsies” consistently ranked last. State and county laws against Gypsies existed in the United States until 1989. They prevented them from settling or establishing businesses.

National Geographic has only contributed to this history of powerlessness and persecution. Those of us who fight to improve our lot are excluded from your control of our identity.

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