Saturday, August 11, 2012


To: National Geographic

By Ian Hancock
For more years that I can remember, I and others like me have been fighting for proper recognition of who and what Gypsies are, to destroy or explain stereotypes, to help have our rightful place in history understood. National Geographic has destroyed that effort. National Geographic has set us back decades.

I am ashamed, deeply ashamed to see Roma portrayed on national television as ignorant, uncultured figures of fun; I now steel myself when I anticipate, from the looks on people's faces, what unthinking and hurtful questions they are about to ask me, based on having watched "American Gypsies."

The subtitled snippets of "explanation" of Romani culture added to the show only after the production was completed, in response to the protests that were beginning to come in, do nothing to elevate the shameful exploitation of a largely uneducated and disenfranchised ethnic minority.

National Geographic, you have hurt me personally, and the Romani people collectively, by using your name, once respected, to provide a deceptive mask of credibility. To establish our very identity, in the minds of Middle America. "American Gypsies"?

I see one unruly Kalderash family. I don't see a panorama that includes Romani Americans who aren't fortune tellers or who don't start fights or cause damage.

You used my name as an academic "source", although when I refused to sign a contract with you I specifically asked you not to use my name; but in using it anyway, you omit to mention that I am a "Gypsy" too; would revealing the fact that there are educated Romanies besides the kind you prefer, interfere with the stereotypes you are bent on profiting from?

Furthermore, your website's effort to provide more scholarly information is weak and insulting. The history of Roma is ancient and fascinating.

The history of Roma in America equally so. You missed a marvelous opportunity, you have demeaned your own name as well as ours, and you have already initiated a rise in anti-Roma racial discrimination. Stories of such encounters now reach us daily.

You have hurt the Romani population in the United States more than you will ever realize.
Ian Hancock

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