Much of this blog has been about inappropriate use of the word ‘gypsy/gipsy’ in popular culture. Two examples of this would be Kerstin Martin
and Alessandra Cave
. In personal communication with each of these women, they have shown no compassion, no respect and no ability to understand why what they’re doing might be offensive. They both seem to feel that they have every right to use that term, in any way they please. I’d ask again if either of them would feel the same if it was the word ‘nigger’, ‘spic’ or ‘kike’, but neither of them seem to get that reference, or the fact that they’re blogging under a racial slur.
Take Kerstin Martin of gipsylife.com
, for example. Although several months ago (after much discussion) she admitted it was offensive and took the site down, she has now began using it again, and claims she has every right to use the word ‘gypsy/gipsy’ any way she sees fit.
In an email response to me, Kerstin states that “unlike other slurs - the word gypsy has evolved” and that “it is an undisputable fact that as a Romani who associates a racial slur with the word [I am] outnumbered by many others who have more positive and light-hearted associations. This is just the way it is.” She further goes on to state that “harassing and threatening people like [her] is definitely not the way to go about changing this”.
Well, Kerstin, here’s what you don’t understand… “changing this”, as you put it, is really in the hands of people like you… until outsiders to our culture can understand why these things are offensive (and stop using them!) it won’t ever change. It is because of that fact that I continue to use my voice in opposition to such practices, and I will continue to protest your blog, gipsylife.com
as long as it remains.
In reality, there are at least 1 million Romani Americans, (and many, many millions not officially accounted for on census records and the like) so I am not as alone as she seems to believe. That is her ignorance talking, trying to justify her actions. The fact that people like Kerstin have taken (what she herself has admitted to knowing is) a racial slur and turned it into some fantasy for her to hide behind does not make it right. In fact, Kerstin, of all people, should be especially ashamed because she DOES know Romani history, from a European perspective. She should know better.
Kerstin thinks I am “bullying” her, and says that she acknowledges that the word “gypsy/gipsy” is a slur in my culture, but in her culture it isn’t. That’s an outright lie, as Kerstin has personally told me that she is of German descent, and was born and raised in Germany, the same place where the Holocaust originated, where Gypsies (along side the Jews) were rounded up and systematically exterminated because of their race. Maybe the word isn’t the same (‘zigeuner
’ is the German word for ‘gypsy/gipsy’, not near as fantastical and pretty, but neither is the reality for Gypsies in Germany at that time) but she is well aware of the racial connotations of the word.
She claims that I need to understand “her side”. The problem is, she doesn’t seem to understand that she doesn’t have a ‘side’. In all honesty, if I were Kerstin, I would be questioning why she needs the word ‘gipsy’ at all. What is it about herself that is not enough that she has to take from another culture? She has said herself that she has been called a ‘gypsy’ (again, erroneously) because she move around a lot… this is a stereotype in and of itself about my people, a stereotype which only serves to hide the truth which is that Gypsies didn’t move out of choice, as she has done… they moved because they were forced to. The very fact that she has assumed this word or this identity under false pretenses is an insult to every Romani person. The fact that she is (and has always been) able to move about as she chooses, from country to country, is such a contradiction to the truth that it’s an insult. People who need to take from other people’s cultures (and especially one so downtrodden and persecuted) are missing something within themselves. I hope she finds it, so she can stop stealing from mine.
I previously had the impression that she was an intelligent, compassionate person. I deeply question that now as she is putting her own selfish desires to hang on to the ‘magical’, erroneous connotation to this word over taking the high road and acknowledging that what she is doing is insensitive and wrong, to understand that as an outsider to our culture she has no right to tell me what is and is not offensive. Saying that, essentially, “everybody else does it” is a terrible justification for insulting an entire culture.
The fact that she believes I am ‘bullying’ her by posting the truth in my blog proves that she isn’t getting what I am saying or where I am coming from at all. I have no desire to ‘fight’ anyone. If I fight, it is a fight to be heard, a fight to be recognized, as a group and as a people, not as an individual. There is no personal gain here. I get no enjoyment out of this, but I feel it is necessary and I feel I owe a debt to my ancestors who suffered, to speak out. I could easily sit back on my couch and not pay it any mind, but the very fact that I *CAN* do those things, that I even have that choice at all, is why I cannot turn my back.
So, in closing I say to Kerstin Martin
, to Alessandra Cave
, to all the hippies and teeny boppers that dress up like us for Halloween, you may never understand what it is like to see things like ‘Gypsy Machine’ in the craft store, or blogs and sites like yours, or a million other little things on a daily basis that reference your culture. You may never see why this new ‘use’ of the word doesn’t erase the past. You may never comprehend what it is like to HAVE to speak out, simply because you CAN, and you know that others of your race do not have that privilege. I can’t make you understand these things. I can only hope that you can put your own nonsensical attachment to what is still today a very loaded, racial term outside of this country aside and try to be compassionate. What’s at stake for my people is much more than what is at stake for you.