"We the youth must never give up the fight for Roma equality"
7 February 2018
Young Romany campaigner Scarlett Smith talks to TT about the casual racism she experiences in school and the continued failure of the British government to pay homage to the Roma victims, heroes, and survivors on August 2nd.
Last year on the 2nd August I took part in the Roma genocide memorial and visited Auschwitz for the second time as part of the “Dikh he na bister” (Look Back and Don’t Forget) project.I was the youngest participant both times. The reason Dikh he na bister exists is to raise awareness about the Roma that died in Auschwitz to the young people so they can go back and deliver training to people in their country. Every year hundreds of Roma youth from all over Europe come to this event in Poland. It’s incredible to be there with people just like you, they suffer the very same racism like us and share our history.
It’s incredible to be there with people just like you
We stay in Krakow in a university all together. We spend six days learning about Roma Holocaust, meeting actual survivors, and visiting Auschwitz. Every year there is a commemoration for the people that died, where survivors, politicians and activists give speeches . At the end there are flowers laid from countries all over the world, but for some reason there are no flowers laid from the UK and it's truly shameful to be there as UK representative and have no flowers because the government refuse to do this ( I probably notice this more as my mums a florist!).
there are no flowers laid from the UK government
We also hold a big youth commemoration at Berkenhau and I spend the week with people just like us who suffer racism and prejudice daily. I am very interested in World War 2 and I have done a lot of research and work around it. It amazes and upsets me that, for Gypsies, not much has changed. There is wide public hate and intolerance still and, just like the propaganda of the 1930s in Nazi Germany, the media paints a bad picture of us.
there is wide public hate and intolerance still, just like the propaganda of the 1930s the media paints a bad picture of us
In Krakow I met a 92 year old man called Raymond Gureme (pictured). a Roma Holocaust survivor who is a true inspiration and goes to Poland every year for memorial. During the war he was only a teenager but he was put in the death camps regardless. He escaped 11 times using his acrobatic skills, because before the war he was in the circus as an acrobat. It's worth going to Poland just to meet Raymond, he is such a kind and powerful speaker. He is passionate that the old ones have lit the flame and we, the youth, must never give up the fight for Roma equality. I strongly believe that it has changed me in many ways seeing the pain and suffering other Roma suffered less than 75 years ago just for being Roma. I really want to help bring change, for all of us.
we the youth must never give up the fight for Roma equality
But even today people aren't being educated. Why is this? It is because people are allowing it to happen; because it's acceptable to be racist and hate Gypsies and Travellers. At school I have visited synagogues, and mosques and enjoyed learning about other cultures and religions. We learn about slavery, we learn about the Jews in the Holocaust, but we don't learn about Gypsies. Why is this? By not learning about it other people only know what they have heard and usually what they have heard is that we steal or we are 'dirty p*keys' and that is when they become prejudiced. They also see and hear others being prejudiced and there is no one or nothing to stop and educate them.
we learn about slaves, we learn about the Jews in the holocaust but we don't learn about Gypsies why is this?
I find I get called the word 'p*key' quite a lot and when I do tell the teachers, all they say is that 'it's stupid, ignore them'. Yeah - we all know it's stupid. But why are they getting away with it; t is racism. I am part of an ethnic minority so why aren't they getting the same detentions. or more teachers giving isolations, in the same as if a black child was called the racially offensive 'N' word.
but why are they getting away with it ?
At school I often get in to rows and arguments - which sometimes even get physical - because of people calling me names. I really work hard and I do not get in trouble generally, but last year I was in isolation for swearing and hitting back at racists and standing up for myself. I don’t completely blame the teachers, I also blame the parents. Most people would not dream of being racist about someone’s colour or where they came from, but it seems to be OK to do it to us.