Mudcat Café message #280889 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #24468   Message #280889
Posted By: Áine
19-Aug-00 - 06:20 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Req: Mrs Stein Don't Rent to Gypsies Any More
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: dosn't rent to gypsys
Dear Branwen,

I can only pray that your appraisal of this song arises out of ignorance of the way things are out in the real world. Below is an excerpt of an article from CSERVNews and Views, Copyright © 1996, that I found on the Patrin Web Journal, a website dedicated to Romani (Gypsy) culture and history and to extending awareness of the continuous Roma struggle to achieve and maintain dignity and freedom. Please read it, and then, read your last post again. Perhaps then you'll be able to understand why this song is indeed full of ethnic prejudice and racial slurs.

-- Áine

10 February 1997
The news media and law enforcement agencies have caused untold hurt, frustration, and fear among many law abiding Travellers and Gypsies throughout the United States. In a Dateline [NBC television news] program, a child about nine years of age was shown in her white confirmation dress in church. The narrator described her incorrectly as a child bride. A report from Kansas City tells how police entered a Traveller-owned trailer park and threatened the occupant of one trailer with the Rico Act in what appeared to be for no other reason than to intimidate.

In South Carolina law abiding Travellers had their names and driver's license numbers placed on a list of potential criminals, and it was distributed to various law enforcement agencies. In that same state, a town ordinance declares: "Gypsies: Prohibited in County" (License Ordinance 1994 Town of Batesburg Leesville, S.C., p. 18). In Missouri and elsewhere Travellers have reported being off the road and into ditches by police and warned to get out of the area.

While there are Travellers and Gypsies who do commit illegal acts, it is a gross over generalization to include all members of these groups, including the law abiding, as criminal. In their book, License to Steal: Traveling Con Artist: Their Games, Their Rules -- Your Money, Dennis Marlock and John Dowling readily admit that

"Most Gypsies ... have indeed assimilated but without giving up their ethnic identity, their language, or their heritage. They have joined the labor force, own homes, send their sons and daughters to college, vote, pay taxes, and serve in the armed forces."

The authors then proceed to complete their book about Gypsy crimes. The fact is that every ethnic group has its shady personalities, but that does not result in the listing of any and all members of a group as having criminal intent. A Major Rowland who is cited as an "expert" on Traveller criminal activity estimated that less than 10% of the Travellers in his area are engaged in criminal activity.

The lumping of all Travellers and Gypsies into the category of those having criminal intent is understandably a concern for the majority of Travellers and Gypsies throughout the United States. The N.A.A.C.P. would be outraged if all African Americans in a community were classified and listed as potential criminals. The A.D.L. would be screaming our ears off if a local community or state were to warn its citizenry and law enforcement officers to be on the look out for criminal Jews. La Raza would be appalled if a crime alert to citizens stated "Alert: Mexican Thieves on the Prowl." But when it comes to Travellers and Gypsies, even the A.C.L.U. seems to look the other way.

It is obvious that if you are a Traveller or "Gypsy," the media and some law enforcement agencies are doing whatever is necessary to scuttle the American dream for select groups on the flimsy and bigoted notion that all members of the group represent a criminal element in society.

Some law enforcement officials may argue that the term Gypsy refers to a wanderer and does not indicate any particular ethnic group. However, Gypsy does indeed denote an ethnic group in common parlance. Yet another definition of Gypsy as used by some is that of dishonest Romani. Here there is admission that the term relates to an ethnic group, but it is argued that Gypsy only defines those individual members who are engaged in criminal activity. According to Marlock and Dowling Gypsy refers to criminal Romani as Mafia refers to criminal Sicilians. However, the application of this comparison does not hold since Mafia has never been a synonym for Sicilian.

In a police flyer issued in Winter Park, Florida, citizens were warned "CRIME ALERT, GYPSIES HAVE RETURNED." It could just as easily have stated: "CRIME ALERT, SCAM ARTISTS AND THIEVES REPORTED IN AREA." Still another option might be to merely state: "CRIME ALERT" and then explain that there have been incidents that should serve as a warning about whatever illegal activities seem to be on the increase. There would be no need for the use of such terms as Travellers or "Gypsies." Not only would this remove that stigma that all Travellers and Gypsies are criminally intent, it would be generic enough to include people who carry out such activities but who are not associated with or members of any particular ethnic group.

There are a number of people engage in scams, thefts, and burglaries often described as "Gypsy crimes," yet these people are in no way associated with these groups. For example, not all palmists, astrologers, or fortune tellers are "Gypsies." In fact, most are not "Gypsies."

Other scams attributed to Gypsies include insurance fraud, credit card fraud, and illegal exploitation of the welfare system. By any measure, these are committed more often by non-"Gypsies." Nor are most people who use aliases to thwart the law fall into this ethnic group.

Once a mind set is developed that all members of a particular group are prone toward being criminals, all sorts of misunderstandings can result. For example, it has also been suggested that Gypsies and Travellers have the same name so as to confuse law enforcement and other social service agencies. In many ethnic groups, it is not uncommon to name a child after a parent, grandparent or some other distinguished person. To suggest that a particular group gives the same name to a number of children in order to deceive is a bit much.

The time is long overdue for setting for eliminating overgeneralizations, and for the cessation of needless harassment. There is simply no need for stigmatizing an entire group because some of its members are crooks. It is time for the media to act responsibly. It is time for law enforcement to remove law abiding people from their list of potential criminals. It is time for state and local governments to clean up their act by eliminating bigoted laws and ordinances.