The other day as I was going down the steps of the metro here at Felix Faure, I noticed a woman putting up a poster. Curious, as I am, I went to see what it was. A lost cat, perhaps? Nope...she had been attacked in front of the cash dispenser, robbed of 300 euros and was looking for witnesses. I was very sorry to hear such a thing (told her so), not only for her but for our area which has always been a safe one. I continued to read. 'J'ai été dérobée de 300 euros par un jeune homme, de type roumain'. By brain stopped working. I read the last three words again. DE TYPE ROUMAIN. The words screamed in my head. No longer did I care whether or not she had been attacked and robbed (how stupid to take such a huge amount of money out of a cash dispenser anyway - has she never heard of the inside of a bank, which is for such transactions). I cared far more about those three words. De type roumain. What did she mean exactly, I asked, through gritted teeth. She explained. 'Dark skin, dirty, smelly, bare-footed'...ah. I said. You mean tzigane? Perhaps, she said. But de type roumain. Did she speak Roumanian? No. Did she know any Roumanians? No. Had she ever been to the country? No. I took out my phone and showed her a photo of Oana - blonde haired, pale skinned, very pretty Oana. Like this? I asked. No, no. Okay, like this? I showed her pictures of Aura, Mandita, Lucia and Flori. No, not at all. Another picture of Milla and then my Nicole. Then Serge. Then George. One of them must be similar to her idea of 'de type roumain' surely...no, they don't resemble his type at all. Funny, I seethe, because these people are all beloved friends and guess what?
'They are all Roumanian. Bizarre, non? So, next time you want to write something on a poster stuck in a public place, Madame, maybe you should get your racial facts right, and write something like 'Hier à 10h50, une femme 'de type francais' a été attaquée et dérobée de 300 euros par un jeune homme de type tzigane...' She blinked at me like a mole and clearly had absolutely no idea what on earth I was so irate about.
I tried to explain: 'Madame, Roumanians, on the whole, are educated and cultured people and I shall defend them to the ends of the earth. If you do not know the difference between a Roumanian of Roumanian origin and a Rrom of Indian origin, ie. living on Roumanian territory and given nationality but not of its origin, then I strongly suggest you hit google or go to the library and do a little research before you start writing posters with sweeping statements of racial supposition...get my point?' She didn't.
'But everyone knows what a 'type roumain' is...'
And you know what? Very unfortunately, she is right. Everyone knows exactly what 'de type roumain' is, because we live in a society of ignorance, lack of education, absence of curiosity, and even worse a complete absence of caring less about such detail. Who could give a damn, unless of course you ARE a Roumanian living in the west, looking for work and as soon as you say you're Roumanian doors slam in your face because automatically you become labelled as a chicken thief. OR if you're a blonde and fair skinned Roumanian, educated, cultured, beautifully spoken and polyglot (as most friends of mine are), people gulp and say 'ah bon? Vous etes Roumaine? Mince, alors!' with such disbelief it makes you squirm...
When is this confusion between Rrom and Roumanian ever going to end? When can I stop writing these kind of posts (see http://sarahinromania.canalblog.com for more), stop having to explain the differences, stop having to defend the people of tara de inima mea, trying to convince people that the Roumanian people are just like the French - except they are more open, more giving, more generous, more scarred and a lot less spoilt...?
My blood continues to boil and I wonder what to do. Once back at the Bourse I can give my conferences again. Maybe write to newspapers? Go to the radio? I don't know. There must be something, some line of media where one can get involved to educate the general public and end this absurd, blind racism. Of course there are some very hard working honest gypsies and I feel terribly sorry for them for they are the minority. Show me one, introduce me to one, and I'll do all I can to help make their lives less tainted by public opinion and slurs. Until that day, lets beginning here on this blog as I don't know where else to begin. If you read this, talk to friends and family and begin the process yourselves. Hell's bells (as Eve would say), this is 2009. This has to stop.
Here endeth the diatribe...for the moment.