I took a huge step yesterday and went…grocery shopping. Momentarily daunted by the vast array of dairy products which lay before me, I made my move and triumphantly lifted off the shelf what I hoped was yoghurt. Victory celebrations were cut short (the imaginary Mexican wave had only rippled half way down the shopping aisle) by a tap on the shoulder. I turned to face an overly friendly member of staff frantically pointing to a low fat alternative. Trying hard not to be offended, I explained I spoke no Czech. Grinning, the shop assistant paused, nodded and then proudly announced: “cheap, take this…cheaper, good AND cheap”.
Having been in Prague for only a few days, it is too soon to make sweeping judgments about the city’s inhabitants. Yet the yoghurt incident reflects much of what I have witnessed so far; an eagerness to help and an admiration (or is it perhaps sympathy?) for anyone attempting to speak their language. It is hard to imagine that abhorrence as strong as that towards Roma can emanate from this same society….
I have refrained until now from delving into the world of “Antigypsyism” and the situation of Roma in Central and Eastern Europe in any great detail. As gingerly as I first entered the supermarket I will now – blog by blog – begin to navigate my way through the web of tradition, culture, language, migration, discrimination, social deprivation, violence (I could go on) and prejudice. I begin by reiterating the words of EU commissioner Vladimír Špidla who insists that neither romanticisation nor condemnation provide the answer to the Roma problematic. There is no black and white. Dialogue is required and uncomfortable truths regarding all parties involved need to be addressed.
The lyrics of the internationally successful Czech Romano hip-hop group Gypsy.cz is one example; an attempt at self-reflection of sorts. Band members Radoslav Banga and Vojta Lavicka maintain that whilst European society segregated the Roma people in the past, the real problem today is that Gypsies don’t want to integrate. By focusing on the role Roma themselves have in determining their own fate, Gypsy.cz may be in danger of neglecting the bigger picture. Nevertheless, their views do demonstrate the need for a multidimensional approach – one surpassing in scope even the supermarket’s impressive dairy selection.
I leave you for now with a little taste of what is possible:
Posted By Christina Hooson
Posted Jul 2nd, 2009