Antiromaism. Racism, exoticism and German history in the present day

Since a few days there is a debate on the Berlin reflect mailing list about anti-Romaism and racism in general. A person negatively affected by antiromaism had criticized the mail of a white person whose user name included “gypsy” and which was about wanting to settle in Berlin “after all the rumzigeunern”. When asked, she wrote that she had the right to use it to positively describe her attitude to life. The person who problematized this as racist was met with massive attacks (in the sense of “relax,” “white people are also discriminated against,” “scientifically speaking, it’s a completely different story,” “if you react like that, you can’t be taken seriously,” etc., i.e., classic defensive reactions that can be found in almost every book on racism). We cannot recount the exchange in the form of more than 100 emails here, but we are blogging here in a slightly modified form the email of a member of glokal, which refers to some mails. With this, we hope, you can do something even without exact knowledge of the previous mails.


I don’t know if it is clear to people here that Roma and Sinti are still persecuted and murdered today; that the systematic extermination in concentration camps under National Socialism is swept under the carpet and that no responsibility is taken in Germany – instead, all countries where Roma and Sinti are persecuted and discriminated against are turned into “safe countries of origin” and people are deported en masse. And this racist denial and suppression is not only to be found singularly at the level of government policy, but is also expressed in the discourses of the social mainstream. And accordingly also on the Reflect list.

Being persecuted, deported, marginalized and murdered has absolutely nothing to do with the here so, mildly formulated, transfigured descriptions of driving through the world, being international or even dancing through the world! On the contrary! While some are thinking about how their look or their party area could be “gypsified” a bit more, or dancing to their supposed identification figure (an identity based on racialized attributions that also existed under National Socialism, among other things), the objects of their fantasy are deported, humiliated, or simply turned into objects that are full of life.

I can’t just say I’m Jewish because that fits so well with my attitude to life today and I’m so XYZ on it. I can’t just say today I’m “Indian” because I feel so insanely close to nature and brave and especially because this feather thing I ordered from the online catalog goes so well with my festival outfit. Or rather, I can say, if I am the ones who were and are not genocidally persecuted because they were made into a race whose characteristics include supposedly positive things (e.g. they are so cunning and know how to make money and pride and can read tracks). >> And what is not “foreign condemnation” and “prejudices”?!) and also negative heard. Also these supposedly positive attributions (which group people together, give them characteristics which they have quasi qua birth; attributions which are quasi fixed on the clothes, on the appearance, on the language or origin or even origin of the grandparents) are part of the reason why people were destroyed. Other people can’t say they’re White today times because they don’t feel like being an object: Today I’m just a white guy because I’m up for it and it somehow fits more with my life goals, and because I don’t feel like worrying about racism and deportation. Oh, today I don’t want to be the one who supposedly steals or moves around with the car and is a wild (revolutionary) fantasy for the others.

People are just not a costume! I should stop consuming people, eating them in morsels. There is nothing empowering or resistant about it. Furthermore, how can I tell a person who is being discriminated against in an anti-Roma way that she just hasn’t figured it out yet, that if I pretend to be her and make up bracelets like that (which of course she would be into) and pretend to drive around, it’s all for her own good; because after all, it makes her something positive, mine! heroine, the kind of heroine I make for myself. And she is this heroine only as long as she doesn’t rebel, only as long as she doesn’t tell me not to objectify her, that it violates her dignity. I can’t put on the pirate costume today and be “Gypsy” tomorrow and determine that these people have the following positive qualities that I think are great. Where do these fantasies about ‘the others’ come from? In what waters am I swimming if I declare all that has been attributed to Roma and Sinti on this list as my right to express my opinion? And who is allowed to decide in the end about these coercively collectivizing characteristics (‘the others’ being the way they are) although the people who are objectified with them problematize them?

Some are told that what they are doing is discriminatory, hurtful, and racist: what negative (materializing) consequences follow for the person who has been told that this is hurtful and problematic? None! For those who have to experience racism negatively – and also by putting them in their place and explaining to them who they are and where they come from and that they should please not overreact like that, because the others are allowed to determine what is appropriate and what is not and that if they had only written it in fine print, other people could possibly also agree to no longer be racist, … but now: blame yourself! for your discrimination – for them it has consequences, because racism always has negative, material, social and identitary consequences for those negatively affected by it. Last but not least, the consequence on this list is also that people are finished off and even denied rights.

The demand for “scientificity” is also a farce and reproduction of anti-Roma exclusion, and not only in this context. On the one hand, Roma and Sinti families are deprived of their children because they do not comply with compulsory education and are therefore considered bad parents. This can be, as the activist Melanie Spitta has also described in her films, a moment of resistance against this way of repressive shaping of the human being into an authoritarian subordinate subject. On the other hand, it means that when declassed people speak, their realities and analyses have no value. Last but not least, it presents a certain amusing paradox when those who speak of anti-bourgeois ways of life simultaneously celebrate the fulfilled (truth) claim of scientificity: an instrument of domination of (Eurocentric) bourgeoisity. Science has brought along that ‘knowledge’ and thus the legitimation about the division of people into superior and inferior races and has provided the ‘evidence’. Ethnologists, physicians, biologists, geographers, etc., all of them were involved in providing the knowledge for the extermination of Roma and Sinti, Jews, so-called A-socials, homosexuals and other people – purely scientifically and quite objectively, of course. And this knowledge has become the consensus of the (German) majority society. So a un-learning of this dominance knowledge would be appropriate and includes not to make ‘the others’ an object.

To finally conclude, here is an abbreviation: this sentence “I am, for example, ‘unfortunately’ not blond and blue-eyed, I have problems integrating myself into bourgeois working life, and frankly also have no desire to do so, … As a result, I have been directly affected by ‘anti-Gypsy’ discrimination a few times, even though I have a ‘white skin color’ and no ‘ethnic connection’ to Roma or Sinti.” Is, among so much that is written here, simply an impertinence.