Man holds a Roma flag in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France. May 25, 2019. Photo: matteo fabbri / Shutterstock.com
For years, many of us have been trying to speak about this political violence, but we cannot wait any longer. While I completely encourage and support all the protests that have recently taken place, I am also calling on the people to finally start to not only question the system, but to go further and organize towards a political agenda based on the needs of our people. We need to propose an agenda for structural changes and not just cosmetic ones — an agenda that will not seek individual benefits but will actually put our collective needs first. A transformative agenda means applying measures that will finally bring structural changes to the established white order.
Of course, Roma in Europe are not alone in their fight against structural racism. We, the racialized people (Black, Muslim, migrants, refugees, etc.) share the same political enemy in the states and their institutions — and our political power lies in our alliances against them. We must come together and understand that only together we can destroy the figure of the White Man that was created as a symbol of humanity. Far from trying to continue in the role of white savior within such a struggle, white people should use their privileges and fight against whiteness — especially in those spaces that are not accessible to us. They should organize themselves around the issue of whiteness, as suggested already in 1966, by the leader of the Black Power movement, Stokely Carmichael, in his speech at University of California, Berkeley. There, he said: “And the question is, can we find white people who are gonna have the courage to go into white communities and start organizing them?”
As Kale Amenge, we urgently call for the establishment of a common unified political agenda against antigypsyism, an agenda that will truly represent and defend the political interests of our people, based on political honesty and unity, without getting caught up in the networks set up by the racist state itself. An agenda that will be based on political autonomy and coherency.
We have created an agenda that allows us to tackle the following issues produced by the supposedly-democratic system: the 12-Point Program of Kale Amenge for the political liberation of the Roma people.
End the ghettos, build up communities
The ghetto is a way to lock our people up and plunge them into violence, dispossession and poverty. In spite of this, our people survive with dignity alongside other sister communities on the periphery of modern cities. We denounce the racist engineering that leads to the ghetto as a device for confining racialized communities.
Stop police violence
We denounce the detention, surveillance and police aggression based on the so-called “ethnic” profiles that affect our people profoundly. The police detain, assault and humiliate our people on a daily basis, just as they do with our brothers and sisters in other communities. In this regard, we, the members of Kale Amenge, urge that every case of police brutality against our people is considered an act of racist ideology whose objective is none other than to discipline and control us within the existing racist order.
An end to school segregation
Throughout Europe, young Roma are confined to schools and other educational institutions in which they receive the message that they are inferior, that their “culture” is problematic. They receive a deficient education and are inoculated with the idea that they should be integrated, while at the same time they are denied this possibility, destroying their self-esteem and value. We urgently call for the creation and direction of our own spaces for community education, where our children can feel proud of who they are.
Against racism at work
Since the onset of capitalism, our families have been forced to abandon their traditional trades and to sell their labor force as wage-earners and docile instruments of industrial society. At the same time, governments are consciously hindering areas of work such as the flea market in order to favor big business by pushing hundreds of artisans and small entrepreneurs into poverty. If a Roma person wants to access the conventional labor market, he or she will be discriminated against on the basis of his or her surname, physical features and worldview.
End judicial harassment
European states do not have any significant studies on the reality of racism in the criminal justice system, but its existence is an open secret. For example, the over-representation of Roma people and other racialized communities in Spanish prisons suggests a proportionally stricter, harsher and unfair treatment based on race. Within prisons, Roma prisoners are treated in a denigrating way. Such is the case of our brother, Manuel Fernández Jiménez, who died in a Spanish prison under suspicious circumstances in 2017. We call for an urgent end to legal racism.
No to anti-Roma social policies
Through the industry of non-governmental organizations, social workers and assistants, Roma families are blackmailed, manipulated and forced to establish relations of dependence with the state that mistreats and depoliticizes them. We do not doubt that in this area there are honest people, but we refer to power structures that have to be dismantled and that go beyond the good will of respectful individuals. We define anti-Roma racism as a problem of the states and not as a problem of the Roma, therefore our fight must be political.
Anti-Roma racism destroys physical and psychological health
Medical studies confirm it: on average, Roma people die up to 15 years younger than white people. Racism affects not only the ethical fiber of a society, it affects the mental and physical health of racialized communities. Racism takes the lives of racialized people, subjecting them to high levels of anxiety, frustration, depression, despair and uncertainty.
Stop anti-Roma and racist media and gypsylorists
The Roma people do not need any more biased studies on their identity by academics to justify European programs or departments of ethnic studies. The Roma people do not need shows, morbid or exotic entertainment programs that profit from the public scorn and social humiliation of our people. The Roma people need to confront anti-Roma racism. Often, gypsylorism (a term used to define the academic knowledge production on the Roma developed from a white perspective) has become a tool of control and power.
The dominant conceptualization of anti-Roma racism as a cultural descriptor, rather than a set of political relations, has meant that the current image of Roma is the contemporary heir to the Roma identity that was historically manufactured by academics, “experts” and bureaucrats.
So, if you have an interest in our people, we urge you to focus your interest on analyzing the relation between our people and the state. We, the members of Kale Amenge, call on the importance of centering our own experiences with the gadjo world in our fight against anti-Roma racism.
Stop racist deportations
Anti-Roma racism is most violently expressed in the implementation of the anti-migration policies established by a large number of European governments, regardless of their political orientation. These policies destroyed our families, condemn us to poverty and make us vulnerable to attacks from the most reactionary elements of European society.
Remain vigilant against political instrumentalization
All political parties show a false interest in our people. Wherever the Roma population is seen as key to electoral outcomes, they all seek the Roma vote through dishonest, racist and patronizing campaigns. At the same time, all political parties are interested in instrumentalizing and using some members of our community as mascots. We do not settle for crumbs or carrots. We negotiate, but we do not give in. Kale Amenge denounces the “colorism” and political instrumentalization of our people and appeals to the need to build an autonomous political struggle.
Recognition, reparation and restoration
To recognize our history is not only to recognize Flamenco and the cultural contribution of the Roma people, but to make visible — at the institutional, educational and social levels — the attempts of extermination that have been carried out against Roma people over the past five centuries. Moreover, it is to recognize that these crimes are instrumental to the privilege that white people experience today and the situation of disadvantage and social exclusion that our people suffer. This necessarily implies initiating a policy of historical reparation and compensation that, beyond mere recognition, begins to generate the conditions that allow the structural difference that benefits the descendants of the executioners to be ended and that compensates the descendants of the victims of this history, which for us is still present.
Autonomy, community and political honesty — the path of Roma emancipation
We demand an end to the usurpation of the Roma political space, hijacked by integrationist organizations incapable of confronting state racism. We call for the collective construction of a Roma political subject that truly represents and defends the political interests of our people, based on political honesty and unity, without falling into the available narrow channels set up by the racist state itself.
These twelve points together aim to represent a turning point in the character of the political demands of the Roma people against a racist society. We do not perceive ourselves as the protagonists of something new, but as part of the collective rebirth of the Roma consciousness that clearly rediscovers its greatest and only enemy: anti-Roma racism. At the same time, we do not fight this battle alone, rather, alongside other racialized communities in the fight against racism, an institutional matter that involves collectively questioning specific power relations.
We are speaking of a nation that has more than 14 million people in Europe, so we have the numbers, but the question is how do we shift these numbers into political power? How do we create an autonomous international political agenda that will aim to unify the international struggle into one Roma struggle?
Can we, as an international Roma movement, finally come together and start to rethink concepts and strategies such as “integration” and shift our agenda onto the importance of self-representation, self-organization and, more importantly, to autonomy? It is more than clear that Europe is not experiencing a “Roma problem” but rather a problem of white supremacy and whiteness. In other words, the problem of Europe is its own obsession with white purity and dominance. Can we finally as an international movement change the terms of discussions and confront a political problem with a political agenda?