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NYCFoodSnob Nov 30th, 2004 09:44 AM

A famous Gypsy...or, should I say Romany?
Awhile back, a certain supercilious, semantic-loving poster tried to paint me as less-than-politically-correct (or worse) for using the term "Gypsy." I couldn't help but think of her and smile as I read in this month's issue of The New Yorker, writer Adam Gopnik's observations as he contemplates “Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend.”

SeaUrchin Nov 30th, 2004 10:23 AM

Thanks for posting the article, it was fascinating.

Personally, I know people with Gypsy backgrounds who call themselves Romani or Gypsy. They know that non-Gypsies have no idea about their subculture and pay no attention to what "we" call them.

LoveItaly Nov 30th, 2004 10:42 AM

I do not understand this "do not call them Gypsy" thing.

In 1995 we had a dear friend in the ICU wing of a hospital in Vallejo, CA.

The King of the Gypsies was there also and died there. There were many Gypsies there holding their vigil. The hospital really had a time of it trying to accomodate all the them.

The point is that they called themselves Gypsies and called the patient The King of the Gypsies.

If that is good enough for them I should think it would be for the non Gypsies. Take care.

Marilyn Nov 30th, 2004 11:14 AM

I'm several issues behind! But I'll definitely get to that article. Have any of you read Robertson Davies? I believe there's quite a bit about Gypsies in The Rebel Angels -- one of the characters is of Rom descent if I remember correctly.

Patrick Nov 30th, 2004 11:39 AM

I'm not so sure the problem is simply using the term Gypsy. I think the controversy usually comes up when someone mentions "beware of the Gypsy pickpockets" or something like that which "seems" to indicate to some who can't tell the difference that all Gypsies are thieves.

ncgrrl Nov 30th, 2004 11:40 AM

Thanks for the link. My Dad had several Django Reinhardt albums he would play on the hi-fi (well, that's what is noted on the player). Looks like it might make a good Christmas gift.

SuzieC Nov 30th, 2004 01:02 PM

Its that pathetic and sad mind set... that people are soooo sure of generalizations.

All blondes are nitwits...
All French are rude...
All native Americans drink too much...
All Gypsies are thieves...
All fat people are gluttons...
etcetera, etcetera, etcetera

(Me - curmudgeon in waiting...)

LoveItaly Nov 30th, 2004 01:07 PM

Well for sure not all pickpockets and thieves in Italy are Gypsies!

NYCFoodSnob Nov 30th, 2004 01:07 PM

<i>I think the controversy usually comes up when someone mentions &quot;beware of the Gypsy pickpockets&quot; or something like that which &quot;seems&quot; to indicate to some who can't tell the difference that all Gypsies are thieves.</i>

Yes, ignorance is bliss for some. There was a time not long ago in Rome when a specific style (ie: children with cardboard signs) of Romany thievery was not only a way-of-life for many but quite a prevalent threat to unsuspecting tourists. I wish someone would have warned me (pre-internet) of the Gypsy thieves in Rome prior to my first encounter with them. No kind soul likes to think or believe that children can be encouraged by adults to steal from strangers even as a means of survival. Had they asked me for money I would have gladly given them some.

Of course, pickpockets of all kinds work the crowded streets of Rome and New York but none of these crime professionals seem to be children.

Nikki Nov 30th, 2004 02:04 PM

Thanks for the article. It is very timely, as I have lately found myself listening to music by some of the Django-influenced musicians referred to in the article. I may check out the Sunday afternoon music at the Chope des Puces.

walkinaround Nov 30th, 2004 02:36 PM

NYC...patrick is right, there is no excuse for prejudice. &quot;nice people&quot; do not label a whole race of people as criminals. Do you warn your visiting friends about black people in NY? Probably not as that would be offensive.

If someone is robbing me i don't care what race they are...they are a criminal. however, i don't label or assume someone is a criminal just because of their race. blissful ignorance maybe...but some would call it &quot;not being prejudice&quot;.

Patrick Nov 30th, 2004 03:00 PM

You might notice that in my post I said &quot;some who can't tell the difference&quot;. What I meant was I personally see nothing in the world wrong with saying, &quot;I was pickpocketed by a group of Gypsy children.&quot; If the pickpockets happened to be Gypsies then so be it, call it like it is. The ingnorant ones are the ones who read that or hear it and think I've said that all Gypsies are thieves.

As I've said before, if I said some tall man robbed me, would that mean that I'm prejudiced against all tall people? No, of course not!! I'm just describing who happened to rob me! Referring to an incident and giving a description of who did it should not be interpreted as some sort of generalization about an entire race. And anyone who thinks it is, is just being silly in my opinion.

walkinaround Nov 30th, 2004 03:05 PM

no but many of the racist statements here are not descriptions of who robbed people but are things like this:

&quot;i didn't get robbed but i did see a lot of gypsies around.&quot; and even the *nice* warnings like &quot;be careful of the gypsies on the metro&quot;.

Intrepid1 Nov 30th, 2004 03:26 PM

Thanks very much for the post and the link to the New Yorker article.

Even though we were recently admonished by the frustrated prison warden/bored and obviously unproductive office worker/henpecked spouse/angry and failed monarchist/failed schoolteacher/faux redneck (take your pick) on the board that not everyone reads the so-called &quot;liberal press&quot; I continue to thoroughly respect their merciful God-given and Constitution-backed right to remain misinformed.

cigalechanta Nov 30th, 2004 05:04 PM

nc girl, if your father's records are in good condition, they are worth alot to collectors of Reinhardts music who influenced so many musicians when the Americans flocked to Paris in the 30s', to hear this original guitar playing gypsy. He was a Manouche. Manouches are gypsies from Northern France and Belguim.

cigalechanta Nov 30th, 2004 05:08 PM

there are many other well-known gypsy musicians that include the gypsy kings.
I have met many in the south of France but there'll always be uninformed predudices like a poster once who boycotted wearing L'Occiataine because it was French.

Clifton Nov 30th, 2004 06:36 PM

The following is purely academic... as much just to the things I've read elsewhere than a judgement on anyone on this thread's character. Really.

Anyway, we just got back from Romania, which has a higher percentage of Rroma or Rom than any other country in Europe. And yes, I saw a fair number of them. But none among the few that attempted any sort of thievery towards us personally. So, I can't make a connection between behavior and race based on what I know so far.

I guess I'm saying that if it's safe to say that not all pickpockets are Rom and also accurate that not all Rom are pickpockets, then wouldn't that leave the whole reason for blanket warnings as sort of irrelevant? There's a tremendous difference between describing your attacker to the police, and warning that people you don't know but who look like the attacker are prone to rotten deeds.

As far as semantics, I'm not in a position to say. I'm not in that group. I have read that the history of this term was given to the Rom after they emigrated from India and were enslaved in Europe. The &quot;Gyp&quot; part came from the misperception that they were from Egypt. So, if nothing else, it's not terribly accurate. But whether it's ok to use as a general term? I have no idea (now I arrive at the ugly truth). Perhaps it's a bit like every other ethnic minority. Some continue to fight, some take ownership of the slurs (heard the self-references in rap music lately?) but may mind if others join in. I did meet some who refer to themselves as Gypsies. And have read websites by others in groups who are incensed by the word because of it's past uses and it's origin.

I guess if the word is worth something to you and that second group isn't of any concern, use it.

Clifton Nov 30th, 2004 06:41 PM

Trying to make sense of this: <i>But none among the few that attempted any sort of thievery towards us personally</i>

Meaning that we had a few pickpocket and con attempts along the way, (mostly in Timisoara), but none from the Rom/Gypsies that we saw.

StCirq Nov 30th, 2004 06:51 PM

The history of the Rom people is fascinating, and it was very well documented in a PBS series a few years ago that I was captivated by.
I think it's just as easy to understand the people who rail against the &quot;Gypsy pickpockets&quot; as it is the people who claim to espouse the PC point of view that it's crude to call people &quot;Gypsies.&quot; Neither understands what is going on here. The Rom culture has been alive and well for centuries. It's assumed now that the Romanian gypsies we all think of when we think of gypsies derived from India originally - at least their language appears to have.
They all HAVE traditionally made money via thievery and deception - at least that's our Western perception of what they do, not how they would characterize it. There is no doubt at all that many of the folks you see in subways in Paris and Rome are Rom people practicing their &quot;art.&quot; They also train their young children to pickpocket and otherwise deceive and steal from you. It's not a pretty picture.
On the other hand, they are a largely illiterate population. Marriage among the Rom typically takes place when the girl is 12-14 years old. No birth control is practiced. They have large families. Women are regularly abused. They are itinerant and despised by most resident populations. I could go on (I work on World Bank and IMF and other publications that deal with this group). They have unique problems, partly of their own making, yes, but partly because they are a unique ethnic group. I don't care whether they are called Gypsies or whatever, but I do think they deserve at least attention if not respect.

llamalady Nov 30th, 2004 07:14 PM

Two totally engrossing ways to learn
more about the Rom:

The film 'Latcho Drom' and the book
'Bury Me Standing'. The subtitle of
Isabel Fonseca's book is &quot;the gypsies
and their journey&quot;.

llamalady Nov 30th, 2004 07:23 PM

The film 'Latcho Drom' and the non-
ficton book 'Bury Me Standing' are
fascinating ways to learn more about
the often maligned Rom.

The author of the book is Isabel Fonseca
and it is subtitled 'the gypsies and
their journey'.

llamalady Nov 30th, 2004 07:24 PM

.....sorry for the repeat Fodors is
driving me even more insane than I
already am!

cigalechanta Nov 30th, 2004 07:33 PM

llamalady, Great book and Flamenco film. There's an earlier thread on &quot;gypsy&quot;that I suggested the same book.
Curious, do you raise llamas?

NYCFoodSnob Nov 30th, 2004 07:34 PM

<i>NYC...patrick is right, there is no excuse for prejudice.</i>

I never said or implied that Patrick was wrong and common sense can easily determine the difference between positive profiling and prejudice. Of course racism and prejudice are wrong but what on earth has happened to common sense?

The airlines have encountered one shoe bomber. He was a Middle Eastern man. Why on earth does my 78 year-old, white-haired, Irish neighbor, who walks with a cane, need to remove her shoes for some TSA agent? The issue for me is the absence of common sense. Should I be surprised that so few have it?

LoveItaly Nov 30th, 2004 07:44 PM

NYCFoodSnob. In one word. Amen!

WillTravel Nov 30th, 2004 08:01 PM

The attempted shoe bomber wasn't a Middle Eastern man. Richard Reid had a British mother and a Jamaican father, and he was a convert to radical Islam (which of course no one could tell by looking at him).

LoveItaly Nov 30th, 2004 08:15 PM

WillTravel,yes you are right.
And so lets zero in on little old ladies when they travel.

Oh travel today is so complicated.

WillTravel Nov 30th, 2004 08:23 PM

I wish there were a sensible approach. One famous triumph of sensible airport security was the case of the pregnant, redheaded Irishwoman who had (unbeknownst to her) a Jordanian terrorist boyfriend who sent her aboard El Al with a bomb in her suitcase, all the while telling her she would meet his family in Israel. From what I understand, El Al does not go by purported nationality, but by asking questions and figuring out if something doesn't add up, and various types of &quot;profiling&quot;. Anyway, she was caught, and her life, the passengers, and her unborn child's life was saved.

WillTravel Nov 30th, 2004 08:24 PM

I shouldn't say she was redhaired. I can't remember what color Anne Murphy's hair was.

LoveItaly Nov 30th, 2004 09:01 PM

WillTravel, that is quite a story. Had not heard that one. But the Israelians have a reputation of being very security savy.

Marilyn Nov 30th, 2004 09:10 PM

It's no story, LoveItaly, it's fact. I remember the incident quite well.

I also think this subject of Gypsies or Rom, whichever you chose to call them, is more complicated than can be discussed here, unless we all agree to read up on it. What I know is in line with some of what StCirq has said.

There is a subculture within the larger population that is extremely xenophobic and prides itself on stealing from and scamming &quot;outsiders.&quot; It is a way of life. There's no point in denying this -- it's a well-documented fact.

Clearly there are Rom people working some of these scams, kids in groups trying to pick pockets, mothers with small children who are trained to grab the money and run, etc.

I'm just not sure why this has become a particular phobia of Americans. I don't think it's quite as prevalent as one might think from reading this forum, and it's hard to believe the fears are in proportion to the threat.

WillTravel Nov 30th, 2004 09:11 PM

Israelis are very security-savvy, but that sort of security is very expensive and time-consuming. That, and civil rights concerns, are the reasons that approach hasn't been adopted for US airports.

I sure don't really have a good answer for airline security - I see holes everywhere I look and screening frail elderly ladies for random screening is not going to help much. But there is the possibility of a terrorist gaining the trust of an innocent person, so such searches aren't completely groundless.

MikeBuckley Nov 30th, 2004 09:24 PM

<i>Why on earth does my 78 year-old, white-haired, Irish neighbor, who walks with a cane, need to remove her shoes for some TSA agent? </i>

Because the person whose shoes are being inspected might be professionally disguised and/or acting the part.

WillTravel Nov 30th, 2004 09:30 PM

Not to be contrary (although I am half the time, but please don't take it personally), but is it really the case that Americans are more scared than other national groups of this particular ethnic subculture? I have European relatives who have similar concerns, Asian friends who have expressed similar concerns, not to mention Canadians, etc. That said, I doubt anyone has quantified the risk that any given tourist will happen to wander into one of these situations. It's probably just so memorable when it happens.

LoveItaly Nov 30th, 2004 09:44 PM

Hi Marilyn, I sure did not mean story versus fact. I meant that I had not heard of this incident. Did not express myself properly. Fighting a terrible cold so not feeling real sharp these last couple of days.

Security issues are a problem for sure.
And now women flyers are evidently having some bad experiences according to the press.

I am often pulled aside for secondary screening. Why I do not know. But just put up with it, is there any choice if one needs to fly.

The Rom or Gypsie problem is just part of the problem in Europe, especially Italy which with its long coastline gets illegal imigrants constantly. But I believe tourist are over concerned but everywhere one must be alert and take precautions.

When my Italians friends come to the US they have the same concerns that so many tourist have traveling in Europe.

Now Naples has become a bloodbath so to speak. The government is even thinking of sending in the army. Killings are back to where they were years ago, thanks to the Camorra.

Oh life, always a problem. But beautiful too.

Read an article today where a gentlemen said if his life never was any better than it was in this moment he would ask for nothing more. Good concept!

Sure hope dear Kal is doing alright. I felt so bad about his arriving home and receiving that terrible news.

Take good care.

Marilyn Nov 30th, 2004 09:50 PM

I think that's true, WillTravel, about it being memorable. As NYCFS said, it's very shocking to us, with our sensibilities about children, that they would be used to perpetrate a crime. But of course, that is a quite modern notion of childhood. You don't have to go back any farther than Dickens' Oliver Twist to find a different view.

massagediva Dec 1st, 2004 04:48 AM

Reality Check - our (American) children are running and selling drugs in our cities and sometimes paying for the priviledge with their lives. Maybe it's not in the neighborhoods in which we live,but it's happening.

ira Dec 1st, 2004 05:00 AM

&gt;It's assumed now that the Romanian gypsies we all think of when we think of gypsies derived from India originally - at least their language appears to have.&lt;

As has all of the Indo-European languages.

jahoulih Dec 1st, 2004 05:54 AM

Ira, I don't think many scholars take the view that the original homeland (the &quot;Urheimat&quot;) of the proto-Indo-Europeans was in India. I've seen arguments for the Ukraine, Southern Russia, and the Caucasus, but not India. It's clear from ancient Indian literature, among other evidence, that Indo-European speakers came from the North and invaded India, probably around 1500 B.C.

NYCFoodSnob Dec 1st, 2004 07:19 AM

I stand corrected on Reid's nationality. Maybe I should have said he <i>looked</i> Middle Eastern and crazed at that.

<i>Because the person whose shoes are being inspected might be professionally disguised and/or acting the part.</i>

After laughing loudly and sharing my laugh with all the drag queens in my life, all I can say is not one person &quot;in costume,&quot; and that includes all the arthritic travelers who travel with pain but are actually faking it, has been arrested for attempting to fulfill a terrorist plot. I surely can see why this might justify inconveniencing thousands of folks walking with canes, though. Thanks for the laugh!

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