The common struggle of Roma and African Americans

The treatment of African Americans helps to understand the lesser-known plight of Roma people: no longer slaves, both still suffer systemic exploitation, discrimination and abuse.

Claudia Ciobanu
Claudia Ciobanu NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Source: The Guardian
The common struggle of Roma and African Americans - NewsMavens
Cornel West, Margareta Matache. Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

The mistreatment of Roma people in Europe is a shameful open secret. While some in Central and Eastern Europe feel shock and disgust at abuses of African Americans in the United States (such as police shootings of unarmed men) they often fail to react when Roma people endure similar abuse. We're often not even aware how racist we are. 

To mark the 20th anniversary of the abolition of Roma slavery in Romania, Roma rights activist and scholar Margareta Matache and world-renowned African American scholar and civil rights activist Cornel West detailed what Roma and African Americans have in common. 

Why did it take so long for this parallel to be drawn? Is everyone in Romania reading this text? Can it be added to the school curriculum?

human rights,politics, roma

Details from the story:

  • Feb. 20 marks the abolition of Roma slavery on the territories of today’s Romania. 
  • Over the centuries, Roma and African American people have shared a similar fate, as white people employed similar methods to subdue and exploit both groups. 
  • Roma and African Americans continue to be targets of criminalization and demonization.
  • In Romania, police recently shot and killed a 21-year-old Roma man, accused of stealing wood, in front of three Roma children, ranging in age from 10 to 14.
  • While the U.S. has acknowledged the atrocities committed in the past against African Americans, this recognition lacks entirely in Romania. No institution has apologized for Roma slavery, including the Orthodox Church, which benefitted enormously from it.
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