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Hatcher 1 Elvis Hatcher Mr. Brown English II HG 23 November 2009 The Roma People: A Study in Discrimination Anyone who has learned about American history has at least heard of the Jim Crow Laws, and the overwhelming degree of racial discrimination that took place in America, even through the mid-twentieth century. Moreover, almost anyone who has heard of these things will agree that they are utterly appalling, and that they designate a shameful stain on our nation’s past. Were such a situat
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  Elvis Hatcher Mr. BrownEnglish II HG23 November 2009The Roma People: A Study in Discrimination  Anyone who has learned about American history has at least heard of the Jim CrowLaws, and the overwhelming degree of racial discrimination that took place in America, eventhrough the mid-twentieth century. Moreover, almost anyone who has heard of these things willagree that they are utterly appalling, and that they designate a shameful stain on our nation’s past.Were such a situation ever to arise again, most Americans would be quite upset and rather ashamed, and would work extremely hard to counter it. However, unbeknownst to manyAmericans, there is a very similar situation going on in the world right now. This situation isfound in the profound discrimination that is being exercised towards the Roma peoplethroughout Eastern Europe. This discrimination is shown very prominently in the educational policies exercised towards the Roma in multiple Eastern European countries. These measures of educational segregation and discrimination are considered by many to be extremely unjust, for anumber of reasons. On this basis, many Roma and Roma supporters have tried tenaciously torectify the situation. At a first glance, it may seem like these efforts have been futile andunsuccessful, but in reality, a good deal of progress has been made, and there is a clear trend of improvement that can only continue.The Roma people are a sad case, as they have been discriminated against for years. Asearly as the 18th century, Roma were forced to leave Austria by the Empress Maria Theresa. TwoHatcher 1  centuries later, they became an often overlooked victim of the Holocaust. Nowadays, the Roma people make up almost 10 percent of Slovakia’s population, yet almost all of them live in utmost poverty, with unemployment rates reaching over 90 percent in many Roma settlements, and theyare often the objects of prejudice and race-related violence. Beyond this, most of the school’s inmany European countries, such as Slovakia, are segregated between Whites and Roma.Furthermore, not only are the schools segregated, but Eastern European governments end upsending a large number of mentally able Roma children to special needs schools; in some regionsof Slovakia, the Roma children make up almost 80 percent of the population of special schools.Also, although Roma are recognized as a national minority in Slovakia, only four secondaryschools in the country offer classes in the Romani language. This violates Slovakia’s 1992Constitution, which states that citizens of national minority groups have the right to be educatedin a minority language.All of these facts apply to the situation in Slovakia, but the situation is also very prominent in other countries, such as the Czech Republic. An example of this is an article fromTime Magazine, which tells of Nikol Pechova, a young girl from the Czech city Ostrava. Whenshe entered school, she was ostracized, and ridiculed by her classmates solely on the basis of her race. Then, when she began to fall behind in school, as many people do at some point or another,she was sent to a special needs school. Nikol’s story is actually very common, and many Romachildren face the same fate. Roma also live in poverty in Hungary, and there are cases of discrimination in Bulgaria as well, such as a 2002 suit that was filed against a Bulgarian coffeeshop for refusing to serve Roma.Hatcher 2  With all of these facts, it is very clear why many Romani rights activists are deeply upset by the situation, and are working very hard to fix it. These activists have many strong argumentson their side. For instance, Slovakia is a member of the International Convention on theElimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which states “In compliance with thefundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before thelaw, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights: . . . (v) The right to education andtraining.” Additionally, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Bulgaria are all members of the European Union (EU), and the EU Race Equality Directive prohibits racial discriminationregarding education and training. These are both strong legal backings to the arguments againstthe discriminations.Another, more recent argument that activists are adopting is one based on the U.S. case of Brown v. Board of Education. This case ruled that racial segregation is of a discriminatorynature, and that it therefore violates U.S. legislation prohibiting racial discrimination. Activistsworking against Roma discrimination are using the same argument: that the segregation taking place is discriminatory, and that it violates the legal backings previously described. The adoptionof this defense is a milestone development in activism against this discrimination, and may verywell prove to be a major contributor to the success of the movement.At first glance, all of the arguments against the situation may appear to have beenunsuccessful; After all, the discrimination is still happening, and it is still very prominent.However, things are slowly getting better, and that is a trend that can only continue. For instance,Hatcher 3  in 2007, the European Court of Human Rights formally recognized that the Czech Republic had,in fact, discriminated against the Roma people. Additionally, an international initiative called theDecade of Roma Inclusion, involving nine Central and Eastern European governments aims tointegrate Roma and desegregate education during the timeframe of 2005-2015. Yet another initiative, the Roma Education Fund, provides funding to desegregation efforts, and providesadvocates to the cause. In a more personal context, some Roma students are now managing toovercome the hardships working against them. For instance, an article from the Christian ScienceMonitor tells of Romani student Elvis Hajdar, who managed to overcome discrimination, and isnow studying computer programming at Macedonia’s state university. With all of this progress being made, and the arguments against segregation becoming increasingly strong and well-formulated, things can only continue to get better, and the situation may soon become much better than it is now.To conclude, it is clear that horrible discrimination is being exercised against the Roma people in Eastern Europe, especially in the context of education. However, an increasingly largenumber of initiatives are attempting to counter this cruel practice, and progress is definitely being made. Such reform proved successful in twentieth-century America, and we must hope, for the sake of the Roma people, that it will prove successful in this case as well.Hatcher 4
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