As a light-skinned Roma woman I am doubting my place as an activist for Roma rights. I enjoy privilege and difference that does not make me an accurate representation of the people on behalf of which I speak. I feel like I am a liar or a sham, or worse… because I have, for all intents and purposes, white skin.
Within my own community, this is not easily accepted. I am called out on a regular basis by other Roma who are angry that I am speaking out and speaking up. Being light-skinned was seen as unlucky — and following the death of my uncle and other personal events — I was shunned for being the one who brought bad luck.
I have worked hard to gain an education and to be able, as bell hooks espouses, talk to the oppressor in their own language. I was not always able to write or read or express myself. I have worked hard to come to this place and now all I see before me are doubts.
Do I have any right to claim my heritage openly and in the spirit of activism? Do I have any right to reclaim my language and speak of it? Do I have any right to tell my stories, write my words, and show them as truth?
The situation in Europe grows worse. I am a European Roma. I have family in Europe—I have witness racism, discrimination, and oppression first hand. I have been beaten and evicted. I have watched my grandmother be spit on…
and yet, these things don’t define my experience as a Roma woman. They colour it, they buoy it. But, they are not the entirety of it. Being Romani, to me, is a beautiful thing—far more beautiful even than all the hipster romanticization of it.
I just don’t know that I have any right to speak on behalf of anyone—because my words reach more than just myself. Am I needed in this fight? Someone who looks as I do, speaks as I do, writes as I do… am I needed? There are far stronger, wiser, and better suited activists than me. Am I just making things worse?
I always was the wrong colour, why should this be any different?
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