Italy and Roma

Probably unbeknownst to most Americans, one of the most discriminated-against groups in Europe is the Roma. And Italy has become, especially recently, an especially bad place to be Roma. Berlusconi has recently launched a campaign to fingerprint all of Italy’s Roma population (and nobody else). But what seems to finally be waking people up to how bad things are is what happened on a beach in Naples. According to reports (for some questionning of them, see the links here), four Roma sisters went swimming despite lack of knowledge of how to swim. Two of them drowned. Many people failed to even try to help. Their bodies were laid on the beach. Then everybody got back to sunbathing– not allowing a couple corpses on the beach to interfere with their holiday. Photos were taken of holiday-makers sunning themselves by the bodies. I’m not posting them here, as I feel that might be disrespectful– but they serve to show the extent to which the Roma have been dehumanised in the minds of many Italians (and others). I’m so very depressed by this.

4 thoughts on “Italy and Roma

  1. I saw this article yesterday (?), and the first thing that struck me was whether the photos really depict what they are claimed to depict. If I was on a beach and I saw two bodies covered in towels, I would assume the people under them were asleep and had covered themselves from the sun so that they didn’t get sunburnt. It would never occur to me that the people were dead. It might just be possible that the sunbathing holidaymakers came along afterwards and sat down not knowing what had just happened.

  2. Interesting point, Monkey. And if you’re right– which is possible– then we’ve got a case in which a false interpretation of a photograph is actually conveying an important truth.

  3. The Economist had a very complete survey on the Roma a few weeks ago
    http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11579339
    Hopefully at least some Americans (besides me) will have read it and become more aware of the shocking state of this group of EU outcasts.

    But I agree, I suspect this case was not one about Roma but about what you expect to find on the beach. Neuroscientists have shown how much your expectations affects what you see; bodies in a car park would be noticed, lying on a beach appearing to be sleeping, maybe not.

  4. even if the ‘bodies on the beach’ incident can be interpreted charitably so as not to involve horrible racism, it’s important not to forget that in general, Italian politics is veering worringly to the right, with draconian laws that impact upon the freedoms of Roma (and seem to be encouraging violence against them), and also on migrants in general.

    more here
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7402602.stm
    and here
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7400460.stm
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/italy-calls-up-troops-for-urban-crackdown-on-migrants-875786.html

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