OK, I promise that I won’t write about Roma issues EVERY week, but I couldn’t resist this one. As I wrote last week, everything starts with education, and the most recent figures about the lack of advancement of Roma pupils in the educational system continues to be troubling, to say the least. It’s a running theme of the past 20 years, and one that somehow, through it all, fails to change much.

Not helping matters is how the stereotype of Roma as stupid, basically “uneducable” dimwits continues to prevail among a certain segment of society and, in its way, probably factors into all those Roma kids getting shunted into the special schools. I’m willing to grant that young Czechs are probably more multi-cultural than their peers in the early 1990s and hopefully some of these attitudes are starting to improve. But among many others, they apparently aren’t.

So I have an old group of Czech friends here–largely middle-class, age 40 and up, with some exceptions. Last week, I got an email from one of them with a powerpoint slideshow called “Par romskych vtipu” (“A few Roma jokes”). Given that Roma jokes seem to go viral on the Czech Internet with some regularity, I wasn’t shocked, but this was particularly bad.

A few pearls:

Some gypsies come to the reception desk at a hotel and the receptionist asks them, “Do you have a reservation?” The gypsy: “Do we look like Indians, you idiot?!

Dežo gets some work at a construction company. The boss tells him, “Go paint the windows!” After five hours of “difficult” work, Dežo asks the boss: “Boss, and the frames too?

Laco, Dežo a Jožo are traveling in a car. Who’s driving? The police.

A small Rom meets a boy from a neighboring house and asks him, “Guess what I’m getting for Christmas?” “What?” “Your bike”.

There were also some nastier ones, including some police turning a blind eye to a Rom that was run over by a truck, saying it was suicide. And the collection ended with a PS: “I have gypsy blood…fortunately only on the fender”.

The thing that gets me is that it’s still somehow acceptable to send such trash around to a group of friends (this wasn’t limited to just a handful of us) without any worry that anyone would protest. I doubt there was any hesitation before pressing the send button, and this from a middle-class, upstanding citizen of Prague, not some country bumpkin living next to an unruly ghetto in northern Bohemia.

Closed groups of neo-Nazis and others will probably always be telling racist jokes and sending them around to spread their ideology. But it’s hard to imagine much progress in integration until the collective mindset among the general population moves beyond passing along such emails and just trashes them. And not because it’s simply political correct to do so–although we don’t even seen to be at that point yet.

Jeremy Druker

Jeremy Druker is the executive director and editor in chief of Transitions Online. Twitter: @JeremyDruker Email: jeremy.druker@tol.org

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