Airdate: Jan 11, 2011
Scientist: Carol Silverman
Roma - Census
For Roma, census-taking is not just a matter of counting heads.
Roma - Census
Music; Ambience: young boys sing, drum, singing
JM: For centuries, gypsies, or Roma as they call themselves have lived in Europe without a homeland or a unifying government. Today, a new generation of leaders is trying to unite the Roma, but first they need to know just how many of their people remain scattered across the continent. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Carol Silverman studies Roma culture and folklore, and teaches at the University of Oregon. She says counting the Roma is a difficult task, since many are wary of identifying themselves as "gypsies" when a census taker comes around.
CS: "They are the largest minority in Europe. And the census statistics are very unreliable because many Roma see naming themselves as Roma, gypsy, as a stigma. They're not going to get a job. They're not going to get an apartment. They face discrimination, so many Roma, even though they know they're Roma, pass as other ethnic groups, and they'll pass in the census too."
JM: Here in Macedonia, gypsy children -- like the ones we're listening to -- often grow up in marginal slums, with no schools and little hope for social or economic advancement. Well, after hundreds of years of being treated as outcasts, Romani activists hope that counting their numbers will be a first step towards giving the Roma a real voice in Europe.
CS: "Since the breakup of communism, Rome leaders have emerged, and they're trying to have a world forum to address the problems of Roma. And the way to do that is to call attention to long patterns of discrimination, lack of access to education, lack of access to jobs, systematic discrimination in jobs, and so on. One thing they're trying to do is to encourage people to stand up and be counted."
JM: We'll hear more about Roma culture in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.