Faith at the Watercooler: The Legacy of the Humanistic World of the Roma World

The DNA of the largest ethnic group in Europe, that which they are, is not as different from other peoples in the area as is commonly thought.

For this very reason, too, there are probably millions of them living in the United States, even among the most assimilated of people in the state of Pennsylvania.

In a new report, “The DNA of Roma People” (The DNA of Roma People covers an extensive overview of the difficulties many Roma people face in maintaining their cultural identities in Europe. It also presents ethnographic accounts of Roma living in the U.S.

Those interviewed have reported an individualized approach that is somewhat unusual from an ethnicity or ethnic group that is stereotyped as this way. The unsentimental research will leave people considering the differences between ethnic groups and why they are so different.

The writers specifically address how U.S. populations with an ethnic diversity like that of Roma are allowed to maintain a non-Jewish identity, while the people in the Mediterranean are erased.

Roma have long faced stigma, oppression and prejudice in Europe, with many being labeled as deviant, mentally unstable or mentally disabled. But others cite first-hand knowledge of people who migrated to the U.S. who were not only developed, but were extremely successful and did not have symptoms of any type of mental illness.

This is a different side of Roma, one that is oftentimes hidden or quickly forgotten. This book seeks to shine a spotlight on this particular population. It presents the unique perspective of people who have recently lived and worked with Roma. By showing them in their everyday lives, the authors prove that the notions some people hold about the Roma are often oversimplified and overstated.

Those interviewed have reported an individualized approach that is somewhat unusual from an ethnicity or ethnic group that is stereotyped as this way. The unsentimental research will leave people considering the differences between ethnic groups and why they are so different.

Just as I do in my own social interactions, I try to be aware of how the culture I interact with differs from the culture I grew up in.

Europeans will continue to enjoy assimilating into the Euro-American cultural norms and being accepted as such, while Roma people seem to have the inside track for this. The challenge has historically been for people to build a bridge between the European and their own culture, but in doing so, these Roma have largely learned and learned well. The more they know of their own culture, the better that they can share it with others, which explains their relative success.

I believe what the Roma bring to the table is dignity and self-esteem, which, unlike the typical migrant status of many immigrants, goes the opposite direction.

Their reactions have demonstrated a level of bravery that I find rare in people in this region, particularly as I travel over there to speak with them at conferences. Those who talk to me often express many similarities to what I expect to hear from my own educational backgrounds.

The language, the social roles and even many of the senses are similar, but if you dig into their individual lives, you might be surprised at how typical they are.

Instead of remaining silent and passive in their social roles, they actively participate in their communities and become the leaders they hope to be.

They are the faces of their communities and they freely share their own culture with others.

They accept the reality that they will always be an “outcast” if you believe there are many other individuals who identify with their identity more closely than they do. Many of them feel misunderstood or maligned in a society that has not adjusted to their interest in their own particular way of life.

But their profound acceptance of that nature is where they learn to embrace the individualized journey that success requires.

In taking in this perspective, we all gain a greater appreciation for that very journey and must be more open to the spiritual lessons that can be taken from it. The richness and humility of this unique global community will forever impact our perception of other ethnic groups as well.

Bryan K. Downs is the author of “The Great Wall: Humanities of a New China” and assistant professor of religious studies at George Washington University. This was originally published at Faith at the Watercooler.

Leave a Comment