Marko D. Knudsen
Stigmatization of a Minority– Is it real? The racism scholar Mark Terkessidis reports the following incident in the preface of his book Psychologie des Rassismus [The Psychology of Racism] (Terkessidis, Mark: Psychologie des Rassismus. Opladen/Wiesbaden 1998, p. 9.): „Some time ago, somebody suddenly rang at my door bell around noon. I heard a female voice over the intercom. Since her German was quite insufficient, I at first was unable to find out what was the matter. Then it occurred to me that she had to be a Gypsy woman wanting to sell me some junk. I was in a hurry and did not want to either talk to her, nor open the door. Yet, I still asked her again what she wanted. Now she talked less upset and I understood that she was supposed to deliver food to the office on the first floor but had not reached anyone there. She therefore had asked me to let her in, so she could leave the food upstairs. My prejudices embarrassed me and I opened the door.” Where do such prejudices stem from? Are we born with them? What do I need them for? These are questions not easily answered, yet also questions which have left marks in all of human history. Is it the colour of their skin or their music? The mainstream of society calls them Gypsies, yet they call themselves Sinti or Roma. There is a large number of clichés about this people, but who actually knows details about their lives, their selves, in short, about their culture? Neither nonfiction books nor encyclopaedias can give you any precise answers. Instead, published descriptions of this people’s origins are most often superficial, lack details, contradict each other, and are mixed with prejudices. The Holocaust was a devastating catastrophe for the Roma and Sinti. Yet, this tragedy is almost forgotten by others, since the media limited their coverage to Jewish suffering. This insensibility and oblivion in a society is symbolic for the hardships the Roma and Sinti have had to endure. One cannot even sufficiently describe the suffering they must have gone through in words or pictures.Discrimination against this people has not only existed for centuries; it is still prevalent today. No one is born with prejudices, yet most individuals never reflect on them rationally. Hannah Vogt criticizes the increasing number of emotional acts and stigmatizations in most peoples’ behaviour, especially when there is no cause for them. They exhibit a certain disposition in their character, which can be ignored but never abandoned. Discrimination is manifest on all levels of society, from household to politics and legislation. Without serious attempts to educate others it is impossible to make people understand the community and cultural identity of the Roma and Sinti. They are a part of our society and therefore, a part of our democracy.