Campaign aims to end ‘the last acceptable racism’ – against Gypsies and Travellers

Lucy Purdy

A new campaign sets out to end discrimination against Gypsy and Traveller communities, the ‘last respectable form of racism’

A poster and social media campaign aims to dissolve the stigma faced by members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities.

‘We are all so many things’ was devised by the charity London Gypsies and Travellers, in response to a sense that racism towards these groups continues to be tolerated. The charity hopes to challenge public perceptions and media stereotypes of these communities by urging people to look beyond ethnicity to see their worth.

Debby Kennett, the charity’s chief executive, said the reality of people’s lives is a far cry from the ‘vulgar and caricatured’ image presented by some media outlets and television programmes such as My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.


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“People from the Gypsy and Traveller community are living lives just like everyone else: working, contributing to society, looking after families, studying, pursuing hobbies and supporting good causes,” she said.

“But once people know that a person is a Gypsy or a Traveller, that one fact dictates their view and the old stereotypes dominate. Many people from the community continuously hide their identity because they know it will affect whether they get a job and how they will be treated.

“‘We are all so many things’ aims to present that reality in a striking way and make people consider their reactions.”

Among the people featured in the campaign is Mena Mongan from the borough of Hackney, a mother-of-three, office receptionist and volunteer. The poster asks: ‘We are all so many things. So why only pick on one?’

“I wanted to put my face to this campaign to show people who we really are,” said Mongan. “I am often refused entry into restaurants and pubs, and regularly followed around shops by security guards.

I don’t want this any more and I certainly don’t want it for my children or my grandchildren. It has gone on long enough

“Every day, when my children go to school, I make sure that they are more pristine than all the other kids, because I know they will always be the first to be called dirty.

“I don’t want this any more and I certainly don’t want it for my children or my grandchildren. It has gone on long enough.”

Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are recognised as ethnic groups under the Race Relations Act 1976. But prejudice and discrimination remain rife, said Kennett, affecting access to services, jobs and accommodation.

Images: Mary Turner/London Gypsies and Travellers


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  • drjones8

    The G-word is considered a slur by the Romany people. The word gipsy, c. 1600, is a alteration of gypcian, a worn-down Middle English dialectal form of egypcien “Egyptian,” from the supposed origin of the people. As an adjective, from 1620s. Compare British gippy (1889) a modern shortened colloquial form of Egyptian. Cognate with Spanish Gitano and close in sense to Turkish and Arabic Kipti “gypsy,” literally “Coptic;” but in Middle French they were Bohémien (see bohemian), and in Spanish also Flamenco “from Flanders.” “The gipsies seem doomed to be associated with countries with which they have nothing to do” [Weekley]. Zingari, the Italian and German name, is of unknown origin. Romany is from the people’s own language, a plural adjective form of rom “man.” Gipsy was the preferred spelling in England. The name is also in extended use applied to “a person exhibiting any of the qualities attributed to Gipsies, as darkness of complexion, trickery in trade, arts of cajolery, and, especially as applied to a young woman, playful freedom or innocent roguishness of action or manner” [Century Dictionary]. As an adjective from 1620s with a sense “unconventional; outdoor.”

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