People often ask if I want to go back to living in a caravan. Whether I want to go back to living as a ‘Gypsy’. This is not a question I can answer. Why should I want to go back to living in a caravan? what do they mean by living as a ‘Gypsy’? They don’t realise that such a simply question can be so full of politics. They don’t mean anything by it but they say more about themselves than they mean to. These are not questions I can answer, they are nonsensical and ridiculous.
Do you want to go back to working the land, do you want to go back to living as a serf? I read somewhere in some book that Englishman of none-noble blood were peasants or factory workers. Is that not true?
The comparison is ridiculous isn’t it. I mean, Romani and Travellers still live in caravans don’t they? A large number of us still do and thanks to legal definitions of what ‘Gypsy’ and Travellers are we cannot seem to exist without our mobile homes but why should my ethnicity define my lifestyle? Is my blood different from how it was now I live in a house. Will it magically, miraculously change back the moment I step back into a wagon. I was born Romany. Why do I have to live a certain why to prove that?
The answer is simple really. I know it, I just don’t agree with it.
There are two reasons really:
Firstly: Internal. A Romany has to live with Romanipen. Even the Romanichal, Britain’s Romany Gypsies have Romanipen. The essence of being Romani. We are born with it and we live with it for as long as we live by it and continue to be accepted by our community and fellow communities.
Secondly: External. To be viewed as a ‘Gypsy’ we must conform to people’s understanding of what a ‘Gypsy’ is. The term ‘Gypsy’ is an exonym, invented by outsiders for the benefit of outsiders. The rest of us, us ‘Gypsies’ ourselves, have just had a long time to accept it. No surprise than really that the wider external world has so much sway. The issue gets even more complicated when we start discussing settled Travellers. Real mind-blowing stuff, but for now we’ll just say that legally and socially from an external prospective we must conform to an external understanding to be classed as a ‘real Gypsy’.
So all explained then right? Wrong. We still have the issue of my ethnicity & why it should define my very being when your ethnicity doesn’t decide yours. It’s to do with your misunderstanding of what a Romani is.
My people have lived in a variety of different ways from tents to house since we left India 1,500 years ago, and we continue to live as such. Romani heritage is nomadic, as an ethnicity we have no homeland of our own, the pull of economic opportunity and the push of persecution have driven us to be highly adaptable to changes in economic and politic climates. however about 90% of Roma and Romani live in houses globally with a lower rate of 50% for ‘Gypsies’ and Travellers in Western Europe. Keeping in mind that 50% applies only to brick-and-mortar houses, and not the majority of ‘Travellers’ who live in caravan parts as part of a settled communities. The Anglophile’s view of painted caravans is a romanticised notion, only partial grounding in reality.
It’s wrong for you to expect me to live a certain way and I’m not going to do it.