“What hurts Indians most is that our costumes are considered beautiful, but it’s as if the person wearing it didn’t exist.”—Rigoberta Menchu, Nobel Peace Prize winner, in I, Rigoberta Menchu. (via danikasapphistry)
A reason why I occasionally hate tumblr: misinformation.
I tried looking for any other possible roma, gypsies, travelers, etc and all I got was a bunch of “Gypsy is a racial slur.” nonsense.
Surprise! It isn’t. Gypsy history is very vague and is pretty much only learned via word of mouth, but there are a few facts that echo consistently through the ages.
Gypsies were and ARE hideously hideously discriminated against because they do not often settle and are not ALLOWED to settle. So let me tell you where the word gypsy came from: an attempt at acceptance.
When Romas were asked what they wanted to be called they said “Gypsy” because they were suggesting they were Gyptian (Gipcian), or Egyptian because they are/were accused of harbouring the baby Jesus and having a place of origin (whether it was or not was not the point) helped them to have a place to say so towns would actually let them stay a bit. Over time Gypsies spread around different parts of Europe and developed various names that refer to their area (UK Romnichal, Germany Sinti, France Manush, etc.) So “Roma” and “Gypsy” or “Traveler” are considered the general term for their people.
Like how Europe has all the lovely countries, “Gypsy” has the lovely birth country-related terms.
Fast forward a lot of time because like I said, Roma (Romani, Roms, etc) history is mostly word of mouth (seriously try researching this, it is insanely hard), we now are at the holocaust. Millions of gypsies were executed right along with Jews and homosexuals, and other “undesirables”. This is relevant because during this time “dirty Jew” was used frequently, the word Jew was treated as a bad word. Just like Gypsy and homosexual.
The difference is that Jews triumphantly have reclaimed their name. (For the record I do not want to sound like this is some “who had it worse” contest!!)
Unfortunately Gypsy is still used like a bad word in European (dominantly, the Americas are not innocent though) countries. Right this very moment discrimination is equally as prevalent. You so much as utter the word and you get kicked out, shunned, and often times killed.
The phrase, “I’ve been gipt!” comes from being bamboozled by a gypsy. Yes, the history is there. But I implore you to show me a culture that hasn’t had its questionable past.
All this being said, Gypsy is no more a racial slur than Jew is. But I DO understand why a lot of people might think it is. AND if you want to be as respectful as humanly possible, say traveler.
I would say ask a Roma but because of the god awful discrimination and misrepresentation they are understandable usually reserved.
How could I know any of this and speak about it dearest Tumblr? I am a French gypsy (Manush, a sub group of Sinti Gypsy) who has been trying desperately to learn what I can about mine and my step father’s (Roma from the Kingdom of Bohemia) history (different branch of Gypsies). Unfortunately my biological father kept that part of my heritage very under-wraps until recently, so I wasn’t raised with the history. Some of the same can be said for my step father. His grandma was a VERY proud and wonderful Bohemian-Roma and used the word GYPSY with pride and vigor and taught him to do the same. He only knew of his heritage and gypsy history because of her, but not enough. Unfortunately his own mother felt shame and fear because of it, so he (nor I) was raised with the lifestyle or a rock-hard understanding of the history in full.
If you are blessed enough to have a talk with a born and bred Roma, I implore you to respectfully educate yourself. Please don’t let this heritage die and be lost. Gypsy is not a bad word. Please don’t treat it like it is.
But if a Roma asks you to not use the word “Gypsy” or is uncomfortable with YOU using it, understand it is because they face horrible active discrimination every single day and often expect to hear a tone of disgust.
Living with mental illness is like navigating a mine field every day where you’re the only person who knows about the mines. If you get through the day without tripping a mine, to everyone else it looks like you just took a walk across a nice open field. It’s not worth…
A white girl wore a bindi at Coachella. And, then my social media feeds went berserk. Hashtagging the term “cultural appropriation” follows the outrage and seems to justify it at the same time. Except that it doesn’t.
Cultural appropriation is the adoption of a specific part of one culture by another cultural group. As I (an Indian) sit here, eating my sushi dinner (Japanese) and drinking tea (Chinese), wearing denim jeans (American), and overhearing Brahm’s Lullaby (German) from the baby’s room, I can’t help but think what’s the big deal?
The big deal with cultural appropriation is when the new adoption is void of the significance that it was supposed to have — it strips the religious, historical and cultural context of something and makes it mass-marketable. That’s pretty offensive. The truth is, I wouldn’t be on this side of the debate if we were talking about Native American headdresses, or tattoos of Polynesian tribal iconography, Chinese characters or Celtic bands.
Why shouldn’t the bindi warrant the same kind of response as the other cultural symbols I’ve listed, you ask? Because most South Asians won’t be able to tell you the religious significance of a bindi. Of my informal survey of 50 Hindu women, not one could accurately explain it’s history, religious or spiritual significance. I had to Google it myself, and I’ve been wearing one since before I could walk.
We can’t accuse non-Hindus of turning the bindi into a fashion accessory with little religious meaning because, well, we’ve already done that. We did it long before Vanessa Hudgens in Coachella 2014, long before Selena Gomez at the MTV Awards in 2013, and even before Gwen Stefani in the mid-90s.
Indian statesman Rajan Zed justifies the opposing view as he explains, “[The bindi] is an auspicious religious and spiritual symbol… It is not meant to be thrown around loosely for seductive effects or as a fashion accessory…” If us Indians had preserved the sanctity and holiness of the bindi, Zed’s argument for cultural appropriation would have been airtight. But, the reality is, we haven’t.
The 5,000 year old tradition of adorning my forehead with kumkum just doesn’t seem to align with the current bindi collection in my dresser — the 10-pack, crystal-encrusted, multi-colored stick-on bindis that have been designed to perfectly compliment my outfit. I didn’t happen to pick up these modern-day bindis at a hyper-hipster spot near my new home in California. No. This lot was brought from the motherland itself.
And, that’s just it. Culture evolves. Indians appreciated the beauty of a bindi and brought it into the world of fashion several decades ago. The single red dot that once was, transformed into a multitude of colors and shapes embellished with all the glitz and glamor that is inherent in Bollywood. I don’t recall an uproar when Indian actress Madhuri Dixit’s bindi was no longer a traditional one. Hindus accepted the evolution of this cultural symbol then. And, as the bindi makes it’s way to the foreheads of non-South Asians, we should accept — even celebrate — the continued evolution of this cultural symbol. Not only has it managed to transcend religion and class in a sea of one-billion brown faces, it will now adorn the faces of many more races. And that’s nothing short of amazing.
So, you won’t find this Hindu posting a flaming tweet accusing a white girl of #culturalappropriation. I will say that I’m glad you find this aspect of my culture beautiful. I do too.
Why a Bindi Is NOT an Example of Culture Appropriation