Academic journal article Romani Studies

"A Stinking Filthy Race of People Inbred with Criminality" A Discourse Analysis of Prejudicial Talk about Gypsies in Discussion Forums

Academic journal article Romani Studies

"A Stinking Filthy Race of People Inbred with Criminality" A Discourse Analysis of Prejudicial Talk about Gypsies in Discussion Forums

Article excerpt

Gypsies have been shown to be a group subject to extreme prejudice and discrimination in the UK. The current research explores how Gypsies are portrayed and talked about within UK discussion forums. A discourse analysis was conducted on three discussion forums concerning Gypsies and how they should be treated. The analysis identified the following strategies as being commonly used to express hatred towards, and to argue against right for, Gypsies: (1) referring to Gypsies as the other' who are abnormal; (2) constructing criminality as a key characteristic of Gypsies; (3) suggesting that some Gypsies are 'bogus', which was used to argue against all Gypsies; and (4) presenting Gypsies as outside of the law and given favouritism over settled British communities. The findings are discussed in light of existing literature surrounding the prejudice towards Gypsies and other minorities and suggestions for overcoming this prejudice are presented.

Keywords: Romani, Gypsies, prejudice, hatred, discourse analysis, discursive psychology

Introduction

The prejudicial treatment of Gypsies

There has recently been an increased interest in issues surrounding Gypsies1 in the UK following the high-profile eviction of the 'Dale Farm' Traveller site2 and the popular Channel 4 television programme 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding'.3 Despite this increased interest, Gypsies are one of the most discriminated against minority groups in the UK (e.g. Kenrick and Bakewell 1995; Donahue, McVeigh and Ward 2003). Gypsies and Travellers are recognised as an ethnic minority in the UK; however, compared to that of other minority groups, hostility towards Gypsies is more socially acceptable (Tileaga 2006; Ellis and McWhirter 2008). A MORI poll in 2003 found that 35 per cent of UK residents, approximately 14 million people, admitted to prejudice against Gypsies (Stonewall 2003). Gypsies are one of the most deprived and arguably the most socially excluded minority group in the UK (Ellis and McWhirter 2008).

The exclusion and discrimination of the Gypsy and Traveller population in the UK is reflected in almost every aspect of their lives. This is apparent within the health service, where the British Medical Association considers Gypsies to be the most at risk' minority group; with the lowest life expectancy, ten years below national average, and the highest child mortality rate (Cemlyn et al. 2009), a figure worse than other ethnic minorities and socially deprived or excluded groups (e.g. Van Cleemput 2010). This exclusion also occurs in education where children show striking levels of under achievement (Ellis and McWhirter 2008) possibly caused by poor attendance at school, for which bullying and racism have been identified as a cause (Liegeois 1987).

A further aspect of Gypsy life where they face discrimination and exclusion is planning and site location. In 2007, 22 per cent of caravans in the UK were on unauthorised sites (Ellis and McWhirter 2008). Gypsies and Travellers living on unauthorised sites were found to suffer greater levels of stress and mental illness and to have poor access to services, which assists their exclusion from society (Ellis and McWhirter 2008). Half of the authorised sites provided by councils are located near motorways, railways, rubbish tips and sewage works (Ellis and McWhirter 2008).

Gypsies have been found to be discriminated against within the criminal justice system. Within the UK, recorded incidents of criminal acts by Gypsies are no higher than those within the settled community (O'Nions 1995); however, they are more likely to receive a custodial sentence and are less likely to receive bail than non-Gypsies (Meek 2007). Gypsies have disproportionately high rates of death in custody. Meek (2007) demonstrated that 'Gypsy-Travellers' have a more negative experience of the criminal justice system compared to other young prisoners. In the UK and Europe the police have been reported to use extreme force when dealing with Gypsies and Travellers especially when removing them from illegal encampments (Kabachnik 2010). …

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