What Does the Oppressor-Oppressed Dilemma of the Roma Teach us about Reified Consciousness
SPRING 2017 RACE AND CULTURE - A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE: ANNODATED BILIOGRAPHY
Oppressor and Oppressed: Logical Dialectical Categories? Tribute to Paulo Freire
By Carlos Alberto Torres
Revista Electrica Sintica, n. 45, julio-diciembre, 2015, pp. 1-5
Torres states that practically everyone has experienced injustice or maltreatment in some way and one need only extend this from the individual case to a collective case. He argues that one cannot denote
Freire's definition of the oppressed and oppressed as being Manichean. Instead, they are dialectic in nature and both incorporated in the same being at the same time, as one fluidly changes into the other, which
Torres refers to as the 'dual consciousness.' They are simply used as "'markers to identify the actual normativity involved in the analysis" that Freire made. Torres also states that Freire used his literacy, great observation and intuition to delve into the difficult topic on what an authoritarian personality is and
"provide[d] categories of analysis, an epistemology of curiosity and a spiritual goad to struggle." Thus, it is still a very important book to read.
Torres builds his arguments up on first defining what one considers to be the truth, namely what is reasonable and has not yet been able to be disproven. He goes on to explain what the categories used in an analysis should be: reasonably logical, distinct, probable and non-contradictory among themselves. To label the categories of the oppressor and oppressed as Manichean is incorrect, though easy to do, seeing as they co-exist in the same individuals. Instead, if one uses them as 'markers' instead, then one being can carry one market at one point and the other at another point in time. His example for this is that the Jews, who were persecuted and oppressed for hundreds of years, now have turned around and in turn oppressed the Palestinians and Lebanese. He firmly believes that, due to human rights being a "cosmopolitan international moral coda" that one can no longer live by the ideology of "an eye for an eye." Instead, based on what Freire stated, one should avoid the course of oppressing, exploiting, dominating or discriminating against other people - even if one is not always aware that one is doing so, due to it being subconscious - and will try to justify it in some way or another.
This article directly ties in to Freire, being mainly focused on his book, the Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
It also has ties to King, seeing as Torres also brings up the way that people tend to "forget" the uncomfortable things (as Torres puts it "historical amnesia"). In Torres analogy, he challenges the scale of injustice and oppression, bringing it to the collective scale, which is then goes from a hate crime to the
Holocaust and thus the Porajmos (the historical "ethnic cleansing" of the Roma by the Nazis). This inevitably links it to the guiding question, connecting the Roma with the terminology of the oppressed and potentially with the oppressors as well.
Just as Freire and Adorno state, the act of oppression shows a lack of love and compassion, while putting one's own self-interests above conviviality and basic human decency. The movement against this, according to Torres, began with the act of human rights, which are still being added on to today - even if they only try to guarantee a basal level of needs. It opens up several topics to debate, for instance at what point someone becomes an oppressor or an oppressed, as well as what to do when those basic human rights - that moral coda - fails and is violated, which leads to the next article.
Conflict Between Declared Roma Minority Rights and European Practice: Why the Legal Framework Doesn't Work in Really
36 Loy. L.A. Int'l & Comp. L. Revvv. 65 (2014)
Kuhelj argues that there are multiple things leading to the worsening conditions of the Roma in Europe. One of these reasons is that Europe has been becoming more right-wing - or even extreme right-wing - since the economic crisis in 2008. The extreme right have been pinning the blame for their issues on the Roma, using them as a type of scapegoat, leaving the people happier with the government, but increasing the negativity directed at the Roma. Due to the Roma being unwanted wherever they go, they are faced with poor living conditions, poor schooling (often from being placed in segregated schools) and are usually forced to live on the outskirts of society. They cannot get jobs due to racism and thus cannot escape these conditions. While the EU talks a lot, it has not been able to enforce the Roma's human rights in the European Union, as violations go unsanctioned and the media backlash eventually dies down. The most liberal legislation does not mean anything if it is not enforced. The countries make big promises concerning increasing the Roma's state of living, but do not follow through on it, despite the EU having budgeted money for the cause, which mainly goes untouched. Kuhelj goes on to state that the way to counteract these issues is through education, which will help them rise out of impoverishment and thus also eradicate the stigma placed on them that causes them to pass themselves off as non-Roma (such as
Turks). Furthermore, derogative words such as "Gypsy" and "Tsigani" should be eradicated from our vocabulary or we should start using them to mean "travelers" instead of being an insult.
The way that Kuhelj goes about arguing her point is through bringing up multiple cases and examples of where the Roma's human rights were ignored as well as how the EU (European Union), European Council and the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) have responded to these infringements. In her analysis of the anti-discrimination laws, she focuses on France, Italy, Hungary and Slovakia. In France, the Roma without French citizenship have regularly been evicted from their lands and sent back to whence they came, which has turned into a vicious cycle of them constantly returning again. In Italy, the government took the fingerprints of the Roma - regardless of age - and evicted them from their settlements or putting them into segregated camps off in the middle of nowhere without basic sources for food or medicine. In Hungary they are put to work for wages that are far below the minimum wage, expected to steal goods and fined more heavily for petty crimes, like jaywalking. Meanwhile extremists and police attack the Roma, while people just watch and look away. In Slovakia, a new reform for the social care system that was supposed to help people get normal paying jobs turned into a type of unofficial slavery: in order to receive social aid, they have to participate in these working programs, but their pay is below the minimum wage and thus some companies will lay off workers and have their work done by this working program, because it cuts their costs.
This article ties into a lot of material covered in class, but I believe that the closest ties it has are actually to King Jr., as it brings the poverty of the Roma into context with the diminishing fertility rates in Europe. If Europe wants to survive its aging population and be able to pay the social security for its retirees, then it will need a workforce that is earning enough to pay for the social security and retirement funds. This goes hand in hand with King stating that all of a community has to be well of in order for them to be well off. Additionally, it keeps on stating that the Europeans have to remember what they have forgotten. With the rise of the extreme right parties, they are falling into the same traps that led to the Holocaust and Porajmos, with growing Antisemitism and Antiziganism. They should remember the lessons they learned from that and not deny that it even happened. Another aspect that ties it in with King is the fact that it shows that legislation alone is not enough - it is only the first step. The next step is getting rid of the associated stigma through education.
In the article, Kuhelj speaks of a certain lack of progression. The laws move forward, but do not really change anything. The non-Roma citizens are generally for getting rid of the Roma (up to eighty percent agreed with their persecution in Italy) and people just look the other way. A stark example of this was illustrated by the tourists enjoying the sun on a beach on Italy, sitting near the corpse of a Roma girl. This coldness, the lack of forward momentum and the freezing of legislation, when the supreme courts rule against these discriminatory laws (or rule against an anti-discrimination law, as the case may be), are indicative of the reified consciousness. It also states that one of the issues is that the Roma do not have a civil rights movement and thus they are not moving forward either. The only country that was spoken of in which the Roma protested for their rights was in Slovakia and while the protests were mostly peaceful, they were labeled "Gypsy unrest" and "Roma riots," causing Slovakia to mobilize the police and military to "monitor the Roma community and establish public order." When fearing for one's life, it is difficult to engage in creative protest.
If Torres is correct and human rights are the first basic step to leaving the oppressor-oppressed dilemma, then this article indicates we are still a long way from implementing it. While the media gets all up in arms about it, the countries know that there will be something else that comes up soon enough that will take the attention away from them again. The governments try and disguise their stance against minorities, citing that they are just trying to eliminate crime, human trafficking, prostitution, unemployment, etc. by relocating the Roma.
The aspect of the reified consciousness ties into my question, as it illustrates the coldness and lack of empathy that is prevalent in reified consciousness. Additionally, it proves that the Roma are definitely being oppressed and the non-Roma feel that the Roma are taking all the social care benefits they can without giving anything back due to being "lazy." Thus, the non-Roma feel that they are being unjustly treated by the government. This leads to the oppressors feeling like they are also the oppressed.
Meanwhile, the Roma try to scrape by and that sometimes means stealing from the non-Roma. (Roma law prohibits them from stealing from other Roma, but not from non-Roma.) They cannot find work because they are discriminated against and thus they cannot get food, but if they steal the stigma and prejudice against them increases and is reaffirmed. Thus, they are not working at re-educating the oppressor and are, to a much lesser extent, oppressing the oppressor.
However, the question on how the education of the Roma should look like is still open, which is what the next article will focus on.
Roma as Homines Educandi: a collective subject between educational provision, social control and humanism
Trubeta, Sevasti. w: Maja Miskovic (red.), Roma education in Europe, London: Routledge 2013, pp.15-28
Sevasti notes that in the modern neoliberal understanding of humanism, peoples' living conditions are often examined out of context. This leads to issues as the group in question becomes essentialized and their systemic conditions, poor education and marginalization remain underexposed. Instead, the Roma are shown as the "foster child" of Europe that resists all efforts to be integrated, which in turn facilitates the revival of the Roma stereotype and its "unchangeable essence." All Roma and considered to be part of a unit, completely ignoring the fact that the term "Roma" is merely an umbrella term.
The Roma's traditional way of life, of nomadism and of being extremely marginalized, were disturbing to the Europeans, as they were trying to create internal social cohesion and development. The Roma just did not fit in to their plans. She points out that positive discrimination, when targeted at a single group rather than those of a certain economical status is ambivalent and only helps to reinforce the unequal power distribution. She argues that it is the threat to social cohesion that turns inequality into a concern, and thus one should shift the focus from the social and educational care of Roma to the conditions that cause inequality and the "crucial role [that] racist prejudices and practices play" therein.
Trubeta's argumentation is based on laying out the various steps taken throughout history in the effort to educate the Roma. She starts with the Age of Enlightenment, where the concept of educating the Roma to turn them into useful citizens instead of prosecuting them came up. Indeed, they found that persecution did not work at all and that one needed to reeducate them instead.
She then makes a leap into the 1960s during which the Roma picked up the concept of education as a means of emancipating themselves. Parents came to realize the importance of education in order to function in the modern working world. However, that also led to the idea of segregated schools coming up, which would "protect the Roma children" because normal classes might cause "psychological problems for children who were socialized in their own community." Ideally these classes would be taught by other Roma. The education of the Roma was founded upon human rights.
When Europe opened up again as the iron curtain fell, the Roma in Eastern Europe fell into poverty as they were excluded from the labor market, which caused a perpetuation of poverty, poor education and exclusion. Education was seen as a way to integrate the Roma into the labor market, but people found that school attendance was not enough to do so - the quality of education was equally important. Thus, Europe began to realize that segregated schools were perhaps not the best idea. However, according to the UNICEF, the disadvantages that the Roma children face in schooling has not gone away - in fact it has exacerbated over the past two decades.
Positive discrimination, one could state, is "a difference that doesn't make a difference" as Stewart Hall would put it. The idea that the Roma could be reeducated came out of the so-called high literature and while it is better than the former zero-sum game, in which the Roma cannot be reeducated as it is part of his or her inherent nature and thus cannot be changed. Thus a type of reified consciousness was ascribed to the Roma in their "unwillingness to change" and "adherence to their own culture." However, the article shows that once this ascribed reified consciousness was set aside, researchers found that this was not true. The Roma did care about their children's education, knowing that it was the only way out of poverty.
Similarly to Torres, Trubeta stresses the importance that human rights have played in the education of the Roma, due to the Roma emancipation movement tying human rights and education together in people's minds. Trubeta is also much more optimistic about their involvement than Kuhelj is. However, similarly to Kuhelj, she sees the potential threat that poor education causes of trapping the Roma in their social margins and unemployability. Thus, both agree that education is the way to exit the Roma's dilemma. In my understanding, both articles somewhat contradict each other, as Trubeta writes about the Roma emancipation movement that is based on their education, while Kuhelj states that there is no Roma civil rights movement. If there is, in fact a movement then this would mean that the Roma are not as immobile as Kuhelj's report would lead to believe.
Additionally, pertaining to the oppressor-oppressed dilemma, the article points out several articles in which the author went into the study with one idea and came out of it with another idea - such as the transformation of the idea that the Roma children are naturally bad at school to the acknowledgement that at least some Roma children had improved scholastically. Thus, one could argue that the Roma were educating the non-Roma on themselves through these reports - especially as the reports turned towards understanding the Roma's point of view on things.
As this article points out, the idea of segregated education did not pan out and the attempts thus far to educate the Roma have fallen flat, despite the Roma's awareness that education is the only way to escape their perpetual poverty due to marginalization and exclusion from the labor pool. Thus, education cannot stand on its own in integrating the Roma. The next article will focus on the inclusion of the Roma by splitting them up and spreading them out in order to try and force them to assimilate to the country's culture.
Los Gitanos (Gypsies) in La Coru, Spain: Neither socially included nor integrated?
International Journal of Iberian Studies, Volume 23, Number 2, 2010
Briggs main argument is that, while some of the Roma do participate in drug trafficking, this was practically forced upon them due to there being few other sources of income for them in order to support their families. Furthermore, TV reports, which are the main source of information for the non-Roma, due to the Roma being invisible in most people's daily life, focus on connecting the Roma with the drug trade and failed integration programs. Additionally, Briggs discovered there to be a discrepancy in what the Roma and non-Roma perceived as integration. The non-Roma consider it to be about "retaining a quality of life and equilibrium in the class status quo" and not about equality or diversity. The Roma, on the other hand, think of it in terms of how they have been kept from mainstream life: equality, access to opportunity, recognition and respect.
Briggs formulates his arguments by first covering the history of the Roma in Span and in La Coru, which is interlaced with excerpts from interviews he's done with social workers and residents, both Roma and non-Roma. The Roma that have been successfully integrated are still looked at with much skepticism and mistrust, even as they are tolerated by the non-Roma. Additionally, the government's attempts at integrating Roma families by moving them into areas shared with non-Roma are often met with protests, due to the non-Roma's fear of the Roma's criminal and anti-social behavior. There seems to be a certain lack of trust in the government coming from the Roma, due to them not keeping their promises in the past. This goes as far as leading some Roma families to refuse financial aid and better housing in order to stay where they are (something that the non-Roma meet with indignation).
The article points out a lack of communication between the government and the Roma agencies. This coupled with the TV broadcasts that merely enforce the prejudice that is already inherent and the lack of dialogue between the Roma and non-Roma citizens shows that there is a lack of genuine dialogue. The non-Roma want to keep the status quo of being the oppressor and get upset when the Roma get treated preferentially when it comes to new housing, if they are in one of the reallocation programs.
Meanwhile, the Roma blame the non-Roma on their plight, stating that if the non-Roma were willing to hire them to perform honest labor, they would be able to exit their plight. They will also point out that, while many Roma distribute the dugs, the police do not find huge caches of it on them. They always find the caches on non-Roma, the drugs are brought into the country by non-Roma and yet the non-Roma blame drugs on the Roma. Having been disappointed by the government far too often, the Roma do not trust them and their promises.
One of the ways to eliminate the issues with the marginalization of the other, as was covered in class and reiterated in various forms throughout our literature, is through genuine dialogue. The non-Roma are distantly aware of the Roma's plight, but habitually forget about it whenever there is a TV report, replacing this awareness with racism. The article also reveals a non-Roma ethnocentrism of "why wouldn't you want to be like us?" thus going back to Stewart Hall's description of high culture and low culture.
One thing that all of the articles agree on is that education and finding jobs is the only way possible to eradicate the plight of the Roma. However, this article, more than any of the others I covered in here, shows the importance of genuine dialogue. As long as the oppressors and the oppressed do not meet and talk to each other, there will not be any change happening. The Roma will not truly become integrated nor will they be socially included. Thus, they will always have to return to their own communities to find a social system that they can fall back on.
If the information is only flowing on one side and not being interchanged, then there is a lack of movement and a lack of interest in the "other." People become set in their ways and find it difficult to dispose of these prejudices - even when faced with proof of the opposite. These people have to remember what they have conveniently forgotten and ignored.
I would venture to say that the non-Roma have to be educated according to Freire. All of these articles have shown the perils of non-Roma trying to cultivate and educate the Roma and none of these have led to viable solutions to the oppressed-oppressor dilemma. Additionally, the genuine dialogue invoked through educating the non-Roma on the Roma, will lead to people changing their opinions and thus movement and breaking out of static prejudice, which will lead to people questioning what they see on the media instead of taking it at face value. The invisibility of the Roma in this city merely perpetuates the problem, rather than solving it.
Additionally, the fact that some of the Roma families would rather live in squalor than be relocated and integrated shows a potential loss of hope and the belief that the system always wins (to use Hall's words). According to Freire and King, the most important thing to never lose is hope. They have to transform the situation they are in into a positive one. It is possible that those who are willing to reallocate in return for economic opportunities are trying to do this.
Personally, I would welcome it if one day the education of the Roma has reached far enough that if I were to research this topic again, I would find articles that are written by Roma rather than by non-Roma. As Lugones and Spelman stated: one can the oppressor can never speak for the oppressed, because they can never truly speak in their voice or in their language.