Antigypsyism is the specific racism towards Roma, Sinti, Travellers and others who are stigmatized as ‘gypsies’ in the public imagination. Although the term is finding increasing institutional recognition, there is as yet no common understanding of its nature and implications. Antigypsyism is often used in a narrow sense to indicate anti-Roma attitudes or the expression of negative stereotypes in the public sphere or hate speech. However, antigypsyism gives rise to a much wider spectrum of discriminatory expressions and practices, including many implicit or hidden manifestations. Antigypsyism is not only about what is being said, but also about what is being done and what is not being done. To recognize its full impact, a more precise understanding is crucial.
Antigypsyism - A reference paper
A compelling contribution to the debate; international organizations, including the UN and the European Union will have to take note of this call to shift their perspective on Roma inclusion."
Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, Special Rapporteur on minority issues of the UN Human Rights Council
This paper continues the decades-long attempt to describe the centuries-long problem of antigypsyism. It emphasizes the institutional neglect of responsibility to fight it. A next step would be to explore how institutions enforce and grow antigypsyism. Now, when the xenophobic populists threatening the EU are clearly using antigypsyism for electoral gains, the rest of the European politicians cannot afford to keep ignoring it. They must confront it once and for all."
Zeljko Jovanovic, director of the Roma Initiatives Office of Open Society Foundations

Working Definition of Antigypsyism

Antigypsyism is a historically constructed, persistent complex of customary racism against social groups identified under the stigma ‘gypsy’ or other related terms, and incorporates:

  1. a homogenizing and essentializing perception and description of these groups;

  2. the attribution of specific characteristics to them;

  3. discriminating social structures and violent practices that emerge against that background, which have a degrading and ostracizing effect and which reproduce structural disadvantages."


Antigypsyism - a reference paper

Much as last year’s resolution on antigypsyism that I managed to get passed in the European Parliament this reference paper marks a watershed moment. A rallying cry from European Roma, Sinti and Traveller civil society, united behind a common viewpoint, letting us politicians know that the Roma issues will haunt us if we do not act."
Soraya Post - Member of the European Parliament
"The term antigypsyism is increasingly used, but there is no common understanding of its scope, depth and implications. This hinders the formulation of effective answers to tackle it.”
Jamen Gabriela Hrabanova, director of ERGO Network (European Roma Grassroots Organizations Network)

Key Aspects of Antigypsyism

Firstly, it is essential to see that antigypsyism is not a 'minority issue'. It is a phenomenon of our societies, which has its origin in how the social majority view and treat those whom they consider 'gypsies'. To combat antigypsyism, our attention needs to shift to mainstream societies, while raising the voices of those who are dramatically affected by antigypsyism, but also usually silenced by it.

Antigypsyism is not a ‘minority issue’!

Secondly, antigypsyism is not the result of the poor living conditions many Roma have to live in, or the result of ‘how different they are'. The idea that promoting Roma integration is the main path to countering antigypsyism is a fallacy that misconstrues the origins and essence of antigypsyism. It inverts cause and effect.
Thirdly, addressing the effects of discriminatory treatment – poverty, poor quality housing, substandard education, to name a few – is necessary, but in and of itself does nothing to eradicate the ultimate source of the disadvantaged position of many Romani citizens. Consequently, antigypsyism cannot be simply treated as a thematic issue, alongside housing, education, health and employment. It needs to be dealt with as an integral part of thematic policies.
Finally, what sets antigypsyism apart is its high level of social acceptance. There is a general leniency towards antigypsyist attitudes and practices. The moral stigma attached to other forms of racism is largely absent for antigypsyism. Europe has seen the emergence of a ‘reasonable antigypsyism’ : To scold Roma and take discriminatory action towards them is all too often perceived as justifiable and legitimate. Antigypsyism is the norm rather than the exception in public discourse.
Antigypsyism is not only widespread, but also deeply entrenched in social and cultural attitudes and institutional practice. This makes the challenge of tackling it both more urgent and more difficult. Antigypsyism is like a continuous headwind. 'Roma inclusion' will remain illusory as long as we do not confront the headwind itself.

‘Roma inclusion’ will remain illusory as long as we do not confront the headwind itself.

European racism against Roma is relying mostly on ignorance. We need to practice our citizenship in our countries and work for equity and solidarity. The reference paper convincingly defines antigypsyism as a major obstacle for equal citizenship. We need to show what we are, our diversity and our contributions to humanity."
Ciprian Necula, State secretary, Ministry of European Funds, Contact Point for Roma of Romanian Government
Image: Nihad Nino Pušija