If "gypsies" is a derogatory label for a minority group, why do we use it?
The word "gypsies" has long been used as a disparaging term for the Roma/ Romani/ Romany people, also called "Traveling People," "Tinkers" and many other names. The Roma were mistakenly believed to have come from Egypt, and "gypsies" was slang for dark-haired, dark-skinned people from Egypt. Genetic, linguistic and cultural evidence shows they probably arose from the Indian subcontinent in the first and second centuries A.D.
As a minority group pretty much wherever they've gone, Roma have endured centuries of oppression and marginalization. Roma are a culturally diverse, vibrant and proud people and still live across Central and Eastern Europe. Some Romani groups have settled down in communities and others still travel as their preferred lifestyle.
You might wonder, why do we call ourselves a pejorative term for an ethnic minority? Isn't that insulting to them and/or a cultural appropriation?
What great questions! We're glad you asked!
Language shapes our thinking in just about every way. We're re-purposing the word "Gypsies" and joining it with the word "Joy" for two very big reasons:
1. We're Siding with the Beauty and Pride of a Nomadic Lifestyle in a Modern World, as a Means of also Transforming the World.
We're very aware that we're not Roma by ethnicity and that we're privileged to travel as full-time RVers. We honor our Roma sisters and brothers for shining a light on the need to acknowledge and celebrate the great diversity of human experience.
We also know that more settled people--including many of our friends--have a hard time wrapping their minds around what it means to be a nomad. We're offering them a good stretch for their imaginations and their notions of what's possible.
In common usage today, the term "gypsy" has lost a lot of its former negativity and now has more positive connotations of freedom and non-conformity. Many of today's Roma no longer see "gypsy" as a derogatory term, and we're happy about that. We hope to keep nudging the meaning of "gypsy" in that positive direction.
As for cultural appropriation, we know we are running the risk that some may see it that way. We're also considering that: 1) the Roma didn't choose that name for themselves, 2) the term has come into frequent positive use without negative reference to the Roma people, and 3) many Roma themselves no longer take offense at the word. We're publicly and purposefully using and reframing the term "gypsy" in positive context only.
If in fact we've offended you because you are Roma, we ask your forgiveness. We'd welcome an opportunity to talk with you and get your personal perspective. Please click here to contact us.
2. We're Reclaiming Joy as a Birthright—for You and Ourselves.
During the last few decades, joy has gone out of fashion. Our culture in the United States has put a muzzle on joy, trying to make people believe that joy is a childish way of viewing the world. Mainstream culture has delighted in morbidly deconstructing our heroes and heroines alike to show us their darker sides. Comedies have grown darkly cynical to look modern and wise to the ways of the world--and made mockery of innocence, for laughs.
Joy has become harnessed to the shame of innocence. We first inherited this trend from Post Modernism and then kept it going through unfettered capitalism. Innocence is the original sin the worldly try to snuff out.
The funny thing is, all this darkness is a form of self-protection against gullibility, when what we're really avoiding is vulnerability.
Joy in its essence is innocent delight with childlike abandon, without fear of disapproval or judgment, and unfettered from the fear of reprisal.
Denigrating joy is damaging to the human psyche. The extraction of joy from our lives pushes us into fear, resignation, loneliness and despair. Living from that place, we actually become easier to manipulate! Our suggestibility to what might "save" us--from poverty, from illness, from loneliness--increases when we're in a state of fear and overwhelm.
Joy and love are antidotes to isolation, overwhelm and fear.
Xochitl and I are optimists, as defined by Mark Twain:
"Optimist: person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness."
Besides, Mark Twain was right:
Let's travel together and transform the world. Together We Can.