Once every 10 years European societies come together to count their people. The information they find informs the priorities they make and the decisions they take. Put simply the more people we can encourage to declare their Romani identity, the more governments will have to do to help our people and celebrate our culture.
For decades governments have undercounted the true extent of Europe’s Romani nations because we allowed the governments to do so – we have found it easier to hide our true ethnic identity behind our national identities. Centuries of injustice, mistreatment and fear made has made us ashamed of publicly expressing our ethnic pride. In 2021 governments will be counting all people, some with the Romani identity on their forms for the very first time. It is a once in a decade opportunity to put Romani identity firmly at the heart of each European nation. If the extent our numbers were ever fully recognised governments would see us not so much as a marginal problem but a golden opportunity. Politicians, after all, crave votes and businesses crave customers.
In this year’s census, we face the most critical of questions: who are you? The way you answer will determine not only what you want but also what we will get. Do we want to be free? Do we want to be free in our hearts and minds so that we can say we are proud to be Roma? Do we want to be free of the chains of fear and shame? Do we want to be free to pay respect to our elders and ancestors who were enslaved, tortured, sterilised, and exterminated but still fought back by all possible peaceful means, or will we betray them? The future of our children to go grow up in a world which is free for fear and where there culture survives in is at stake.