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Reader feedback: Help, but not too much

Re: Roma threaten to block highways, Flash news briefs, March 1 - 7, 2004, Vol 10, No 8

The problem at hand is how to deal fairly with this minority without causing social unrest or a backlash from the majority population.

In America, lower birth rates combined with increased educational and job opportunities for African Americans ultimately quelled much (but certainly not all) of the racial unrest in the black community. Some argue that lower birth rates in the black community resulted from Nixon's revamping [and reducing] aid for families with dependent children. If that's the case (and it certainly has not been proven), then giving the Roma more welfare is not a solution.

The government needs to give Roma children equal opportunity but not cash handouts. I think that might be the secret of America's success with African Americans. Corporate America, universities, and the government have worked very hard over the past 20 years to increase opportunities for African Americans, and I think it is finally beginning to pay off because we now have a much bigger black middle class in places like Atlanta and Washington, DC than we ever did in the past. Where I work, many senior leaders are black. This is a great thing - something to be proud of. However, it took a lot of work and lot of attitude changes from the majority population.

I think Slovakia and the EU need to view the Roma problem in a similar way. Start by looking at ways to improve child nutrition. From there, improve educational opportunities for children, and then job opportunities. Be careful not to show too much favouritism to the group. However, no one will argue with the government if it focuses most of its attention on education, nutrition, and health care for children. Eventually, the government will need help from the majority in trying to integrate this population into the social mainstream, but that's a long way off and hopefully the unemployment situation in eastern Slovakia will be much better by then. For now, keep the focus on children and use the police and military sparingly. If people break the law, arrest them. Otherwise, keep a low profile and even bring in foreign police or observers so that the Roma feel they are being treated fairly by law enforcement.

Washington, DC, USA

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