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Reader feedback: Specialness learned late

Re: Affirmative action and reactions, Sep 20-26, Vol 10, No 36

How come Slovak people have not been able to put anything into their educational system to teach people about what real Roma values and culture are, and show respect to human beings who are of equal value?

My mother finished high school and became a nurse in Slovakia. She was taught in school that "gypsies" like her had no culture and that her language was an amalgamation of different criminal slang from Greek, Russian, Bulgarian, etc. She was taught that "gypsies" were not a distinct ethnic group, but just people who have been marginalised by society. She never spoke the Roma language because it was forbidden to speak it publicly.

It was not until she was 40 years old, lived in the United States and read in a schoolbook of mine that she learned that Roma originally came from India, that they have their own distinct culture and values, and that their language is derived from Sanskrit. She knew she had a culture and tradition that was special, and she had to live with attitudes of the majority around her thinking that she was born from the dregs of criminal society.

When Slovak people learn in school about what Roma culture really is, I am certain Slovakia would have much less trouble with Roma, because they would simply feel themselves a more valuable part of society.

Munich, Germany

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