The journey back to airport in New Orleans was very interesting. I met Vitaliae. He told me that he was from Maldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe. He has been in NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) for about 3 years now. He had ‘only’ 3 boys (11, 8 and 3 years old) and his wife took care of them along with working part-time. ‘I couldn’t give her a girl,’ he chuckled to himself. He believed that his wife was to take care of his boys but had studied science enough to know that she wasn’t responsible for bearing boys. A clear mix of patriarchy and break-down of masculinity right there!
Vitaliae is from Roma community and his family settled in Maldova after World War II. Being from Roma community, Vitaliae was severely discriminated in school. ‘I was made to sit at the far end of the classroom. No other kid would sit with me or talk to me except while teasing me; calling me a gypsy.’ His wife is from Maldova. ‘Now, my children do not look like ‘gypsy’ and hopefully they will not be teased at school’. Or so he thought. He came to U.S. in search of a better world. ‘We were only second in Maldova. Always the ‘other’, he struggled to tell me. Roma identity is not claimed, often by the educated ones since it still holds a lot of stigma. ‘I had bought a home in Maldova but still it didn’t feel like home. So we moved’, he tells me.
Roma community or Romani people faces a lot of discrimination in many spheres including education. Although they are about 12 million members in Europe, about 90 percent of them live in poverty. A 12-country program called Decade of Roma Inclusion was found to be successful in access to education but it’s not just access which keeps children in schools. Only 20 percent of children complete primary school. The numbers for girls is even lower. The ones who make it to schools due to awakened or conscious parents, are alienated from their peers due to their ethnic identity and racism in classes. They are over surveyed in school due to negative stereotypes against them. The formal education system does not include their history or language in their curriculum. No wonder the Roma community feels the education is ‘not for them’. The opportunity to jobs is also very scarce as is housing for them.
In U.S., Vitaliae drives taxi during the day and works as a bartender at night to sustain his family. Escaping from one discrimination into another. Discrimination exists in U.S. society as well for him but it is not the discrimination being associated as a ‘gypsy’. He has escaped that as he moved from ‘his’ country. Being part of a diaspora here, has liberated him in that sense. Although, he has landed into discrimination of class, race and immigration status in U.S. ‘I do not want to remember that time from my life. It was too sad, ‘Vitaliae tells me as he smiles. ‘This is better’, and prints a receipt for my travel.