Bandung du nord – “Us, for ourselves”

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From May 4-6, 2018 the Committee of the Bandung of the North organized an international conference in Paris in the spirit of the 1955 Bandung conference. It was the first international conference of colored people that took up the issues of people of color who are living in the Global North to discuss matters of common concern. It raised issues of race, immigration, Islamophobia, antisemitism, Palestinian rights and Anti-gypsyism within the framework of colonialism and neo-colonialism.

The conference had a plenary session with keynote speakers: Angela Davis, Fred Hampton JR, Ramon Grosfoguel, Houria Bouteldja, among others. Different discussions explored different themes from the rise of the police state to the relationship between social movements from Black, Indigenous, Roma, Asian, Islamic and Jewish communities. The denunciation of the structural Antigypsyism by Sebijan Fejzula as representative of Kale Amenge was a milestone in our struggle for the building of our political autonomy and for the inclusion of Roma emancipation as key component in the international decolonial agenda.

Sebijan Fejzula´s speech at Bandung du Nord´s Forum #1: Intra-community racism. How to fight them and to build strategical alliances between communities?

Bonjour, Salam aleikum, Shukar dive savorenge

I am Sebijan Fejzula, a Romni from Macedonia, member of Kale Amenge, a Roma Decolonial organizations and a researcher in the Centre for Social studies in Portugal, but today I will speak from the ghetto experience, today I defy to be diluted under the universal, giving light and making visible all those realities of the Roma people that have been ignored for a long time. Let me be clear, these are not intimate complains, but rather accounts of racism. Is a slow traumatic racism, therefore, theorizing Roma experience in Europe is a difficult task. James Baldwin understood this, he reminded us that “there has been almost no language” to describe the “horrors” of black life.

Yet, there is not a greater pleasure, sense of belonging and sense of acknowledgment than to be here, among all of you, and most importantly to be able to share and reflect the struggle of my people, the Roma. I do start with these words because historically, even currently, antigypsyism has played no role or a secondary role in the anti-racist struggles. We, the Roma constantly ask ourselves why? For some people, we deserve it, so this society is not anti-gypsy, it is not racism, but we are the Problem, we are the stealers, the beggars, you name it, but what we really are for them, what they see when they look at us is a constant reminder of a persistence impurity, a group of people unable to be civilized within the western imaginary civilization. If that civilization includes us being forced to leave our identity, language, a tradition if it includes extermination of my people if it includes not recognizing our victims as victims of the current antigypsyism, neither a recognition of our ancestors who died in Porraimos, the Roma Holocaust, then, I ask who the uncivilized is?

Why are the deeply racist attitudes towards us barely mentioned and hidden behind talks of civilizational values? In the great words of Houria Buteldja, first, let’s leave the fascination for the white men aside, that same fascination whose roots are deeply internalized among us, creating hierarchies and violence between us as a strategy to destroy any possible political alliance, to destroy any threat that could create a disorder within the western internal order. To destroy what Houria calls a revolutionary love!

The plenary table I am taking part of is named Racism among racialized people, in this matter I say, a fundamental task for us is to break the struggle with the hegemonic models of how we see ourselves appositionally, in ways that are liberatory and emancipatory for us. The ideological construction of Modernity, as a system of domination, is created in a way that does not allow us, as members of the subordinated group to confront the internal coloniality. In this sense, we as subordinated groups, are in a continuous process of developing a connection with ourselves through the presence of the white other, as a result of our historical placement as the “Others” and never as the ‘self’.

The European construction of ‘race’ builds political and historical obstacles under which bringing up issues on race and racism, from one hand is almost impossible due to its “unspoken subtext”, and on the other hand, the creation of ‘race’ as a “lifestyle” allows certain justifications and legitimization. Consequently, certain norms occur and disappear depending on higher processes with the power to decide which subjects are or are not matter of recognition. Historically, this also meant legitimizing the used power and practices of relations of superiority/inferiority between the dominant and the oppressed groups, which actually made our self-definition even more difficult.

The epistemic construction of the dialectical relation between concepts as The savages, victims and the saviours are Eurocentric, western-oriented approach from one side, as it gives rise to the idea of barbarism, cultural people who cannot even represent themselves, therefore, it requires the creation of the saviours (white middle-class people) whose main role is to “save” the “others” in the name of humanism without colour. The idea of without color has brought one of the biggest blindness to the white feminist movements, describing women’s experience only through analyzing patriarchy and sexism and actually overseeing the role of race.

Antigypsyism as a form and product of racism is a brutal reality of my people. This reality, experienced not only by the Roma people, rather by everyone who felt racism in their own skin, that involvement with the “white world” has been mostly decayed and not recognized. The act of neglecting is what has motivated us, the members of Kale Amenge to fight against it because what is unknown to our knowledge, will always remain silent!

Today we meet Europe which openly claims its antigypsyism, calling for ethnic cleansing or even extermination; but nor our people, neither our values nor our culture are the problems, as it has never been. It is urgent to point out the root of the problem, and also its color, that is why we as members of Kale Amenge, not only we will not talk about the so-called “Roma problems”, but from now on with a greater accuracy we will talk about the “Gadje problem”, in essence, “the white problem”, thereby exercising our legitimacy to call and define the world according to our living´s conditions.

To conclude this historical moment, I will do it in the words of Angela Davis:

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”

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