Antigypsyism Tackling racist clichés about Romani people

Introduction

Background information and didactical perspective

Antigypsyist ideology is founded on the stigmatisation of individuals and groups as ‘gypsies’. This stigmatisation draws its purported legitimacy from the assumption that those belonging to the group labelled ‘gypsies’ form a homogeneous entity with immutable characteristics. A further feature of antigypsyism is the generalising attribution to this group of stereotypical, abnormal traits, which may find expression in claims such as ‘it’s in the gypsy blood’ or ‘Romani people tend to steal’. The core of these stereotypes is formed by beliefs which have often existed for centuries and resurface repeatedly in societies in response to contemporary situations.

Antigypsyist exclusion, discrimination and persecution refer to this ideology. Usually and most often, those actions and social structures target Romani people, but - depending on social and historical circumstances – they can also affect other groups or individuals perceived as ‘gypsies’.

The work with Facebook posts and media reports in this series of lessons is intended to enable students to critique depictions of this group in mass and social media. The role play’s purpose is to provide a pupil-centred practical opportunity for pupils to experience processes of group dynamics that generate discrimination and empathise with those subject to them.

Learning outcomes

Competencies
  • Accurately recapping and critically evaluating media content and analysing it in accordance with tasks set; learning about opportunities and risks associated with social media (media competencies)
  • Accurately explaining and analysing the workings of discrimination using the example of antigypsyism
  • Putting oneself in another’s place and empathising with their perspective (multi-perspectivity)
  • Arriving at and reflecting upon one’s own point of view on political and social issues
  • Describing ways of tackling discrimination
  • Successfully working in a heterogeneous group and contributing to the group on one’s own initiative
  • Ability to openly and non-violently discuss and resolve conflict; respectful engagement with others and their points of view (values orientation)
Topics / National curriculum
Antigypsyism, discrimination, racism, violence and conflict, minorities, Romani people, media, Difference and Respect for Diversity, Actions that can be taken individually and collectively, Ethically responsible behaviour
Antigypsyism
  • Suitable age
    14-18
  • Time frame
    3 x 45 min.
  • Required materials
    board/flip chart; smartphones/computer with internet access for students; computer with internet access and attached projector; computer workstations or mobile terminals;
  • Description
    This topic explores the workings and mechanisms of prejudice and racism directed towards Romani people and other groups stigmatised as ‘gypsies’ (antigypsyism{/1})
  • Subjects / Topics
    Ethics/Religion Political Studies

Lesson plan

Abbreviations:

  • A = Activity
  • D = Discussion
  • GW = Group work
  • HW = Homework
  • PW = Partnerwork
  • PTS = Previous Teacher’s Study
  • PO = Pupils opinions
  • PP = Pupil’s presentations
  • TP = Teacher’s presentation

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Phase Content Type of activity Media, Material

Introduction
(15 min.)

Objective
  • Pupils will engage with and find out key information on the events around ‘Maria’ and the subsequent public debate on the case.
Preparation
  • The teacher provides sufficient copies of materials 3, 4 and 5 (three groups) and ensures the technical conditions for the projection of the videos of material 1 and 2.
  • Flipchart, blackboard or smartboard are available.
  • The teacher may prepare herself or himself by reading about the history of Roma (see for example ‘Fact Sheets on Roma History’, https://www.coe.int/t/dg4/education/roma/histoculture_EN.asp)
Execution
  • Step 1 The teacher shows the video produced by the Fundación Secretariado Gitano (Material 1) and distributes the transcript.
    • Subtitles in different languages are available.
  • Step 2 The teacher introduces the topic of the module and responds to any pupil questions on the material. Pupils may ask questions such as:
    • Who or what are ‘Romani people’?
    • What do people mean when they say ‘gypsy’?
    • What is antigypsyism?
The teacher should avoid overloading the pupils with information at this point, and should simply provide sufficient information for them to acquire a basic understanding of the following film on the case of Maria. The remainder of the lesson, particularly the group work phase, will provide opportunities to explore all further questions.
  • TP
  • D
M1
Video, transcript “I'm not a swindler”

Main section
(15 min.)

  • Step 1 The teacher shows the video produced by Deutsche Welle (Material 2) and distributes the transcript.
  • Step 2 The teacher should divide the pupils into three groups of equal size.
  • Step 3 Group 1 will read the information in Material 3 and answer the questions on Worksheet 1.
  • Step 4 Meanwhile, group 2 will read the press release issued by the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma (Material 4) and do the corresponding worksheet.
  • Step 5 Group 3 reads the informative piece by Benjamin Ignác on the case of ‘Maria’ from the perspective of Roma NGOs (Material 5) and completes worksheet 3.
  • Step 6 During this phase, the teacher should be available to support pupils’ work, respond to questions and aid understanding.
  • Step 7 The teacher may wish to encourage the groups to find their own examples of discriminatory reporting and present them to the rest of the class. If they act on this suggestion, it will be imperative to point out and discuss elements of discriminatory reporting within the example/s presented. These may include:
    • Inappropriate generalisations
    • Inaccurate assumptions and/or unfair conclusions
    • Suggestive questions which are in fact statements
    • The use of discriminatory statements or language stemming from third parties without comment or contextualisation
    • Selective reporting, stereotypical images
    • Emotional or dramatic language
  • A
M2
Video, transcript “Romani people protest against reporting on ‘Maria’”
M3
Worksheet “The ‘Maria’ case in the media”
M4
Worksheet “Press release issued by Central Council of German Sinti and Roma”
M5
Worksheet “The case of ‘Maria’ from the point of view of Roma NGOs”

Presentation of results
(15 min.)

  • Step 1 Now the pupils briefly outline the results of their group work to the rest of the class.
  • Step 2 Depending on availability of facilities, they can use a smartboard or alternatively write relevant pieces of information on the board or a flipchart.
  • Step 3 The teacher should correct any inaccurate information or add things the pupils have missed out or any relevant further detail.
  • Step 4 Key results:
    • Maria attracted the attention of the police officers because her skin tone and hair colour did not match the racialized perception of them.
    • The media reported on the case worldwide because the story fits the deeply rooted stereotype of child-abducting ‘gypsies’.
    • The police’s actions in Greece had consequences for Romani people around the world as they were suspected to be child abductors and lived in fear of their children being taken away.
  • PP
Additional material
  • board/flip chart
Phase Content Type of activity Media, Material

Introduction
(10 min.)

Objective
  • Exploring some examples, pupils engage closely with the antigypsyist prejudice that alleges that so-called ‘gypsies’ regularly abduct children.
Preparation
  • The teacher provides sufficient copies of material 6, 7 and 8 (three groups).
  • Flipchart, blackboard or smartboard are available.
Execution
  • Step 1 The teacher explains, that negative ideas about so-called ‘gypsies’ have been around for centuries and that old prejudices still exist, no matter how absurd they are.
  • Step 2 The teacher should transition to the next phase by telling the pupils that one of these centuries-old prejudices centres around the idea that so-called ‘gypsies’ regularly abduct children, and that they are now going to look more closely at this prejudice in group work.
  • TP

Main section
(15 min.)

  • Working in three groups, pupils now explore a range of examples of antigypsyist prejudice around alleged child abduction by ‘gypsies’ and do the task assigned to their group:
    • Group 1: Fake news on Facebook (Material 6)
    • Group 2: Attacks in Italy (Material 7)
    • Group 3: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Material 8)
  • GW
M6
Worksheet “Fake news: Examples from Germany”
M7
Worksheet “Attacks in Italy”
M8
Worksheet “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”

Presentation of results
(20 min.)

  • Step 1 Each group of pupils now presents its findings to the other group. They should focus on the role of the prejudice around alleged child abduction in the example they are describing.
  • Step 2 Key results:
    • Pupils recognise the similarities of the examples presented and see the connection to the reporting on Maria.
    • Pupils realise how this stereotype may lead to exclusion of and violence against Romani people.
    • Pupils realise that the stereotype is not based on a false generalisation, but on a deeply rooted fear in societies that is projected onto Romani people.
  • Step 3 Pupils then move on to a discussion of any similarities or differences they notice between their examples and the case of ‘Maria’.
  • Step 4 The teacher may wish to find out if the pupils have heard of this prejudice in any other context.
  • PP
  • PO
Additional material
  • board/flip chart
Phase Content Type of activity Media, Material

Introduction
(5 min.)

Objective
  • Pupils will learn about and reflect on the ways in which the construction of groups of people defined by essentialising characteristics can give rise to discrimination, exclusion and ostracism. By the end of the lesson, pupils should be aware of the processes of essentialisation and attribution (of characteristics) as two steps or phases in the formation of antigypsyist prejudice.
Preparation
  • The teacher provides coloured stickers (office supplies stores). The dots should have a maximum of two differences, e.g. colour (red, blue, yellow etc.) and markings (for example, some have a smaller black dot in the centre while others do not).
Execution

‘Dot on your Forehead’

  • Step 1 The teacher asks the pupils to bring their chairs into a circle and to close their eyes for approximately one minute. Pupils should also be advised that no talking is allowed for the duration of the exercise.
  • Step 2 The teacher explains to the pupils that when they have opened their eyes, they will see a small change in the others’ appearance, but does not explain what that change will be.
    • The teacher should take care when distributing the dots to avoid reproducing existing groupings and hierarchies within the class (e.g. by giving all the members of a particular friendship group the same colour dot).
    • Any pupils who are resisting taking part due to the initially ‘secret’ nature of the exercise can be taken aside and told that the ‘change’ is a small sticker on the pupils’ foreheads.
  • Step 3 When the pupils have closed their eyes, the teacher goes round and places the stickers on the pupils’ foreheads. One pupil should be missed out. Under no circumstances should this pupil be one whom, in day-to-day school life, the rest of the class tend to regard as an ‘outsider’.
  • Step 4 Once the teacher has been round the class, pupils can be asked to open their eyes.

The role play used here is inspired by and draws on the exercise ‘Dot on your Forehead’ (Punkt auf der Stirn) from a German practical handbook on antigypsyism for school and extra-curricular educational use (Methodenhandbuch zum Thema Antiziganismus für die schulische und außerschulische Bildungsarbeit) issued by Alte Feuerwache e.V. Jugendbildungsstätte Kaubstraße, 2014, pp. 110-113.

  • TP
  • PA
Additional material
  • coloured dot stickers

Role play
(10 min.)

  • Step 1 The teacher gives the pupils the following task: ‘You have seven minutes to form groups without talking to each other.’
  • Step 2 During the seven minutes that follow, the teacher primarily observes what takes place. They should pay particular attention to the dynamics that arise among the pupils so that pupils can be supported with any emotions that emerge during the process. Pupils should not be forced to participate in anything they feel uncomfortable with. The teacher additionally needs to make sure pupils do not speak and give regular updates on the time remaining.
    The exercise should always last seven minutes, even where group formation appears complete before this period has elapsed and pupils are indicating that they have ‘finished’. Continuing to the end of the allotted time period can permit the emergence of additional dynamic processes of group formation and, in some instances, of creative acts by individuals or groups. Should this happen, the teacher should observe closely what takes place.
  • Step 3 Once seven minutes have elapsed, the teacher tells the pupils they may speak again and asks them to come together in a circle, remaining in the groups in which they have arranged themselves.
  • PA

Analysis and discussion
(30 min.)

  • The purpose of the now-ensuing discussion is to enable the pupils to reflect on the exercise together and to connect the experience to the topic of antigypsyism.
  • The teacher may wish to ask the following questions in order to initiate discussion:
    • Why did you form the groups you did?
    • How did you (individually) experience the process of forming the groups? Did you feel welcome in your group, or did it feel as if the others were only tolerating you?
    • How did you experience being ‘labelled’ with the stickers?
    • (To the pupil without the sticker) How did you feel during the exercise? Did you feel disadvantaged and left out, or special and free?
  • (Now transitioning to the pupils’ everyday experience)
    • Who decides who we are and determines our identity?
    • How are groups formed in your day-to-day school lives?
    • In what ways can these group formation processes cause problems?
    • How can we be more aware of processes by which some people end up excluded?
  • When transferring the learnings from the exercise to the topic of antigypsyism, teachers should explore aspects of societal processes of attribution of characteristics, including contradictions between a person’s self-image and the image others hold of them, societal influences on ascriptions and attributions made to individuals or groups, and issues around identity.
  • The teacher should ensure the following issues come up in the discussion:
    • The process of group formation which took place in the ‘dot exercise’ was outside the individual pupils’ control in two ways: a) the dots (like stigmata) were applied by an external authority, and b) the pupils received a number of signals from other pupils as to which group they were ‘supposed to’ be in.
    • There is never a completely unambiguous way of dividing people into groups in accordance with to actual or purported external differences.
    • It’s always a few particularly proactive people who bring groups together and drive the process of their formation. We need to take a closer look at their role and how they do what they do.
    • Group formation processes always take place on the basis of socially constructed categories – this means that people create these categorisations. It’s not about people’s actual skin or hair colour (or other distinguishing characteristics), but rather about social perceptions of these characteristics. This point will require particular emphasis if pupils begin drawing analogies between the ‘dots’ and skin colour or other properties.
  • D
  • PO
Phase Content Type of activity Media, Material

Introduction
(20 min.)

Objective
  • By the end of this lesson, pupils should understand the process of essentialisation which drove the events around ‘Maria’. They should be able to identify and distinguish the processes of essentialisation and attribution (of characteristics) as two steps or phases in the formation of antigypsyist prejudice.
Preparation
  • Teachers should prepare by reading ‘The workings of antigypsyist prejudice’ (background information, Material 9).
  • They ensure the technical requirements for the projection of a still image (time code 00:04) from the video of Material 2.
Execution
  • Step 1 To transition the pupils’ focus back to antigypsyism, the teacher asks them to think back to the ‘dot exercise’ and attempt to identify a characteristic (like the different dots) which played a decisive role in the categorisation of the individuals involved in the ‘Maria’ case.
  • Step 2 To help pupils, the teacher can remind them of the press release issued by the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma (Material 4):

    (Quote from press release)

    ‘The Central Council is of the view that the actions of the police in this case were based solely on pseudo-ethnic criteria, namely that blond children found with Romani parents or carers constitute grounds for police suspicion of illegal activity.’

  • Step 3 Following this, the teacher shows the pupils the still image of ‘Maria’ and her foster parents from the Deutsche Welle film (Material 2) and asks them if they can think why this particular image appeared in almost all media reports on the case.
  • Step 4 The teacher can additionally ask the pupils – if the issue does not arise by itself – what they think might have happened if the parents had been blond and the child dark.
  • Step 5 It is important to point out that the ‘pseudo-ethnic criteria’ referred to in the Central Council’s press release are of influence not only in sectors of society which tend to adhere to right-wing or populist views, but also – often at an unconscious level – in mainstream organisations and media which view themselves as having high editorial standards.
  • D
  • PO
M2
Video, transcript “Romani people protest against reporting on ‘Maria’”

Diagram for summarising learnings
(20 min.)

  • Step 1 The teacher now creates a diagram (see Material 10) which presents a rough overview of how antigypsyist prejudice arises.
  • Step 2 It is more helpful to learning for the teacher to complete the diagram while giving the explanation rather than showing the complete diagram and then explaining.
  • Step 3 The teacher should provide a particularly detailed explanation of stages 1 and 2 of the process. In so doing, they can refer back both to the phenomenon of categorisation based on the assumption of a single ‘Romani’ skin tone (step 1), and the prejudice around alleged child abduction as an attribution of a trait to Romani people (step 2) and link these to the more general principles underlying the workings of prejudice.
  • Step 4 To conclude, the teacher may wish to explain that antigypsyist perceptions lay the foundations for continually repeated instances of discrimination, ostracism and persecution, leading to incidents such as the attacks by ‘Italians’ on the innocent residents of the buildings attacked in Naples.
  • TP
M9
Background information “The workings of antigypsyist prejudice”
M10
Diagram “How antigypsyist prejudice arises”
Additional material
  • board/flip chart