This morning I found out a lot more information than I knew about the term, "Gypsy" and it's prompted me to change my business name immediately. Truth be told, I have a lot of reasons that I already wanted to change the name. I have wanted to for a long time. I could tell you all those reasons, but what I really want to focus on is this one reason, and use myself as an example.
The term can be considered* derogatory toward the Gypsy/Roma people. When I chose the name and did some research, I failed to find this information. I also did not have the understanding that using a term that referred to a group I wasn't part of was inappropriate. At the time I didn't understand that it is a group of people, and used it as what I thought was a mostly literature and film based caricature. I want to highlight this as an example of how you do not need to identify yourself as a racist in order to do or say or participate in something that is racist, derogatory or oppressive.
I wasn't using the "G" word to be derogatory or participate in a slur against the Gypsy/Roma people- but its still a part of that context, whether I knew it or not. As a white-identified woman who grew up in the Midwest in segregated communities, there has been so much of this learning, catching up, making mistakes, and tripping on the racism in my path. I could regale you with many painfully embarrassing interactions I've had** as I work to become a person who interacts with others in a way that shows my deep respect for them instead of my ignorance. It's a never ending journey for all of us. We always have more to learn about each other and there will always be more prejudices baked into our inherited cultures to discover and purge. As someone who inherited a culture with enough present and historic power to ignore and oppress other cultures, I have some extra catching up to do. I will never be able to learn all the slurs and cultural faux-pas in the world before I make another mistake, and that is okay. It's okay to mess up, and it's okay to own it, confess it and change. It's really okay. There is room to make a mistake, especially if you're willing to admit it was a mistake, and keep trying.
We don't have to be pro-racism in order to have racist thoughts, ideas, actions, priorities, theologies, practices, habits, songs, sayings, memorial statues, policies, flags, or business names. If I may indulge in a weaving analogy, racism and the upper-hand afforded by generations of white supremacy are woven into the fabric of my life as a white American. It's part of me, and it can be painful and embarrassing to extract and surrender. But the reward for that work is a deeper, richer community. I'm convinced we have no idea of the beauty we miss by fearing and exploiting, rather than listening and surrendering power.
So, when you mess up and do a racist thing, and you're mortally embarrassed, please think of me, and send me a message if you want to talk. Please don't double-down on explaining how you're not a racist (no one called you that or cares if you think you're not), how what you did had nothing to do with race, and end up being the inspiration for the next #whiteladyname (What should mine be? #CraftyCaitlin? #EntrepreneurialEmily?) If you are tempted to silence this conversation with the empty accusation that I'm being "politically correct", I ask you to reconsider. I'm not discussing any government policies. This is about being relationally correct. You don't need to identify with a political wing or policy in order to find value in cross-cultural competency. In fact, the practice of contextualization is something I first learned in an ultra-conservative religious school studying to be the next white lady missionary to foreign lands. Most of us have a natural inclination to want to connect with others. Understanding their language, context and experience of life are part of creating meaningful and reciprocal connection.
In an effort to bring restoration for my ignorant use of a term that referred to a group I am not a part of for 4 years, I'll be donating to the Roma Support Group in the UK here. Please feel free to ask me any questions you have about this, and help me learn if you have more information. I feel a little bit like I'm breaking up with that guy I had a weird feeling about but I didn't know all my friends were wishing I'd break up with. Now back to filing all the forms and changing all my internets to Jamie Tubbs Studios. Ah, that's feels so much better.
Oh! One more thing. Please consider joining me for this 30 day challenge to learn more about promoting and respecting other cultures and voices. A post about the announcement of this challenge last night is where someone saw my business name and pointed out my error. You can sign up for the challenge here and read that initial post with my call out in the comments here.
Links to more learning:
*The Roma Support Group site in London seems to use the capitalized term to describe a separate distinct group from the Roma people. Many news and educational articles use the term interchangeably with Roma and with no reference to it being a slur. Regardless, I should not be using the name of a group that I don't belong to, and who's suffering I don't endure.
** The time I said to my toddler at the park that a boy he was watching was "climbing like a monkey" and that little boy, who's parents taught him well, told me strongly, "I am not a monkey!". I apologized quickly, but didn't know the racial context for his anger until some time later as I'd never heard the term monkey used that way before, and I was so sad for his experience of my words. Then there was that time I referred to the physical features of someone whose name I couldn't remember, in a group of friends, not knowing the features I described were ones associated with stereotyping his race, and I got publicly taught not to describe people that way. Then there was the time I said Bansky instead of Banksy in front of friends I wanted to impress, which has nothing to do with race or culture but just an extra embarrassing moment for you to enjoy.