Whilst there are many people at Randolph, of many different ethnicities and races, one might find it particularly difficult to find a Roma, but there are some around. I was lucky enough to meet a Roma student who was willing to sit down with me and talk about her experiences. Our anonymous interviewee is of mixed race, being part Roma and part white, and for the purposes of this piece we will refer to her as Sue. Her great grandmother was the last member of her family to live in a traditional, all-Roma community.
If you do not recognize the term Roma, then surely you will recognize the term Gypsy. Some consider “Gypsy” to be a pejorative (and perhaps you might want to reconsider using phrases like “gypped” in the future), but Sue doesn’t view it that way. Throughout our interview she used it interchangeably with “Roma” and “Romani,” and she is comfortable with the fact that others use the term, regardless of their heritage.
When I asked Sue about her identity, she said “Before I knew that I had Roma heritage, I was kind of inclined to Gypsy kind of traits. I wanted to travel around more and be eclectic, but I didn’t know if that was just like an age group kind of thing…but once I found out about it, it made a lot of sense.”
I asked her if she thought that her personal traits that she attributed to her racial makeup could have been influenced by her family or her upbringing, but she said “My taste varies from my family’s so much. I wish I could say yes, but I don’t think so.” Her family has embraced mainstream culture and does not keep up with Romani traditions, but Sue feels that embracing that aspect of her identity “is really calming” and that it “fills something that [she’s] been searching for.”
Sue went on to talk about how she presented herself within our society, especially considering the general dislike of Gypsies that some people still seem to have, saying “I hold Gypsies – or Romani – in so high esteem…I think I’m so indoctrinated into the otherwise white culture that it’s kind of irrelevant. I can kind of choose what heritage I want to play at a certain moment.” In other words, Sue can pass as white if she so chooses, and she is never in any situation in which she has to reveal her race. “I’m not forced [to reveal it],” she continued, “but I choose to.” She takes great pride in her identity and she is not abashed in the slightest.
Thankfully, though Sue openly discusses her background, she has never faced any discrimination for her race or ethnicity. When asked about the subject, she jokingly replied “[I’ve been discriminated against] for my glasses when I was younger! I kid you not, I was called ‘four-eyes,’ which I didn’t understand the meaning when they called me that[.]” She went on to say, on a more serious note, that she does feel as though some people have been made uncomfortable by her more eclectic tastes, noting that “people are used to being able to fit someone into a specific box [so they can] define them completely.”
Ultimately, Sue is a spirited, bright young woman who is proud of her Romani side. It is people like her that make Randolph the wonderful cultural fusion that it is today.