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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Playing politics with Roma refugee claims

Hungarians call their country Magyarország. Literally translated, it means country of the Magyars-  a distinct race of people who compose 92.3% of the country’s population. In comparison, 1.9% of the country’s population is Roma. So, out of 10 million Hungarians, only 190,000 are Roma. Politically, the Roma have very little power. 
Are Hungarians more racist than other cultures? After living and working there for three years, I have to say that they are- at least, more overtly so. Many Magyars have anger and hate for the Roma- equally, many Roma have anger and hate the Magyars. And, from my experiences walking through Budapest with an African-American friend, both sides are completely freaked out by black people. Much of Hungary’s roots comes from the peasantry- peasants aren’t well known for their tolerance towards outsiders.    
Racial tensions have got quite high in a few towns. 

UPDATE (Jan 7/13)The main point of the blog piece with the link above by GenuineWitty is that the validity of refugee claims by the Roma from Hungary are dubious at best. However a reader of Hungarian heritage took offence at the assertion that Magyars are particularly racist and sent in the following comment and asked it be posted anonymously in the main text of the item – as this is significant and rather interesting information, I agreed :

Magyars, like any ethnic group, contain good and bad people in proportions probably no different than any other group, although in my experience, the good far outweigh the bad. I take great exception to the statement that Hungarians are particularly racist. The amount of racism towards minorities in Hungary is no more and probably less than in any other European country.

I do agree with the blog author’s assertion (that can be read in the link) that the Roma refugee claims from Hungary are bogus, but he identified one town as being egregiously racist and the background information proves that it is not true.

In the town of Gyöngyöspata, there were considerable tensions between the Magyar and Roma communities due to the conduct of Roma criminal gangs which were pilfering from non-Roma citizens. The GenuineWitty blog implied that a local militia was formed by racists to intimidate the Roma. That implication is misleading and unfair. He failed to state that there were a great number of incidents there where Roma criminals were thieving from Magyars and violently assaulting people who complained to the police.  The town’s local police detachment closed down at that time and the citizens had no other recourse to protect their property and personal safety other than to form a local militia. Their actions were not racist, these were citizens banding together to protect their lives from criminals.

I hope in the future, before making baseless accusations and slanderously tarring all Hungarians with the label of being racist, people will look more closely at the facts and understand that Magyar can just as easily be the victims of racist misrepresentation as the Roma or any other ethnic group.

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