The King of the Balkan Roma people Hujko Karafukovic expresses his hope for the Balkan Gypsies after the 2008 American presidential elections.
Why is it that for many Bulgarians, Romanians, Hungarians, Serbs, Croats, Bosnians and Macedonians the Gypsies seem to be a problem? By giving voice to that question Karafukovic expressed the internal frustration felt by many Balkan Gypsies for centuries. What to do with the sons and daughters of former nomads, now integrated only in the sense that the most overt practices and customs of previous generations are either illegal or constitute social or political bad form, has been the challenge in the Balkans for nearly fifty years.
With the election of Barack Obama, USA first black president, there is a tremendous emotion, relief and hope that Balkan Gypsies may now respond to that question with the words a problem no more.
During the campaign, when Michelle Obama said that she was finally really proud of her country, reaction was swift and critical. How could she, an American, imply that it was only when her husband was taken seriously as a prospective candidate for the nation's highest office, that she was really proud?
But just about every Bulgarian, Hungarian, Romanian, Serb, Croat, Bosnian of color knows what she meant: for the most part, a Gypsy was being considered or not on the merits of his arguments and in contrast to what was being offered by other candidates, not rejected outright, simply because he was black. And yes, that made all of us really proud.
The excitement generated by Obamas campaign and the presidency, frightens some circles in Sofia, Bucuresti, Budapest, Belgrade, Zagreb and Sarajevo, because its magnitude is unprecedented. The nearly 2 million people who gathered in Washington D.C. and the numberless people who watched all over the world, is politically and culturally intimidating. But it represents a country celebrating significant hurdles overcome. Obamas campaign became a movement of inclusion on the order that most of us have never thought we would see in our lifetimes. It is nothing less than the legitimate recognition of the story of oppressed people not just in America. It is a recognition which provides hope for people of color, three-fourths of the planet's population, all over the world.
The history of Gypsies has always seemed to run parallel to the history of our divided by hatred region. It is a story we had to teach ourselves, because it was told marginally and inaccurately to us by others. We have to teach our story because they didnt know it.
It take protests, legislation, legal rulings and education. Countless Gypsies lost their lives violently especially during the the WWII and Yugoslav civil war in the 90's.
All Bulgarians, Romanians, Hungarians, Croats, Serbs and Bosnians dont celebrate this moment, however. Its not fashionable to express racism and for others, honest doubt may feel unpatriotic. But we are now being called to a citizenship which demands more than fear based rejection or sideline criticisms. This is a citizenship at the heart of authentic democracy, a citizenship in which all of us are solutions to all Balkan countries great problems.
And weve been called to that patriotism by the progeny of a people who are still considered a problem in the Balkans.
Enough is enough.