The mainstream press do not tell you about the Traveller Catholic men’s group that collects thousands of pounds to help the homeless. The successful discrimination cases against pub chains. The Gypsy copper who started an association for Traveller police officers. There’s good and bad in everyone. Isn’t it about time the rest of society recognised it?
No doubt we’ll be slated, but we need to talk about the group of travellers who the Kentish Express report “have taken over a town centre park today.” The language used implies there isn’t any space left on the 15. 6 Acre park. Well there is plenty of space left as you can see from the picture below.
We note with absolute dismay most of the comments are stereotypical and tinged with an element of prejudice & racism. Here is a flavour of what some have said.
“BEWARE OF THE MINI CRlMEWAVE— SHOPLIFTING, GARDEN SHEDS, MOTORS AND BOB A JOBS ! !”
“I’m not sure they’re genuine doasyoulikeys, that flatbed isn’t fitted with the requisite MDF greedyboards…and there’s no sign of any dags.”
To give voice to the travellers who have arrived on Radnor Park we went and spoke to them on the basis of anonymity. They told us the following:
A mother was followed by a store detective when she visited a local supermarket. “It’s like he’s decided that I am playing with him,” she told us. “He stopped me and when he couldn’t find anything stolen in my bags – he looked at me like, ‘You got away with it this time.’ It’s humiliating. I have never stolen anything in my life.”
A Traveller man told us: “I have had enough. I have suffered from it (prejudice/racism) all my life, I don’t want my children and grandchildren to suffer from it as well.” “We did try to get on a site but were asked to leave. What are we to do? Where are we to go?”
There have been Gypsies/travellers in Britain for 500 years, but settled and travelling communities have yet to find a way of living together.
“Discrimination against Gypsies and Travellers by the public, the police and other authorities is “common across Britain”, according to a damning report by the UK’s human rights watchdog which warns the groups are among several being “locked out” by society.”
Institutional discrimination reflects widespread public prejudice. A MORI poll in 2013 found that a third of people admitted personal prejudice towards Gypsies and Travellers. In polite conversation, racism towards Gypsies and Travellers is accepted in a way that it would not be towards other groups. The press reflects and reinforces these attitudes. Controversial encampments and incidences of criminality are given disproportionate coverage, whilst leaders of travelling communities a rarely given a platform from which to respond. In general, a stereotyped image is presented of Gypsies and Travellers as dirty, work-shy and criminal.
The facts and figures are stark. Nine out of 10 Gypsy and Traveller children have suffered racial abuse, and two-thirds of children from Traveller groups have also been bullied or physically attacked. And the comments on the Kentish Express website appears that the newspaper tolerates this form of racism and stereotyping. We’d ask them to remove these unhelpful comments.A 2004 report from Stonewall listed some common prejudices: “It was argued that these groups did not conform to the system by paying taxes, they had a reputation for unreliable business practices and they did not respect private property. They were also criticised… for not belonging to a community and allegedly having a negative impact on the environment: for example, they are unsightly, dirty or unhygienic.” And the comments made on the Kentish Express’s website mention all of the above so even 12 years down the line, myths perpetuate.
If you must know, the vast majority of Gypsies and Travellers live on legal sites – mostly private, not public – or in houses, and pay taxes and rent just like everybody else. As the rest are effectively homeless, you could hardly expect them to pay for local services. They are not offered any – not even the most basic waste disposal.Accommodating minorities with very different lifestyles and values to the majority is complex both morally and practically. But Gypsies and Travellers have been in the UK for hundreds of years and they will remain for hundreds to come. It is unacceptable that any minority should fall so far below the level of the majority in health and education. The tensions between the settled and travelling communities must be resolved, and in order to do this the prejudices of the settled majority must be acknowledged and tackled.Shepway District Council are ‘monitoring’ the site, whatever that means. The Police say it is a civil matter and the commentators on the KE website demonstrate that prejudice/racism, is alive and well.So we move them along, to where? To become who’s “problem” next? Rather than deal with the problem, we ignore it, push it away, sweep it under the carpet. Is this acceptable? And should the Kentish Express allow such prejudicial/racist comments on their website in the 21st Century?Shepwayvox