Martin Gallagher talks about racism, mental health and his shock when a representative from a “well known charity” said “you look very clean for a Gypsy” when he found out he was an Irish Traveller…
So we recently had ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ and to continue the trend, it was followed by ‘Hate Crime Awareness Week‘. What is ‘hate crime’? Click here to learn more.
For anyone who knows me or has read any recent posts on my blog Learning to Dad, you’ll know that I believe that hate crime/discrimination/prejudice is directly linked to the mental health issues found in the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. GRT children learn at a young age that a lot of people won’t like them because they are different. I first realised this in primary school in London, where I’d be embarrassed to get a dropped off in a pick-up truck. I’ve no idea why, I was a charmer and had like five girlfriends before I was 10 years old, #ladykiller! But I was. I first realised the extent of how we were disliked, whilst watching my dad play in a pool team that visited different pubs each week for their league matches, and most of those weeks when they were playing away, landlords and bouncers wouldn’t let me and my dad in. The team had to argue that he had done nothing wrong as was there to play pool. We’d be watched, and sometimes kicked out as soon as my dad played his match. All of those pubs in London always had the huge “NO DOGS or NO TRAVELLERS ALLOWED” sign, and I always thought we were breaking a law by entering these pubs. I now know that it was the landlords breaking the law.
So, anyway, let me point you back to the post title, “You Look Very Clean for a Gypsy” for a second. I would love to know where your own minds take you when you read that quote. For those who are still curious, let me blow your minds.
Three years ago, my wife and I had the idea to start a charity to help Gypsies, Roma and Travellers with things like advocacy, advice and basic skills try to have a more significant relationship with their councils and MPs. So off my wife and I went to an organisation that supports start-ups to meet an officer from a well-known charity, who would be able to help with starting up this idea. The meeting was what you would expect at a professional meeting, up until he asked me how our idea would relevant and link in with the community the charity was aimed for. I told him that I am an Irish Traveller, and I also have ties with the local community and have lived in the area for over a decade or so.
So, are you ready for this bit?
He just looked at me and said, “You look very clean for a gypsy”.
As you probably could imagine, I was busy re-attaching my jaw back to my face and trying not to jump over the table and throw him in the bin.
Note: I was intending for this post to be on the lighter side, but it had to have a change of direction as I received a call from someone asking if the police would do anything about a 15-year-old who was shouting at their kids, (aged between 5-9) that they are “smelly gypsies and they should f*** off back to their caravan” in front of the children’s friends.
Yep, we know people don’t like us. We read, see or hear about it every day in a million different ways. But when young children hear things like this before they can even understand the differences that people in the world have, how can we be expected to even want to integrate with people like that scumbag teenager and the people they learned this mentality from and the other adults that influence their societal views? Why would we even want to?
I’m glad you can see my point.
I firmly believe that scenarios like this can have an effect on children’s anxieties, worries and things that develop into mental health issues and a negative outlook on the society they live in. How could it not, when teenagers feel they are able to racially abuse a child as young as five years old.
One of many horrible findings from a recent YouGov poll.
This then asks questions of all people fighting for equality, the feminists, the LGBT equality groups and the other ‘social justice warriors’ who are allowing the MPs, the TV personalities and people in everyday life to racially abuse and discriminate this protected ethnicity in every which way, quite regularly:
Why aren’t there more people fighting for Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller equal rights?
Are we not as important as other communities?
Does the fight for equality just stop at certain characteristics?
Equality will never, ever exist until all people have the same treatment as every other minority group. Our voice is the most silenced and our views are met with racial stereotyping and myths, essentially undermining any fight for equality we are trying to win. Until we have more support, more children will want to retreat to our families and communities just to get some respite from the daily vitriol and hate that goes unchallenged.
If you are being threatened or attacked because of your race/ethnicity, sexuality, disability or any other protected characteristics, please make sure you call 999 if you are in immediate danger.
Gypsies, Roma and Irish Travellers have specialist services that you can report any hate crimes, get advice on how to report them, such as:
Travelling Ahead – 0808 802 0025 (Freephone) or http://www.travellingahead.org.uk/
Thanks for reading, don’t stand by and let inequality grow, help out your fellow humans, whoever they may be.
By Martin Gallagher
Martin Gallagher, an Irish Traveller from Wales, pulls no punches in speaking humorously about his mental health, being a parent, and daily life in his blog 'Learning to Dad'. He also campaigns for equal rights for Gypsy, Roma and Irish Travellers and uses his blog to highlight the discrimination that he and others from the community face daily.
(Main picture caption: Martin Gallagher with his son Noah © Martin Gallagher)