Who was the genius who decided to give the main robot in Pacific Rim the name “Nygger Danger”?
Did that catch your attention? I hope it did, and I apologize if it offended, but I really want to make a point here, and it’s an important one. The main robot doesn’t have that name. It’s called “Gipsy Danger.” I cringed the moment I heard the name, hoping I’d misheard it. But they said it often enough and flashed it on the screen enough that I quickly knew there was no mistake.
Folks, “Gypsy” is a racial slur. It’s still a racial slur if you spell it with an “i”–especially when you’re talking about a movie, where pronunciation is really all that matters.
In America at least, I think a lot of us like to think of ourselves as enlightened. We try not to discriminate against other people. We try to be understanding of what they want, what their worldview is. We go out of our way to make laws that level the playing field. In light of the George Zimmerman trial, clearly this is something we’re working our way through still–but the goal is there. The ideal.
Which is why I continue to be appalled that Americans have no problem throwing around the g-word like it’s no big deal.
Do we only care about minorities if they’re a big enough group? Isn’t that kind of the whole point of watching out for minorities? Because their voice gets drowned out?
I’m no idiot (most of the time). I understand that Roma (the preferred term) are almost a non-issue in America. There are approximately 1 million people of Roma descent in the US, but by and large, Americans don’t even understand that Roma are a people and not a profession. Case in point? I did some internet searches to see what people were saying about the racial slur plastered all over Pacific Rim. Hardly anything came up. There was one post actually making fun of people who were upset about it, explaining that:
Gypsy isnt an ethnic group. Gypsy is a lifestyle. I worked in retail. When there are groups that go around and steal by deceptoion and distraction. Retailers refer to them as gypsys. They come in all sorts of race and colr. Black, White, Asian. It dont matter. (source)
This right here? This is the problem. Because it’s 100% wrong, but it just shows how ignorant Americans are of the problem. Do me a favor and read this article to become better informed. And that’s just about the experience of Roma in America. Don’t get me started on what they face in Europe, although I can give you a brief example from my own experience.
You all know I wrote the book VODNIK. It’s YA fantasy that takes place in Slovakia and is based on Slovak folklore. Its main character happens to be 1/4 Roma. He moves to Slovakia and discovers just how real the racism is against Roma in Europe. But that’s not what the book is about. It’s a YA fantasy/adventure, and the main character happens to be Roma.
My agent has been shopping it around European publishers. They’re all interested in the book–until they find out the main character is part Roma. It’s a deal breaker, it seems. As soon as they hear that, they lose all interest. Publishing this book in Europe would be like publishing a book about an African American in the deep south fifty or a hundred years ago. Roma are literally ghettoized. They are beaten and killed, and it’s happening today. Now. Not fifty years ago. In such obscure places like France–that’s an article that was published a month ago.
This is real, people.
Gypsy is a racial slur. Fact. It’s used against a group of people so marginalized in America that Americans are convinced they’re make believe. They’re just a made up fantasy, and arguing for their rights would be like arguing for Leprechaun rights or Werewolf rights. Americans complain about being “gypped” when they get a bad deal, and they don’t even understand they’ve just used a form of that racial slur.
And Guillermo Del Toro decided to have his main robot be called “Gipsy Danger.”
I’m not Roma. I don’t have Roma family. I don’t have Roma friends. But that name in Pacific Rim pissed me off enough that it spoiled what was otherwise a fantastic film. (I’ll be posting a review tomorrow or the day after.) Roma already face severe discrimination abroad. Is it too much to ask Americans to start paying attention to what’s happening elsewhere in the world? Scratch that–to what’s happening even here in America?
Apparently, it is. Apparently, minorities are only worthy of notice if there’s enough of them to be politically relevant.
And that’s just enormously disappointing.
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