The Gypsy Christmas food bank challenge is one of the many contributions
Watson Harrop Jr., a Gypsy from County Durham in the UK and a professional harness racer, started a viral social media challenge while out shopping last month with his daughter. Harrop, a Gypsy and professional harness racer from County Durham, UK, filmed himself in his local supermarket donating groceries to a charity and nominated family members and friends within 48 hours.
Gypsies & Travellers’ generosity is being recognized by food banks all over the UK. Local, national, and Travellers’ Times have all covered the story, including Harrop’s first interview.
Harrop was keen to avoid a sensationalized “big fat Gypsy story” that could contribute to the negative stereotypes of Gypsies, Travellers, and Travellers. Harrop stressed that this challenge was about “communities of all ethnicities coming together and helping families who are in need during the season of goodwill via the power social media.”
Gypsies and Travellers have been marginalized by society and are often vilified. As my colleague historian Becky Taylor explains, “They are seldom seen as having a social or geographical place in a nation, regardless of where they live and what they do.”
In the UK, Nine out of 10 Gypsy children and Travellers have experienced racial abuse. Six out of Ten British parents wouldn’t want their child to play with a Gypsy child or Traveller. In the UK, nine out of ten Gypsy and Traveller children have suffered racial abuse, while a href=”https://www.travellerstimes.org.uk/news/2017/10/yougov-poll-shock-only-4out-10parents’ok child playdates with travellers”>six out of ten British parents/a> would not be happy for their child to have an s play date with s Gypsy or Traveller.
The positive contributions that Gypsies and Travellers make to the societies they live in are often overshadowed or overlooked by a . is often overwhelmed with negative comments or completely ignored the positive contributions Gypsies, Roma, and Travellers have made to their societies.
Harrop’s charitable actions are not unusual. Gypsies and Travellers do donate to good causes, both within and outside their communities. Many Gypsy and Traveller organizations and families regularly donate to worthy causes both in and outside their communities from raising funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital to Cancer research to aiding rough sleepers.
Tyson Fury , the “Gypsy King”, a professional heavyweight boxer who recently fought Deonta Wilder in the UK, announced that will donate to the UK homeless the PS8m earned from his recent fight.
Tyson Fury is more than a boxer. Vasyl Leibiuk/Shutterstock.
I asked Damian Le Bas, a writer whose research investigates distorted media representations Gypsy and Traveller community, what he thought of the food bank challenge. While charitable giving may not be a strict, literal cultural obligation, it is highly valued by Gypsies, Travellers and Gypsy communities. He said that both Romany and Irish Traveller cultures strongly believe in helping the needy.
Gypsy, Traveller, and Roma communities continue to face prejudice, hatred, and discrimination despite their contributions to society. Sherrie Smit, co-founder and manager at hate incident reporting as well as support services for travellers, told me they had received dozens reports about hundreds of hateful comments made in response to stories on the food bank challenge.
These comments employ certain strategies to present racism patterns of thinking in a non-racist and non-discriminatory manner. It is not uncommon to label all Gypsies criminals or “others”, who are entitled to special treatment. Such comments can be made by people who profess to have respect, tolerance, and even admiration of imagined “authentic” Gypsies in other places, but also claim that the Gypsies they are referring to aren’t “real”.
As Gypsies or Travellers, they are aware that their identity is associated with ” a stigma of trouble“. Human rights advocate Dr Sindy James argues that this causes Gypsies to avoid public spaces where they could challenge prejudices. I was surprised by the feedback I received from the young Gypsies and Travellers I brought to campus with the University of East Anglia outreach team. “We walked all day around the university, and no one called us any names.”
Harrop’s Food Bank Challenge is a great example of generosity that anyone can follow. In the current climate of increasing intolerance, racism, and abuse, people could learn from what the Gypsies do for society.