South Korea’s Not-So-Subtle Racist Hiring Practices
Every year, hundreds of young English speakers drift into East Asia, looking to while away a couple of aimless years between college and the inevitable round of grad school applications that await them back home. Korea is an especially popular destination: The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education alone plans to hire 655 foreign teachers in 2014, a fraction of the 22,000 expat educators working in the country. But if you want to teach English in Korea, it’s a lot easier if you’re white.
For most would-be instructors, the racism begins before the even get through the door, thanks to the standard South Korean practice of requiring applicants to submit photos alongside their resumes. Some employers are more blunt: A recent Craigslist ad for English teachers from TalknLearn, a Seoul language academy, simply states, “Need: White” on its list of required qualifications. When black teachers do make it into the classroom, they’re often passed over in favor of their white counterparts.
“I’ve had kids pulled from my class and placed in Caucasian teachers’ classes due to the request of the parents wanting their child to learn from a white American and not a black one,” said Megan Stevinson, an American English teacher in Seoul, whose parents are black and Korean.
Continue

South Korea’s Not-So-Subtle Racist Hiring Practices

Every year, hundreds of young English speakers drift into East Asia, looking to while away a couple of aimless years between college and the inevitable round of grad school applications that await them back home. Korea is an especially popular destination: The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education alone plans to hire 655 foreign teachers in 2014, a fraction of the 22,000 expat educators working in the country. But if you want to teach English in Korea, it’s a lot easier if you’re white.

For most would-be instructors, the racism begins before the even get through the door, thanks to the standard South Korean practice of requiring applicants to submit photos alongside their resumes. Some employers are more blunt: A recent Craigslist ad for English teachers from TalknLearn, a Seoul language academy, simply states, “Need: White” on its list of required qualifications. When black teachers do make it into the classroom, they’re often passed over in favor of their white counterparts.

“I’ve had kids pulled from my class and placed in Caucasian teachers’ classes due to the request of the parents wanting their child to learn from a white American and not a black one,” said Megan Stevinson, an American English teacher in Seoul, whose parents are black and Korean.

Continue

Stop Media Lies About Transgender Kids
Last weekend, the UK’s Mail on Sunday, a publication not traditionally known for tasteful headlines, ran an especially rancid pile of shit on its cover: “NHS to give sex change drugs to nine-year-olds: Clinics accused of ‘playing God’ with treatment that stops puberty.” You know what that means, don’t you? That the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) is definitely NOT giving nine-year-olds any “sex change drugs” and won’t be any time soon.
The Telegraph, a paper that revels in being openly hostile toward trans people, is now repeating the misleading headline. And what’s with the “playing God” bullshit? As one parent of a trans child pointed out by email: “The Mail wouldn’t be questioning the treatment of diabetic children or children with congenital hypothyroidism on the NHS, so what makes it OK to print this shit about children receiving another kind of endocrine treatment?”
I don’t quite understand everything she’s talking about, but you can’t argue with an angry mother.
Papers pull stupid shit like this all the time; six of them recently admitted they got it wrong by making irrelevant references to a woman’s transgender status in a story about her nearly dying after being attacked by a buck. A buck whose antler pierced her throat, broke her spine, and narrowly missed her spinal cord and a couple of major arteries.
As far as we know, the animal didn’t attack her because she was transgender. Nevertheless, six national newspapers in England decided to print various details about Kate’s history, including her former name and the obligatory “sex swap” headlines. Admittedly the Mail wasn’t, in this instance, the worst offender, and quickly corrected its mistake. And they do run sympathetic—or, at least,neutral—articles sometimes. The point remains, though: The British media, as a whole, can be really, really shit when it comes to covering stories about transgender people.
This article is going to contain a lot of “shits,” because I give one. But does the media? I may be completely wrong, but the people arguing against so-called “sex change drugs” on behalf of vulnerable under-16s don’t, as far as I’m aware, go out of their way to combat gender-based bullying in schools. If you’re not doing anything to stop transgender kids from being beaten up—a.k.a., the most important issue here—then how the fuck are you planning to get away with starting a moralizing headline campaign about the choices they’re allowed to make?
Trans kids are some of the most vulnerable people in society; I know because I was one. Tiny violin time. It was terrible: I got bullied at school for talking like a girl and bullied at home for “acting like a poof”; I hated going to school, and I hated going home. I’ve written about this before, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself, but so long as there are still kids going through what I went through—those who aren’t protected at school and let down by parents confused by the shit they’ve read in the media—it’s a message people need to hear.
Continue

Stop Media Lies About Transgender Kids

Last weekend, the UK’s Mail on Sunday, a publication not traditionally known for tasteful headlines, ran an especially rancid pile of shit on its cover: “NHS to give sex change drugs to nine-year-olds: Clinics accused of ‘playing God’ with treatment that stops puberty.” You know what that means, don’t you? That the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) is definitely NOT giving nine-year-olds any “sex change drugs” and won’t be any time soon.

The Telegraph, a paper that revels in being openly hostile toward trans people, is now repeating the misleading headline. And what’s with the “playing God” bullshit? As one parent of a trans child pointed out by email: “The Mail wouldn’t be questioning the treatment of diabetic children or children with congenital hypothyroidism on the NHS, so what makes it OK to print this shit about children receiving another kind of endocrine treatment?”

I don’t quite understand everything she’s talking about, but you can’t argue with an angry mother.

Papers pull stupid shit like this all the time; six of them recently admitted they got it wrong by making irrelevant references to a woman’s transgender status in a story about her nearly dying after being attacked by a buck. A buck whose antler pierced her throat, broke her spine, and narrowly missed her spinal cord and a couple of major arteries.

As far as we know, the animal didn’t attack her because she was transgender. Nevertheless, six national newspapers in England decided to print various details about Kate’s history, including her former name and the obligatory “sex swap” headlines. Admittedly the Mail wasn’t, in this instance, the worst offender, and quickly corrected its mistake. And they do run sympathetic—or, at least,neutral—articles sometimes. The point remains, though: The British media, as a whole, can be really, really shit when it comes to covering stories about transgender people.

This article is going to contain a lot of “shits,” because I give one. But does the media? I may be completely wrong, but the people arguing against so-called “sex change drugs” on behalf of vulnerable under-16s don’t, as far as I’m aware, go out of their way to combat gender-based bullying in schools. If you’re not doing anything to stop transgender kids from being beaten up—a.k.a., the most important issue here—then how the fuck are you planning to get away with starting a moralizing headline campaign about the choices they’re allowed to make?

Trans kids are some of the most vulnerable people in society; I know because I was one. Tiny violin time. It was terrible: I got bullied at school for talking like a girl and bullied at home for “acting like a poof”; I hated going to school, and I hated going home. I’ve written about this before, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself, but so long as there are still kids going through what I went through—those who aren’t protected at school and let down by parents confused by the shit they’ve read in the media—it’s a message people need to hear.

Continue

Donald Sterling’s Been Banned for Life, but He’ll Be Dead Soon Anyway
The NBA finally applied sanctions to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Sterling has been fined $2.5 million (the maximum he could be fined) and suspended for life for the racist rhetoric his former girlfriend recorded and released to TMZ as retribution for a lawsuit brought against her by Sterling.
The scandal, which has diverted attention away from one of the most exciting, competitive NBA Playoffs in modern history and potentially ruined the Clippers’ run at the Finals, might finally recede from the public consciousness now that Sterling has been punished. Of course, as long as he owns the team, there will still be the question of how long he’ll remain a part of the league and who will take over when he’s gone. 
Continue

Donald Sterling’s Been Banned for Life, but He’ll Be Dead Soon Anyway

The NBA finally applied sanctions to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Sterling has been fined $2.5 million (the maximum he could be fined) and suspended for life for the racist rhetoric his former girlfriend recorded and released to TMZ as retribution for a lawsuit brought against her by Sterling.

The scandal, which has diverted attention away from one of the most exciting, competitive NBA Playoffs in modern history and potentially ruined the Clippers’ run at the Finals, might finally recede from the public consciousness now that Sterling has been punished. Of course, as long as he owns the team, there will still be the question of how long he’ll remain a part of the league and who will take over when he’s gone. 

Continue

The FBI Is Trying to Recruit Muslims As Snitches by Putting Them on No-Fly Lists
Dr Rahinah Ibrahim is not a national security threat.
The federal government even said so.
It took a lawsuit that has stretched for eight years for the feds to yield that admission. It is one answer in a case that opened up many more questions: How did an innocent Malaysian architectural scholar remain on a terrorism no fly-list—effectively branded a terrorist—for years after a FBI paperwork screw up put her there? The answer to that question, to paraphrase a particularly hawkish former Secretary of Defense, may be unknowable.
Last week, there was a depressing development in the case. A judge’s decision was made public and it revealed that the White House has created at least one “secret exception” to the legal standard that federal authorities use to place people on such lists. This should trouble anyone who cares about niggling things like legal due process or the US Constitution. No one is clear what the exception is, because it’s secret—duh—meaning government is basically placing people on terror watchlists that can ruin their lives without explaining why or how they landed on those lists in the first place.
This flies in the face of what the government has told Congress and the American public. Previously, federal officials said that in order to land on one of these terror watchlists, someone has to meet a “reasonable suspicion standard.” That means there have to be clear facts supporting the government’s assertion that the individual in question is, you know, doing some terrorist shit. Which seems like a good idea.
But not any more, apparently.
Continue

The FBI Is Trying to Recruit Muslims As Snitches by Putting Them on No-Fly Lists

Dr Rahinah Ibrahim is not a national security threat.

The federal government even said so.

It took a lawsuit that has stretched for eight years for the feds to yield that admission. It is one answer in a case that opened up many more questions: How did an innocent Malaysian architectural scholar remain on a terrorism no fly-list—effectively branded a terrorist—for years after a FBI paperwork screw up put her there? The answer to that question, to paraphrase a particularly hawkish former Secretary of Defense, may be unknowable.

Last week, there was a depressing development in the case. A judge’s decision was made public and it revealed that the White House has created at least one “secret exception” to the legal standard that federal authorities use to place people on such lists. This should trouble anyone who cares about niggling things like legal due process or the US Constitution. No one is clear what the exception is, because it’s secret—duh—meaning government is basically placing people on terror watchlists that can ruin their lives without explaining why or how they landed on those lists in the first place.

This flies in the face of what the government has told Congress and the American public. Previously, federal officials said that in order to land on one of these terror watchlists, someone has to meet a “reasonable suspicion standard.” That means there have to be clear facts supporting the government’s assertion that the individual in question is, you know, doing some terrorist shit. Which seems like a good idea.

But not any more, apparently.

Continue

Cry-Baby of the Week
Cry-Baby #1: Lumberton Independent School District
The incident: Some parents complained that their children’s teacher was transgender.
The appropriate response: Nothing.
The actual response: The teacher was suspended.
Laura Jane Klug is a transgender woman who was recently hired by the Lumberton ISD School District in Texas as a substitute teacher. She was filling in as a teacher for a 5th grade class last Thursday when she found out that there had been complaints from the parents of some of her students about her being transgender. 
The school responded to these complaints by suspending Laura, which was a legal for thing for them to do because Texas, a state located in a first world country, does not have laws to protect transgender people from workplace discrimination. 
Roger Beard, whose son was in Laura’s class, said he complained because he felt that 11-year-olds were too young to understand the (fairly uncomplicated) concept of a trans woman. “There are some things that we accept in society that children are not going to accept in the same way that we do,” he told local news station 12 News. Adding, “I just don’t want them teaching, especially not this age group.”
Thankfully, other parents defended Laura. “My son knows who he is and I don’t think any outside influence is going to change that. I’m more concerned about straight predatory teachers rather than I am someone who lives an alternative private lifestyle. I don’t worry about my son,” said Jammie Marcantel, whose son was in Laura’s class.
Speaking to 12 News, Laura said she had substituted before without incident and wasn’t sure why people were complaining now. “I have always conducted myself in a professional manner and would never discuss my gender identity in school,” she said. 
According to another local news station, Laura will find out later today if she gets to keep her job. 
See Cry-Baby #2 and Vote!

Cry-Baby of the Week

Cry-Baby #1: Lumberton Independent School District

The incident: Some parents complained that their children’s teacher was transgender.

The appropriate response: Nothing.

The actual response: The teacher was suspended.

Laura Jane Klug is a transgender woman who was recently hired by the Lumberton ISD School District in Texas as a substitute teacher. She was filling in as a teacher for a 5th grade class last Thursday when she found out that there had been complaints from the parents of some of her students about her being transgender. 

The school responded to these complaints by suspending Laura, which was a legal for thing for them to do because Texas, a state located in a first world country, does not have laws to protect transgender people from workplace discrimination. 

Roger Beard, whose son was in Laura’s class, said he complained because he felt that 11-year-olds were too young to understand the (fairly uncomplicated) concept of a trans woman. “There are some things that we accept in society that children are not going to accept in the same way that we do,” he told local news station 12 News. Adding, “I just don’t want them teaching, especially not this age group.”

Thankfully, other parents defended Laura. “My son knows who he is and I don’t think any outside influence is going to change that. I’m more concerned about straight predatory teachers rather than I am someone who lives an alternative private lifestyle. I don’t worry about my son,” said Jammie Marcantel, whose son was in Laura’s class.

Speaking to 12 News, Laura said she had substituted before without incident and wasn’t sure why people were complaining now. “I have always conducted myself in a professional manner and would never discuss my gender identity in school,” she said. 

According to another local news station, Laura will find out later today if she gets to keep her job. 

See Cry-Baby #2 and Vote!

Black, White & Greek
In 1963, in the midst of the heated debate over the desegregation of American schools, the University of Alabama announced that it would for the first time allow African Americans to enroll. Fifty years later, in September 2013, two University of Alabama sororities rejected an African American student because of her race. As a result, an anti-racist student group called the Mallet Assembly and other members of the community took action to prevent segregation within the university’s Greek system.
Watch the documentary

Black, White & Greek

In 1963, in the midst of the heated debate over the desegregation of American schools, the University of Alabama announced that it would for the first time allow African Americans to enroll. Fifty years later, in September 2013, two University of Alabama sororities rejected an African American student because of her race. As a result, an anti-racist student group called the Mallet Assembly and other members of the community took action to prevent segregation within the university’s Greek system.

Watch the documentary

Furious Buddhists Are Making Life Hell for Sri Lanka’s Muslims 
Muslims are under attack in Sri Lanka. Recent reports indicate that gangs of Buddhists have been roaming the streets, administering bloody mob beatings, and attacking places where Muslims work and worship. Raw pork has been thrown into mosques, the Halal logo has been banned, and the prominent Muslim government critic Azad Sally has been arrested. One dramatic incident ended with government commandos being deployed to maintain law and order after a gang of Buddhistsinjured four people at a mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest city, forcing it to close and a curfew to be put in place.
Moulavi Fazil Farooq, from the Islamic political group All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, told me that Muslims’ “freedom of religion and freedom of speech” are under threat in Sri Lanka. He also sent me in the direction of one of the Buddhist groups that have been accused of carrying out the attacks: Bodu Bala Sena, which roughly translates as “Buddhist Power Force.” Their stated aim is to “protect” Buddhist culture in Sri Lanka, as it’s apparently under threat from Muslim and Christian groups. (For context, 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s population is Buddhist—less than 10 percent is Muslim, fewer still are Christian.)
Continue

Furious Buddhists Are Making Life Hell for Sri Lanka’s Muslims 

Muslims are under attack in Sri Lanka. Recent reports indicate that gangs of Buddhists have been roaming the streets, administering bloody mob beatings, and attacking places where Muslims work and worship. Raw pork has been thrown into mosques, the Halal logo has been banned, and the prominent Muslim government critic Azad Sally has been arrested. One dramatic incident ended with government commandos being deployed to maintain law and order after a gang of Buddhistsinjured four people at a mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest city, forcing it to close and a curfew to be put in place.

Moulavi Fazil Farooq, from the Islamic political group All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, told me that Muslims’ “freedom of religion and freedom of speech” are under threat in Sri Lanka. He also sent me in the direction of one of the Buddhist groups that have been accused of carrying out the attacks: Bodu Bala Sena, which roughly translates as “Buddhist Power Force.” Their stated aim is to “protect” Buddhist culture in Sri Lanka, as it’s apparently under threat from Muslim and Christian groups. (For context, 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s population is Buddhist—less than 10 percent is Muslim, fewer still are Christian.)

Continue

The George Zimmerman Trial Reminded Me of Who I Am in America
It’s easier to hide from the specter of Trayvon Martin than it is to face his dead body sprawled awkwardly on the concrete. I was trying to escape it desperately last Saturday night, when George Zimmerman was found not guilty. I was at a fashion brand’s swanky event in a nightclub in Manhattan surrounded by obligatory white kids who like rap and probably have trust funds, boozing myself into a stupor. The next morning, when outraged people took to the streets all over the country, I went to a screening of Sophia Coppola’s Bling Ring and caught up on some reading at a coffee shop. I tried to ignore the news. I didn’t want to bear to think about it because it all hit way too close to home.
Usually, instances of black folks dying doesn’t fuck me up that much. The music I listen to every day is full of references to black men shooting or getting shot at. Like Tupac said, “Niggas been dying for years…” Not a day goes by that I don’t catch a story of a young black man who has met a violent end. Sometimes it’s through gang or drug violence, other times it’s by the hand of the cops, still other times a senile neighbor shoots a 13-year-old kid for no reason. Black death is so constant and relentless all over the country that news of new tragedy has started to lose its resonance for me.
The suddenness, violence, and pointlessness of deaths like Trayvon’s is hard for me to imagine, much less understand. Sometimes it feels like it’s happening on a different planet. I didn’t grow up in the ghetto. I’ve spent much of my life in the suburbs. I’ve lived around rich white folks, I went to school with them, I slept with their daughters, I took drugs with them, and I came of age with them. When you’re a black person who’s been in the company white people as much as I’ve been, sometimes you find yourself saying, What’s the difference? Aren’t we all the same?
But any time I’ve ever gotten too impressed with the progress of the arc of the moral universe toward justice, I’ve been smacked back to reality. It always comes when I least expect it—getting pulled over for no reason or followed around by a counterman in a stank-ass bodega that didn’t even have the fucking wave cap I was looking for. In those moments, I remember, as much as I’d like to forget, that we are not the same. We are not treated equally in the eyes of the law and we don’t face the same obstacles.
Continue

The George Zimmerman Trial Reminded Me of Who I Am in America

It’s easier to hide from the specter of Trayvon Martin than it is to face his dead body sprawled awkwardly on the concrete. I was trying to escape it desperately last Saturday night, when George Zimmerman was found not guilty. I was at a fashion brand’s swanky event in a nightclub in Manhattan surrounded by obligatory white kids who like rap and probably have trust funds, boozing myself into a stupor. The next morning, when outraged people took to the streets all over the country, I went to a screening of Sophia Coppola’s Bling Ring and caught up on some reading at a coffee shop. I tried to ignore the news. I didn’t want to bear to think about it because it all hit way too close to home.

Usually, instances of black folks dying doesn’t fuck me up that much. The music I listen to every day is full of references to black men shooting or getting shot at. Like Tupac said, “Niggas been dying for years…” Not a day goes by that I don’t catch a story of a young black man who has met a violent end. Sometimes it’s through gang or drug violence, other times it’s by the hand of the cops, still other times a senile neighbor shoots a 13-year-old kid for no reason. Black death is so constant and relentless all over the country that news of new tragedy has started to lose its resonance for me.

The suddenness, violence, and pointlessness of deaths like Trayvon’s is hard for me to imagine, much less understand. Sometimes it feels like it’s happening on a different planet. I didn’t grow up in the ghetto. I’ve spent much of my life in the suburbs. I’ve lived around rich white folks, I went to school with them, I slept with their daughters, I took drugs with them, and I came of age with them. When you’re a black person who’s been in the company white people as much as I’ve been, sometimes you find yourself saying, What’s the difference? Aren’t we all the same?

But any time I’ve ever gotten too impressed with the progress of the arc of the moral universe toward justice, I’ve been smacked back to reality. It always comes when I least expect it—getting pulled over for no reason or followed around by a counterman in a stank-ass bodega that didn’t even have the fucking wave cap I was looking for. In those moments, I remember, as much as I’d like to forget, that we are not the same. We are not treated equally in the eyes of the law and we don’t face the same obstacles.

Continue

Gay Men Can’t Donate Blood, But Some Are Trying Anyway
Last Friday, I tried to donate blood. 
After taking a test to prove that I’m HIV negative (whoop!) I went to Kaiser Permanente Blood Donor Center in Hollywood, Los Angeles, and told the receptionist that I was there to donate.
She gave me some forms to fill out and a free pen (whoop!) to fill them out with.
Things were going great until:
"Male donors: [have you] had sexual contact with another male even once?"  I marked yes, and handed my form back to the receptionist.
I was taken to a side room by a nurse who went over my form with me. “Unfortunately, since you have had sexual contact with another male, that’s a deferral,” she said.  
An activist en route to donate blood.
The reason I was trying to donate blood (despite having put my penis inside other men on multiple occasions) was as a part of the first-ever national gay blood drive, an event organized by documentarian Ryan James Yezak in an attempt to draw attention to what many see as an unfair rule. 
Continue

Gay Men Can’t Donate Blood, But Some Are Trying Anyway

Last Friday, I tried to donate blood. 

After taking a test to prove that I’m HIV negative (whoop!) I went to Kaiser Permanente Blood Donor Center in Hollywood, Los Angeles, and told the receptionist that I was there to donate.

She gave me some forms to fill out and a free pen (whoop!) to fill them out with.

Things were going great until:



"Male donors: [have you] had sexual contact with another male even once?"  I marked yes, and handed my form back to the receptionist.

I was taken to a side room by a nurse who went over my form with me. “Unfortunately, since you have had sexual contact with another male, that’s a deferral,” she said.  


An activist en route to donate blood.

The reason I was trying to donate blood (despite having put my penis inside other men on multiple occasions) was as a part of the first-ever national gay blood drive, an event organized by documentarian Ryan James Yezak in an attempt to draw attention to what many see as an unfair rule. 

Continue

Why Are So Many Gypsies Killing Themselves?
Gypsies and travelers have long been a marginalized group. I suppose that’s one of the pitfalls of intentionally side-lining yourself from mainstream society for hundreds of years. But recent changes to legislation surrounding traveler communities (meaning they no longer have government-approved places to settle) has made them even more segregated. A report showed that travelers and gypsies are in significantly poorer health than other UK-resident, English-speaking ethnic minorities. They’re also more likely to suffer from miscarriages, still births, the death of young babies and older children because their access to healthcare—as a group with no fixed address—is limited. Which is obviously all extremely depressing.
Another related bum-out is the fact that, within the last five years, the rates of drug abuse in both communities have risen exponentially, and suicide rates have grown to be six times higher than those of the general UK population. Travelers and gypsies are already both pretty closed communities, and I imagine they’re not going to become any less reluctant to talk when it comes to their family members killing themselves, so there’s not a huge amount of information out there as to why this has suddenly started happening. To get a bit of insight, I called Shauna Leven from the charity René Cassin. 
Ex-residents of Dale Farm.
VICE: Hi Shauna. Can you unwrap this statistic that suicide rates in the traveler and gypsy communities are six times higher than the general UK population?
Shauna Leven: First, I should just say that these statistics apply to Romani gypsies and Scottish, Welsh, and Irish travelers, not so much the Roma people who’ve started coming here more recently. However, they too experience the same kind of discrimination in Europe. Unfortunately, it’s hard to delve into specifics, because the NHS doesn’t collect statistics on health issues for this ethnic groups as it does for other ethnic groups.   


Why aren’t they collecting statistics?
It’s just not part of the NHS framework. Gypsies and travelers are recognized as an ethnic minority, but the discrepancy between, say, the life expectancy of travelers and the general population is mostly ignored. If you were seeing the same kind of thing in the Muslim community, for example, it’s much more likely there’d be statistics taken. Our first recommendation towards solving the problem is to go out and do more research about the topic, because that’s the first issue here.     

The first issue is what’s causing it?Yes—well, higher suicide rates are really the result of a convergence of factors. Racism against gypsies and travelers is often referred to as the last acceptable type of racism here in the UK. Educated, socially conscious people often don’t hesitate before using the words “gyp” or “pikey” or other things like that, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. It shows the level of social exclusion that travelers automatically fall under for being travelers.
Continue

Why Are So Many Gypsies Killing Themselves?

Gypsies and travelers have long been a marginalized group. I suppose that’s one of the pitfalls of intentionally side-lining yourself from mainstream society for hundreds of years. But recent changes to legislation surrounding traveler communities (meaning they no longer have government-approved places to settle) has made them even more segregated. A report showed that travelers and gypsies are in significantly poorer health than other UK-resident, English-speaking ethnic minorities. They’re also more likely to suffer from miscarriages, still births, the death of young babies and older children because their access to healthcare—as a group with no fixed address—is limited. Which is obviously all extremely depressing.

Another related bum-out is the fact that, within the last five years, the rates of drug abuse in both communities have risen exponentially, and suicide rates have grown to be six times higher than those of the general UK population. Travelers and gypsies are already both pretty closed communities, and I imagine they’re not going to become any less reluctant to talk when it comes to their family members killing themselves, so there’s not a huge amount of information out there as to why this has suddenly started happening. To get a bit of insight, I called Shauna Leven from the charity René Cassin


Ex-residents of Dale Farm.

VICE: Hi Shauna. Can you unwrap this statistic that suicide rates in the traveler and gypsy communities are six times higher than the general UK population?

Shauna Leven: First, I should just say that these statistics apply to Romani gypsies and Scottish, Welsh, and Irish travelers, not so much the Roma people who’ve started coming here more recently. However, they too experience the same kind of discrimination in Europe. Unfortunately, it’s hard to delve into specifics, because the NHS doesn’t collect statistics on health issues for this ethnic groups as it does for other ethnic groups.   



Why aren’t they collecting statistics?

It’s just not part of the NHS framework. Gypsies and travelers are recognized as an ethnic minority, but the discrepancy between, say, the life expectancy of travelers and the general population is mostly ignored. If you were seeing the same kind of thing in the Muslim community, for example, it’s much more likely there’d be statistics taken. Our first recommendation towards solving the problem is to go out and do more research about the topic, because that’s the first issue here.     


The first issue is what’s causing it?
Yes—well, higher suicide rates are really the result of a convergence of factors. Racism against gypsies and travelers is often referred to as the last acceptable type of racism here in the UK. Educated, socially conscious people often don’t hesitate before using the words “gyp” or “pikey” or other things like that, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. It shows the level of social exclusion that travelers automatically fall under for being travelers.

Continue