femmefata1e (femmefata1e) wrote in de_ex,

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is there such a thing as exoticizing ourselves?

Please forgive any ignorance this post displays.. this is my first time posting here, and I wanted to bring up a situation that I believe to be somewhat unique (but again, perhaps this is a common behavior among different cultures).

I am part Romani (also called 'Gypsies') on my mother's side and Native American/Nordic from my father's side. In attempting to research my Romani heritage, in addition to reading books and websites, I joined some groups on Yahoo, LiveJournal and MySpace, and as such I was able to get into contact with various Romani people. These people, it seems, could be divided by the way they reacted to my inquiries, into two different groups.. there were many like me, who had partial Romani heritage, looking for information as they were not raised in a 'traditional' Romani household, some of which weren't even told they were Romani until much later in life, due to their parents having come to this country to escape persecution (in places like the Czech Republic, etc.,) who were afraid to admit to their 'Gypsy blood'. These people were very willing to share and talk with me, and had told me that they had found some Romani people 'hard to talk to'. This brings me to my second group..

Upon introducing myself to the second group, I was met with hostility and disbelief. Apparently, I look 'too white' to be Romani.. I was called everything from 'gadje' (Romani word for anyone not Romani, aka 'outsiders'), to 'wanna-be', to 'hippie', the list goes on.. I realize that our culture attracts a certain group of people because we are seen as 'mystical' 'magical' & 'free-spirited', none of whom are aware that you can't 'join' us and become a Gypsy, there's no sign-up sheet, you have to be born with Romani blood. Having been asked on many occasions what my heritage is, and having told people I'm part Romani, people assume I'm Italian or Romanian, and it is then that I have to use 'the "G" word' so that people will understand that, yes, we're real, and no, we're not like Esmerelda in that cute Disney movie..

Having said that, I have only ever run into one individual that pushed the boundary of being offensive (though I'm sure there are many out there I have not had the 'pleasure' of meeting,) and I haven't encountered much of an issue with 'wanna-bes', and my opinion on that is that people who do things like that are simply not educated. The bulk of them have no idea that Gypsies are an ethnic group, not a fairytale character. Or, they see it as a descriptive term (as it is often used in America) for someone who is a non-conformist or lives a nomadic lifestyle. Once they realize they're treading on a race, and one that's nowhere near as 'magical' as they were led to believe, they generally back off.

The point I am trying to make with all this rambling is, I think some Romanies (many of whom are no more 'Gypsy' than I am, by blood percentage, and I am half) take things a bit too far, to the point of exoticizing their own culture (ie., 'you're not Gypsy enough, Black enough, Mexican enough, Italian enough,' etc.) Has anyone experienced this in their own culture? I have seen some Romani people who just can't let things go, and every sentence they type or every subject seems to turn into how (they feel) 'everybody wants to be a Gypsy', etc.. maybe I am fortunate to live in a place where I am not exposed to people who want to 'join us', but I just have a hard time believing it is a problem on the level they make it out to be. It seems, to me, more like they are fulfilling some need within themselves to feel 'special' or 'different' than everyone else.

I suspect this happens outside of the Romani culture as well, as I've heard people say things like 'you're not Black enough', etc., when they feel someone doesn't embrace the portions of the 'Black' culture that people feel they should.. this is a bit hypocritical, likewise, because that's almost like saying that anyone who *does* embrace the culture can then become a race that they, genetically, aren't.

I hope I'm making sense.. thoughts?
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