Gypsies need support, not stereotyping

3rd June 2011 at 01:00

I am writing to express my horror at comments made by Ms Anne Thrope in the article "White lies and a word with God" (TES Magazine, 20 May).

As a community cohesion officer and ex-Gypsy liaison officer, I have seen my fair share of Gypsy-bashing articles from the usual red-top suspects. I am saddened by this, but consoled that the people that read and believe this nonsense are not generally in positions to institutionally impose their bigotry.

However, alarm bells rang when I read in TES Magazine: "I have just been out riding on my horse ... She is a skewbald gypsy cob, which means she spent her formative years avoiding council tax, tethered to a roundabout just off the A1."

I am horrified for two reasons. First, I find it incomprehensible that a teacher would feel it acceptable to make such comments. Is she aware of the Equality Act? Is she aware that Gypsies are a distinct ethnic group and that by this stereotyping she demonises them all? I wonder if there are Gypsy children in her school.

Second, I am baffled by a publication like The TES running such an article, especially in light of its considerable support of Gypsy education in previous issues.

The facts are plain: Gypsy communities occupy the lowest rung on the educational ladder; they suffer the highest infant mortality; and they are acknowledged by the Commission for Equality and Human Rights as the last acceptable targets of racism. They need support, not bigotry. If we were to change the joke to one targeting the Irish or Ethiopians, would it still be acceptable?

Jon Blunkell, Community cohesion officer, Norfolk.

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