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Conflicting dogmas on Roma integration

June 14th, 2014

A conservative columnist blames the exclusion of the Roma on what he calls “the culture of poverty” rather than on discrimination by the majority. His left-wing counterpart finds it peculiar that the Right would expect those living in deprivation and exclusion to fight prejudice.

Roma people living in deep poverty cannot be lifted (by others) out of their predicament, Miklós András Lázin writes in Magyar Hírlap. The conservative columnist suggests that deprivation and poverty cannot be alleviated through welfare or workfare programs. People living in rural slums do not seem to have any willingness to improve their own lot, Lázin ruminates on the unkept yards and litter strewn across poor neighbourhoods populated mostly, but not exclusively by Roma. He believes that if people facing everyday deprivation do not even bother to plant vegetables in their gardens, then they are not in the least concerned about their own well-being. Those who are familiar with the realities of deep poverty and know that deprivation is first and foremost the result of culture and lifestyle, do not buy the slogans of liberal and left-wing human rights activists who blame all the ills of Roma poverty on discrimination or racism, Lázin contends.

Népszabadság’s Miklós Hargitai criticizes what he calls the “dominant dogma of the Right.” He accuses the conservatives of attributing the negative attitude of Hungarians towards the Roma primarily to the lack of willingness of the Roma to learn, work and integrate rather than to outright racist prejudice. The left-wing columnist recalls that in the interwar period anti-Semitism was rampant, although Hungarian Jews did want to integrate and were successful at school. Therefore prejudice can prevail even if a minority is not socially disadvantaged. Hargitai finds it peculiar that many on the Right would expect Roma people living in deprivation to rebut stereotypes. In conclusion, he wonders whether those who blame their own negative feelings towards the Roma on the lifestyle and culture of the minority would employ Roma or welcome them in the schools of their children.

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