The hidden minority among us
More than 100,000 German citizens may be hiding their Romany heritage, afraid of the racism of their neighbors and colleagues, said Heike Klovert. The Sinti, the term for Roma who migrated from India to Western Europe hundreds of years ago, are often indistinguishable from other Germans, having long ago acquired Germanic-sounding surnames. Some speak Romany at home—but not in public. “I’m actually proud to be a Sinto, but at work it would be a downside,” said one accountant, who did not want his name used. He said the stereotype of the thieving Gypsy is still too prevalent. Some of his darker-skinned relatives had been mocked or cursed at school. Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency statistics show that Sinti and Roma are the most reviled minority here. Germans would rather live next door to “Muslims, blacks, Italians, Jews, and asylum seekers” than Roma. Some Sinti say they hide their identity because they don’t want to be confused with the more recent Romany immigrants from Eastern Europe. But Sinti activists like Jùlie Georg say that’s a mistake, that combating prejudice against one subgroup will help all. “We must show our faces,” she says. As the gay rights movement has made clear, coming out is the first step toward acceptance, and ultimately equality.