The Association of Gypsy Women of the Basque Country (AMUGE) has made a testing in supermarkets and shopping centers in Bizkaia, as one of the actions of its project “Anti-Gypsyism: denunciation and visibility from a feminist and intersectional perspective”, subsidized by the Diputación de Bizkaia. The research will be published in book form, developed with testimonies from Roma women about their experience and with guidelines for how to act in the face of a racist incident while shopping.
In 16 of the 20 establishments in Bizkaia visited by the entity, behaviors and actions of staff based on racist prejudices were recorded. From the association they point out that these results “support the daily experience of persecution that Roma women suffer, from which we are legally unprotected, because it is not contemplated in the definition of hate crimes of the Criminal Code.”
They have also denounced that it is a reality that affects “our rights, our health, our self-esteem and our participation in public life.”
The investigation consisted of organizing visits to 15 supermarkets and 5 shopping centers in Bizkaia, between October 26 and November 15. A group made up of two or three Roma volunteers and a group of equal numbers and similar ages of white volunteers entered each establishment; they looked, tasted and bought products naturally. They were accompanied by independent observers as moral witnesses, in addition to an audiovisual technique that was able to record the incidents in audio and video.
Through this methodology, a discriminatory treatment of Roma volunteers in 16 of the 20 establishments visited, which represents 80% of the sample. The entity emphasizes that “these criminalizing behaviors occurred every day that we organize visits, and towards all Roma participants.”
In the data collection form, the types of discrimination indicated by the Roma volunteers were the following:
– Persecutions: in 16 establishments
– Verbal accusations: in 4 establishments
– Excessive physical contact: in 3 establishments
– Registration or invitation to demonstrate absence of theft: in 1 establishment
– Others: 16 establishments (described accusatory or intimidating glances, offensive whispers and comments, nervous expression and request for reinforcements)
In all cases, this perception was corroborated by independent observers, among whom journalists and personalities of Basque culture have participated.
When asked how they had felt, the Roma volunteers used expressions such as “uncomfortable”, “persecuted” or “harassed”. They also made reference to that this experience corresponds to their daily reality: “It’s a normal thing for us, I can never buy quietly, I always have to buy quickly.”
The white volunteers, for their part, were able to make the purchase with total normality in the 20 establishments; only one was slightly intimidated by the proximity of a security guard. The main complaint of the white volunteers, in addition to witnessing the discriminatory treatment of their fellow experiments, was that the store personnel ignored them: “all the resources of the store were destined to ‘control the situation'”.
For their part, the observers described scenes such as follow-ups or mobilizations of numerous private security devices. Another practice that the entity perceives as “especially worrisome” is that the people who exercised discrimination sought the complicity of the white volunteers or the observers, with expressions such as “I’m sorry I didn’t take good care of you, they come to mess it up.”
Criminalization in the everyday context
Given the results of the investigation, AMUGE considers it proven that “they are not due to individual attitudes of specific workers, but rather indicate that store and security personnel receive instructions based on anti-Gypsy prejudices.” Furthermore, it states that “there is a deep-rooted culture that it naturalizes to treat Roma people not as clients, but as suspects “.
The head of AMUGE, Tamara Clavería, recalls that this criminalization “affects the fundamental rights of Roma women, but also our health and self-esteem. Being publicly shamed limits our social participation.” This criminalization is not limited to the field of commerce, but is also reproduced in the labor market, in real estate, in the educational system or in the health system, “but the context of making the purchase is one of the most everyday, it is ours. day to day”.
Likewise, the entity has denounced the lack of legal protection to act against this daily discrimination, which is not contemplated in the formulation of hate crimes in article 510 of the Penal Code.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.