London Gypsies and Travellers has joined with other organisations to express outrage at words spoken by comedian Jimmy Carr in a show broadcast on Netflix, where he joked that the genocide of Roma and Gypsies in the Holocaust was a “positive”.
In a letter to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, sent out jointly with Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT), the Roma Support Group and over 40 equality and education organisations, LGT points out that over 500,000 Roma and Sinti people were murdered, tortured, starved, subjected to forced labour and medical experimentation under the Nazi regime.
“The fact that the comments were made, deemed suitable by Netflix to air and laughed at by the audience, has once again highlighted the deep-seated prejudice that exists against Gypsy and Roma communities,” says the letter.
Jimmy Carr’s words have drawn widespread condemnation from organisations and politicians including Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But LGT, FFT and Roma Support Group want action, and in their letter have urged the government to do more, and implement the teaching of the Roma genocide as a mandatory part of Holocaust teaching in schools.
It also wants the government to support schools to mark Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month and introduce a wider package of measures to improve the educational outcomes of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children and to tackle deep-seated prejudice.
LGT last month launched a major report examining negative media coverage of Gypsies and Travellers, and the way that it feeds widespread prejudice and stereotypes. The report examines ways in which we’ve examined how current patterns of thought and influence can be broken, and ways of bringing about a reframing of Gypsies and Travellers. Debby Kennett, LGT’s Chief Executive, points out it was the media that highlighted Jimmy Carr’s offensive comments – demonstrating the power they have to highlight prejudice, as well as perpetuate it.
“The widespread condemnation of Jimmy Carr’s so-called ‘joke’ by the media and politicians is an important moment,” she says. “It shows what can be done to call out the extreme racism and dehumanising representation of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and the vital role the media can play in doing this.”
Tom Margetson, LGT’s Community Development Worker, added: “It has been pleasing to see the media and government supporting my community in response to Jimmy Carr’s abhorrent joke. It is key, at the same time, to ensure it is acknowledged that for us this is not the norm in the British press. Through our Media That Moves report, released at the end of January, we saw that a story about Gypsies and Travellers is released every three days by the big national newspapers.”
“It is great to see that the press are uncharacteristically supporting us, but I feel that there is still some way to go in terms of support. Hopefully this is a turning point.”