Stop sale of "Gipsy"Jackets
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Tamara-Danz-Str. 1 10243 Berlin
Telefax: +49 (0)30 2759 46 93
Dear Sir/ Madam,
Roma are the largest racial minority in Europe, making up around 10-12 million people across the continent. They face widespread discrimination in all areas of life and, as a result, widespread poverty. Roma are the targets of a racist ideology – antigypsyism – which is all too common in Europe. This discrimination dates back centuries; many Roma were killed in the Holocaust, for example, and Roma were slaves in Romania until the 1870s.
We are writing to ask for an explanation for the Zalando sold and distributed jacket collection by the brand “Gipsy” with the title “Gipsy”. The word is a racial slur against Roma, rooted in a history of Romani slavery, oppression, and discrimination. As a group of human rights activists, organizations, scholars, teachers, workers, students from all around Europe committed to combating antigypsyism, we find that your use of the word “Gipsy” for commercial purposes is unethical and racist. The slur has a long history and derogatory meaning, yet you are using it for online marketing worldwide and profit. We strongly disapprove of such language and want an explanation for its use.
The fashion industry is a wonderful and creative space of self expression, but often times it is not free of racism and antigypsyism. For years the fashion industry has profited from orientalizing Romani culture, aesthetics, patterns naming it a “Gipsy” style, a name under which hundred of thousands of Romani persons were and are still persecuted, executed, segregated and discriminated against.
Recently, Arman Hejlic an activist and scholar of Roma origin while shopping on Zalando’s online webstore platforms discovered a series of jackets under the selling title “Gipsy” or “Gipsy-Skin jackets”. Revolted he wrote back to Zalando’s facebook account asking for explanations and immediate measures for removal of the term from the companies online store. Instead, Zalando’s facebook account administrator, a person named Fillipa sent a number of bureaucratic answers, and did still not undertake any serious measure to remove the derogatory title of the jacket series, saying in a Facebook message that: “if we receive any feedback [from the corresponding department] we will let you know.”
We expected Zalando, one of Europe’s most popular online store companies (especially among the youth) that sells and distributes shoes, clothing and other fashion items in fifteen European countries and worldwide to live up to a higher standard. Your fashion items should strive to represent Europe’s open-mindness and respect towards your customers that come from diverse background and cultures. However, with a series of jackets named “Gipsy” and “Gipsy-Skin” you alienate people, and proliferate stereotypes and hate that divide them. Because of this many of our Romani and non-Romani friends are considering cancelling their Zalando purchase and advising their friends to do the same. Because your jacket fashion line ignores a group’s history while profiting on stereotypes about their culture, we are also questioning what kind of customers are the target of your company.
Outraged and disappointed over Zalando´s participation in appropriation of a racial slur, against one of Europe's most vulnerable social and ethnic groups, we the Romani community of Europe consisted by activists, scholars, teachers, workers, students, demand serious answers and immediate measures in light of respect of the human dignity and rights of our people. As we imagine a world in which the same company would not sell fashion items labeled under the name of the “N-word” or “N-word- Skin Jacket," we demand that the name is removed from the website and that Zalando makes a public apology.
If we do not receive an official explanation from Zalando in maximum of 15 days, we will be looking into the legal options open to us to complain about what we believe is an implicit incitement to racial hatred, which is incompatible with European legal standards: EU Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA requires every European Union Member State to make incitement to racial hatred a criminal offence, and European Union Directive 2000/43 prohibits discrimination in access to goods and services through the EU. That means that we can pursue criminal and civil complaints against Zalando in all twenty-eight EU Member States and the other countries in Europe that have similar standards.
Arman Heljic, PhD student, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Senada Sali, Lawyer, European Roma Rights Centre, Budapest, Hungary
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