Fighting widespread racism against the Roma (Gypsies)

While for millions of ignorant people around the world the word "Gypsy" is a derogatory remark, "Gypsy" is an identity for millions of other people who are also known as Roma.

Originally from India, Roma are today a people without a permanent homeland - scattered around the world and often living in the worst living conditions.

The term "Antiziganism" or Anti-Romanyism means hostility, prejudice or racism directed at the Roma people, commonly called Gypsies.

The root “zigan” is the basis of the word for the Roma people in many European languages. The Roma — who have often been stereotyped as thieves, tramps, con men and fortune tellers — have been subject to various forms of discrimination throughout history.

Due in part to their semi-nomadic lifestyle and differences in language and culture, there has been a great deal of mutual distrust between the Roma and the more settled indigenous inhabitants of the areas to which the Roma migrated. This distrust has persisted even though Roma who migrated into Europe often converted to Christianity, and those who arrived in the Middle East became Muslims.

Up to half a million Roma were victims of the Nazi Holocaust, and in July 2008 Italy's government announced the plan to fingerprint all of its Roma population.

Media and governments around the world have implemented tools of institutionalized oppression against the Roma. In Turkey, until recently, Roma people couldn't buy property, and an ancient Roma district in Istanbul is about to be demolished.

In Armenia, "Bosha" (the name for local Roma) is considered an insult.

Institutionalized Antizigan discrimination continues in Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and Kosovo.

Antiziganism is prominent in popular culture. One part of Sacha Cohen's satirical film "Borat," which supposedly portrays Borat's impoverished native village, actually shows a Roma village in Romania. While Cohen is theoretically fighting Antiziganism (like Anti-Semitism) by his satirical racism, he exploited and dehumanized the Roma villagers. In character, Borat has referred to himself as a former "gypsy catcher," and he has made a reference to "running over Gypsies with a Hummer" among other insulting statements.

Judge Judy, an American TV-star, has used the word "Gypsy," at least twice, while comparing a person to a thief on her show.

Antiziganism is the worst - yet the least known - form of racism in the world. Next time you hear someone misusing the word “Gypsy,” do something because injustice anywhere, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., is a threat to justice everywhere.

1. Universal rights for Roma is a must