On 15 May, the Times published an openly racist article by former Tory MP Matthew Parris. In the shocking article, Parris calls for the systematic eradication of the Traveller way of life, and the removal of the community’s rights as an ethnic minority group. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community members, campaigners, and allies took to Twitter to call out the abhorrent article – and the mainstream media at large – for its consistent promotion and normalisation of anti-GRT racism.
According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, GRT communities are some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged communities in the UK. In spite of this, the Times thought it appropriate to publish an article with the headline It’s time we stopped pandering to Travellers.
In the disgraceful piece, Parris sets out that “we should stop forcing local authorities to create Traveller sites” and “phase out the “ethnic minority” rights of people who are not a race but a doomed mindset”. In a eugenicist tone, he adds that authorities should “begin a gradual but relentless squeeze on anyone who tries without permission to park their home on public property or the property of others”.
This comes in the wake of government plans to push through its draconian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which proposes to criminalise GRT communities’ nomadic way of life.
Speaking out against the ‘shameful’ article, HOPE not hate tweeted:
The Times have published an article advocating for eradicating the way of life of an entire ethnic minority. Absolutely shameful. Solidarity with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people who have to endure this racism, and this mindset. pic.twitter.com/SR4VbY6H72
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— HOPE not hate (@hopenothate) May 15, 2021
Good Law Project legal director Gemma Abbott tweeted:
Absolutely repulsive – and frankly quite sinister – from Matthew Parris in the Times today
(The proposed “gradual but relentless squeeze” on those who refuse to give up their traditional way of life because it’s too inconvenient for Matthew Parris made my blood run cold) pic.twitter.com/CHS55BNbdn
— Gemma Abbott (@gem_abbott) May 15, 2021
Assistant professor Donal Coffey added:
Matthew Parris in the Times, calling for the withdrawal of ethnic minority status from Travellers on the ground that their way of life is 'a doomed mindset'. Scarcely credible that another minority would face calls like this in a national newspaper. pic.twitter.com/lBe9hQpWFF
— Donal Coffey (@DonalkCoffey) May 15, 2021
Hitting out against defensive claims made by commentators such as former MP Anna Soubry that anti-GRT racism is not racist, campaigners from The Traveller Movement tweeted:
— The Traveller Movement (@GypsyTravellerM) May 15, 2021
Campaigners from Black and Asian Lawyers for Justice added:
Brexit Britain. On what planet is this a reality? One of the most persistent characteristics of racism is it’s routine denial of its existence in the face of objective, observable facts. pic.twitter.com/g0TE1Pa1Mh
— Black and Asian Lawyers For Justice (@BameFor) May 15, 2021
Academic and writer Priyamvada Gopal shared:
Trying to imagine what passes for an editorial process here. 'What's your topic this week, Matthew…Ah, getting rid of Travellers, squeezing them out firmly? Cool, cool. 1000 words, & please keep the eugenics polite"
— Priyamvada Gopal (@PriyamvadaGopal) May 15, 2021
Speaking out about the real and harmful consequences of anti-GRT racism, writer Mikey Walsh shared:
We grew up being chucked out of shops, pubs & restaurants, bullied & separated from other kids in schools, chased off our own private Land, & now we are sitting ducks for the upcoming policing bill..but of course, the GRT community has been ‘Pandered to’ according to the Times.
— Mikey Walsh (@thatbloodyMikey) May 15, 2021
Mainstream media’s normalisation of anti-GRT racism
As The Canary‘s Fréa Lockley highlighted in July 2020, the Times has a track record of promoting anti-GRT racism in the UK. Racist misrepresentations in the media have real and lasting consequences. According to The Traveller Movement, abuse and harassment against GRT families – which was sparked by Channel 4‘s harmful programme called The Truth about Traveller Crime – continues unabated.
Speaking out about the harmful consequences of anti-GRT racism peddled by the mainstream media, campaigners from charity Friends, Families and Travellers tweeted:
We are sick of certain sections of the press printing attacks on Travellers like they are entertainment or sport. This does untold damage to Gypsy and Traveller people, but also to the tolerant and inclusive society we all want to live within. (2/3)
— FFT (@GypsyTravellers) May 15, 2021
The Canary’s editor-at-large Kerry-Anne Mendoza shared:
This is disgusting.
The English press pivots from weaponising racism one way to weaponising it the other without a moment’s self reflection.
And it’s already-marginalised people paying the price. pic.twitter.com/3MG0VHw0zR
— Kerry-Anne Mendoza 🏳️🌈 (@TheMendozaWoman) May 15, 2021
Garden Court Chambers barrister Marc Willers added:
I didn’t think the racist treatment of Gypsies and Travellers by the media could get much worse but today I see that in @thetimes Parris says that there is no longer a place for their traditional way of life, an integral part of which involves living in caravans. Shameful.
— Marc Willers QC (@mwillersqc) May 15, 2021
Opposing the media’s anti-GRT agenda
Sending a message of solidarity, one Twitter user shared:
Solidarity to my Gypsy, Roma and Traveller siblings who are yet again being subjected to vitriol from people that are worse than gum on the floor
— M (@rosaluxemburgs) May 15, 2021
Calling for action and accountability, campaigners from GRT Socialists tweeted:
Those who have ex Conservative MP Matthew Parris at your events or have him come to speak at them is no friend or ally of ours. He's just called for ethnic cleansing of Gypsies and Travellers in the Times we must hold him to account.
— GRTSocialists #SaveSheikhJarrah (@GRTSocialists) May 15, 2021
Calling on people to take action, Stop Funding Hate shared:
If you're concerned about today's attack by the Times on Gypsy, Roma & Traveller people, and you're a customer of a company on this list, there's something you can do. Send the company a polite & friendly tweet urging them to pull their ads from the paper & #StopTravellerHate https://t.co/ARBhktmFUK
— Stop Funding Hate (@StopFundingHate) May 15, 2021
Suggesting that people complain about Parris’s racist article to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, campaigners from The Traveller Movement tweeted:
If you want to complain about this article, you can do it here: https://t.co/EnWcvXBtPs
— The Traveller Movement (@GypsyTravellerM) May 15, 2021
The Times‘ latest racist attack shows just how normalised anti-GRT racism is in the UK. It demonstrates why we must unite to combat racism in all its forms, and fight against government plans to stamp out GRT communities’ nomadic way of life.
Featured image via The Times (modified)
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