In February 2020, Roma Americans welcomed Northern State University’s decision to rename their “G*psy Days Homecoming Parade” to simply “Homecoming Parade.” The South Dakota public institution’s amendment of the 100+ year tradition also meant no longer including G*psy — a racial slur for Roma people — or the accompanying flagrant stereotyping, the gross minstrelsy, or the crowning of “King of the G*ps.”
But in a March 10, 2021 Facebook post, NSU’s Senior Cabinet broke their word to Roma people everywhere. Citing pressure from “stakeholders,” the university “elected to withdraw its plans to rename the homecoming celebration.” While the “stakeholders” in question were not identified, critics point to donor money.
This reversal comes one year after NSU’s president Dr. Timothy Downs explained why they initially decided to end the racist celebration: “The reason for this change was due to the disconnect between our goal of building an inclusive campus culture, attentive to belonging and collegiality, with a term that many today recognize as offensive to a marginalized population.”
Regardless of these words, apparently racist entertainment sells. And NSU will continue to sell it at the expense of a brutally marginalized ethnic minority, the largest minority in Europe, and one whose plight is specifically sabotaged by fictionalization and minstrelsy such as the “G*psy Days Homecoming Parade.”
For Romani Americans who petitioned, Roma academics who appealed to NSU for years, and NSU student groups demanding racist traditions be discontinued, the announcement was another example of inhumanity in the long struggle against anti-Roma racism, which is chronically and routinely dismissed.
Roma people suffer targeted fictionalization as a form of erasure that explicitly undermines our humanity and appeal for human rights internationally. Interventions like NSU’s promise last winter are as crucial as they are hard-won. For a moment, we were heard. Campaigns, petitions, articles, and appeals to NSU were canceled. We were promised our dignity.
NSU’s decision to change course is unacceptable, especially because it is an institution of learning. NSU made the change to address racism and must keep its word to Roma people and end the “G*psy Days Homecoming” humiliation.
Stand with Roma people and urge NSU President Dr. Timothy Downs (directly at 1 605 626 2521 or firstname.lastname@example.org) and the South Dakota Board of Regents at 1 605 773 3455 or email@example.com) to end “G*psy Days Homecoming” and repair the harm of both their racist tradition and breaking the promise to meaningfully address it.
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Victoria RiosVictoria Rios is a singer-songwriter, teacher, activist and Romani American from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the daughter of acclaimed Flamenco guitarist Agustin Rios de Morón and a member of the Gastoreña Flamenco Dynasty, also known as Los Negros de Ronda.