A note on “Skepticism and Gypsy Stereotypes”

Hopefully you took the time to read the article I just posted entitled “Skepticism and Gypsy Stereotypes.” I want to give some backstory to this piece, separate from the article itself.

After attending Imagine No Religion 3 this past spring, I had wanted to challenge the trope of Gypsy Fortune-Tellers that was tangentially brought up on a couple occasions by conference speakers. I don’t suspect and malice or intentional racism on the part of the speakers but the myths should be debunked and consciousness should be raised.

Looking a bit into it, I discovered a 1999 article by famed skeptical investigator Joe Nickell that quotes James Randi describing Gypsies as:

an ethnic group who “essentially live outside the cultures of the countries in which they choose to reside” and who often treat non-gypsies as “fair game for their fortune-telling, curse-lifting and other superstitious ministrations” (Randi 1995).

While I couldn’t track down Randi’s ‘95 reference, it appears he makes a fairly extreme claim about an entire ethnic group without evidence.

This is called racism.

So I started looking wider into the issue, and given my extremely limited background in social sciences, I recruited Edwin Hodge, the skeptical political sociologist, to assist me. Together we drafted the article over the course of a couple months (we’re both really busy) and submitted it to a leading skeptical magazine.

We were advised that it was a good topic to cover, we should shift the tone from an editorial to a more research-based piece (a legitimate request and expected given all of my writing is editorial). However, given recent concerns about the leadership of the various organizations which publish the major skeptic magazines, we opted to publish the article electronically as-is instead.

I hope you’ll share the article as you can. The Roma face a ridiculous amount of discrimination, especially from the Canadian government who, Jason Kenney in particular, view them as dirty thieves.