Will the Czech Republic's Roma prejudice ever disappear?

Attitudes towards the Roma community in the Czech Republic are improving but prejudice remains a significant obstacle.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 28.10.2021 08:00 (updated on 27.10.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

The death of Stanislav Tomáš following police intervention in Teplice earlier this year prompted calls for an urgent examination of inequalities faced by Roma people in the Czech Republic. Although an autopsy released this week has dispelled claims that Tomáš was a “Czech George Floyd,” the case highlighted harsh realities of life for the country’s Roma community.

A new survey conducted for the HateFree Culture campaign has revealed the continuing prejudice of young people towards ethnic minorities in the Czech Republic. 86 percent of Czechs aged between 15 and 36 perceive co-habitation with Roma people as problematic. 47 percent meanwhile perceive co-habitation with Muslims as problematic.

The results show that young people in the Czech Republic continue to have deep-seated reservations about living in proximity with ethnic minorities. Such attitudes are widely linked to an impression that such groups devalue the communities in which they live.

Indeed, Ombudsman Stanislav Křeček said earlier this year that Roma people have difficulties finding housing because they “devastate the housing stock and turn sections of municipalities into excluded localities.”

Such prejudices are hard to dispel, but there is also reason for optimism. Compared to results from the same age category recorded in 2014, the survey showed a five percent drop in negative perceptions of both Roma people and Muslims. This contrasts with the lack of development in negative perceptions of co-habitation with the homeless, which remained unchanged at 59 percent.

The survey also suggested that myths about the Roma community are questioned more than they were before, while racist humor is becoming less popular among young people.

For Roma people in the Czech Republic social exclusion starts early. A 2018 report estimated early school leavers in the Roma community at an astonishing 72 percent, compared to a national average of 6.7 percent. A 2012 study found unemployment rates to be four times higher among Roma people than among non-Roma; one of the highest disparities seen in the eleven countries surveyed.

While testing general perceptions, the recent survey by HateFree also asked hypothetical questions to gauge the effects of prejudices on day-to-day life. One question was whether or not respondents would be willing to rent their flat to a family with more members than their flat’s size would normally permit.

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73 percent of respondents would be happy to rent the flat to such a family if they had a Czech-sounding name. For clients with a Roma-sounding name, though, such a request would be met by less than half of respondents.

“This survey shows not only how people describe their relations towards others, it also tests prejudices in practice,” said HateFree Culture Campaign coordinator Lukáš Houdek.

It’s therefore clear that negative perceptions of the Roma community continue to influence everyday life in the Czech Republic. It may be too early to say whether a slight reduction in prejudiced attitudes among young Czechs is a sign of more widespread societal understanding to come, but for Roma people, greater integration into Czech society is long overdue.

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