All my life [that’s 39 years and counting] I have used the word “piker” to mean “someone mean with money”. Usually in the following situation:
::self finds 5 cent coin::
“Wealth beyond the dreams of Avarice!” (beat) “Avarice was a piker.”
It’s a routine I inherited from my parents and it used to be a bit of harmless fun. Something funny to say.
I have since learned via an internet chat, of all things, that “piker” is derived from “pikey”, meaning “Irish gypsy”.
I do not believe that any particular ethnic group should be singled out as having one main trait. Not all brown people, for instance, are astoundingly athletic. Or perpetually happy. Not all native Americans have an instinctive connection with the mystical. Not all Jewish folks are smart with money. And not all WASPs are intolerant bigots willing to slap a label on anyone or anything just so they can stop thinking.
The Gypsies [Rom, Sinde(?) and a few others I forget, right now] have had a bad run of things. Chiefly because they remained nomads in a perpetually growing environment of others who settle down in one place and stay for the long haul.
And it’s precisely because they don’t have a homeland, a King, and whatever other trappings we “normal” people decide they “should” have, that we stationary folk find it so easy to cast aspersions on them.
And vice versa.
We gadje are WAY more likely to thieve Gypsy kids than the Gypsies are prone to take ours. The whole bit about one side eating the others’ kids is racist claptrap invented to encourage separatism. And the persecution. OMFG the persecution. Even if they try to move in and settle and try to “be normal”, they face unbelievable hostility and social shunning from everyone around them because they are “not like us”.
For fuck’s sake, people! No matter what flavour your “us” or “them” is, we are all humans together on this planet! We’re all born with the same number of appendages, sensory organs and whatnot. Just because someone is raised into a different set of beliefs is no reason to get your hate on. “They” are ordinary people within the perspectives of their culture. “They” are just trying to raise their kids and have a decent life. Just like “us”.
Once we see that, once we listen and try to understand, then we have a halfway decent chance of making this poor, broken world we’ve made work better.
I try not to hate any one group of people. I also try not to assume they have special gifts because of their genetic heritage.
And I feel a great shame because I happen to belong to the group of pale-skinned monotheists that did a whole bunch of evil in the past to people of differing hues, lifestyles and theologies. I don’t want to make the same mistakes. I’m trying to teach my kids not to make the same mistakes.
I try to avoid saying “black” when talking about people who are melanin-enhanced. Mostly because a very rare few are actually black. Brown is not black. Black is black. I prefer to say someone is “of [continent] descent”. Native Australians and their descendants of mixed heritage are “of Australian descent”. I am of European descent. Mostly.
Though my skin is pale beige, there are little hints that I might not be completely “white”. There’s these little, downward protrusions on the edge of my cheekbones. An alleged legacy of Gypsy descent. Yet, all my life, I have been using a racial slur as personal amusement.
It should not be “okay” because I “am one”. Nobody should use hate-speak about any racial group. “Whites” should not use the word ‘cracker’ on themselves or anyone who looks as pale as they do. “Blacks” should not use any of the multitude of slurs that I choose not to repeat here. [As an aside: why the hell are there more racist terms for non-WASPs than there are for WASPs? WTF?] Everyone everywhere should be “other people” first and their colours and creeds after that.
To me, hateful words breed a hateful attitude.
I will not be doing the “Avarice was a piker” routine any more. I will instead say, “Avarice was a Grinch.”
Grinch isn’t a racist term. Yet.