During the first half of July, two students from Lehigh University in the USA, Kevin Basek and Alyssa Wedge, came to the offices of o.p.s. ROMEA having decided to spend their summer doing more than getting tan, taking trips and going to one party after another, as most of their peers probably will, and instead dedicating their time off from school to working for a nonprofit organization as volunteers. The opportunity for their international volunteering is made possible by the Inclusion o.p.s. organization, which focuses on supporting the inclusion and integration of minorities in the Czech Republic in collaboration with Christine Novak, a professor of clinical psychology.
You can compare your home experience with the local approach to minorities. What is your experience so far?
I would say that every part of the world has prejudice and discrimination, the only difference is the stereotype and quantity of the minority. Where I live, the minorities are few and thus have to deal with a lot of discrimination. Most attacks are just verbal and do not compare to the systematic exclusion that the Roma people face.
What do you think is a mistake in Czech society’s approach to minorities? Do you think our society does something better, i.e. do you see some models of approach that American society fails to implement?
I think a big problem is the way the government deals with education and how easily minorities can be segregated within schools. Currently, students are subject to testing which includes questions about topics that are not common to everyone. Education deserves to be at the forefront of social reform.
The rest of interview is available on English language on the following address: http://www.romea.cz/en/features-and-commentary/interviews/kevin-basek-a-volunteer-from-lehigh-university-roma-people-face-systematic-exclusion