American Roma, or Gypsies, Struggling With Generational Issues

While putting together this week's cover story on the world of fortunetelling fraud, some of the information we gathered ended up on the cutting-room floor. Still, it's interesting stuff worth your eyeballs and brain waves.

The main area we didn't have the space to explore was the dynamic currently playing out in the American Roma culture between the younger and older generations, according to sources inside the community.

For the story, we got the opportunity to speak with a Roma elder who would sit down with us only on the condition of anonymity. According to this source, members of the older generation are currently trying to hang on to the basics of Roma culture against the growing indifference of younger Romani.

Sure, unruly kids who could care less about tradition may be a universal concern in all cultures, but for a group that remains so walled off from the outside world, a lack of interest in the past among the next wave is a big concern. It's a change that's happened over the past ten years or so.

"There were rules: no drugs, no robbery, no violent crime. And if there was, the elderly would punish, all the elderly in the community. By the old rules, whatever the elders say goes," he said. "What now we have if it's a 20-year-old and he's on drugs, in the kris [a Roma court], the kid will just walk out."

There are a lot of possible reasons for the lack of interest. As we discussed in this week's feature, Roma customs can seem strange to outsiders, and as more Gypsy children are exposed and assimilated to mainstream America, they may be less inclined to strap in to the old ways. The elder we spoke to said the Romani kids in public schools were partly to blame for this assimilation -- something he didn't support. The new crop just doesn't hold itself to the strict standards of the community.

"There's more trash in the younger generation."

Also, as kids get older, there are more drugs circulating in the community, the elder told us. The bad economy has slimmed down the options out there for making money, meaning there's a new desperation cracking the whip behind younger Romani. The elder and law enforcement agree this might be why there is now an uptick of violence crime in a community that normally forbids it -- just an anecdotal observation, not something anyone seems to have hard data on.

In the community, the worst punishment handed out is to blackball a gypsy from the family -- meaning they're completely iced out of events such as weddings and funerals, the social heartbeats of the culture.

But even that nuclear option doesn't appear to be much of a threat anymore, the elder told us. Younger Romas just don't seem to care. "We're trying to make the rules for our children," he said. "And now it's getting to the point of chaos."

Follow Kyle on Twitter @kyletalking. For tips, send an e-mail.

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