Men, Prayer, Politics, Horses, Detroit
International boxing has had it’s share of colorful characters occupying it’s upper ranks. Many have been controversial in their use of language, belief systems, political leanings and even appearance. Now comes a champion the world might not quite be ready for. Meet Tyson Fury, the first gypsy Heavy Weight Champion of the World.
Dislike him, hate him, ridicule him… whatever means of response you might have, no matter how harsh you think it might be, rest assured he does not care in the least for there is nothing Tyson Fury, his family, his extended family, his fellow Roma, his fellow Catholics have not endured for centuries. Nothing.
In order to understand the complex character of this champion, who at first blush in the eyes of some ill informed sports writers comes off as an ignorant, offensive sexist who refuses to censor his personal opinions about women, homosexuals and married life in front of a mic, one has to drill deeper into his origins.
Tyson Fury is born of another culture altogether, one never seen on the world stage in quite this way. What is throwing the viewers off is that Fury appears a Caucasian man of European decent and therefore our expectations of him are limited to a culturally acceptable range of behavior. When he doesn’t deliver within that range, that narrowing realm of the politically correct, we go on the attack, thinking we have a crass outsider who needs reining in, forced to capitulate or suffer the woes of rejection from the, dare I say, hypocritical masses.
Demanding political correctness from super athletes with a mic in their face is expected in these times. However, if we are to hold our public figures to the same standards we are demanding of ourselves, we must first show them respect and courtesy by educating ourselves about their culture and ways of being in the world that are different from ours. The burden is on us to understand Romany culture and how a man like Tyson came to be.
But wait, perhaps we are slightly confused in the case of Tyson Fury as to who, or what it is we are attacking and why. In order to learn the lessons Tyson Fury has been chosen to provide us, we must seek to understand him through the lens of race and the lens of faith.
While Tyson Fury is by blood a gypsy, he is by faith a Catholic. A practicing Orthodox Catholic. If you find his opinions offensive, sexist, homophobic, etc., (which they are not, review the transcripts) do your research for nothing he has verbalized is in conflict with his Faith. When he is attacked for his thoughts, for his expression of his beliefs, he is being attacked for his Catholicism. Attack Tyson Fury, attack 1.2 billion Catholics.
Criticism and vilification by the press of Tyson Fury is not an attempted take down of a champion, it is an attempted take down of the Truth itself. It is an attack on ones religious beliefs rooted in a deep and disgusting form of persecution, that goes far beyond race. It is the continuation of a religious war now raging for over 2000 years. Tyson Fury the man is of flesh and bone, fallible and with sin who will indeed come to defeat, to perish in this lifetime as will we all. Tyson Fury the messenger, Tyson Fury the practicing Catholic, Tyson Fury the one of true devotion to his faith, simply cannot be taken down. For those in the press who think they can, you join a very long line of arrogance going all the way back to a garden known as Gethsemane and a guy named Judas. We all know how that worked out.
The Roma, or gypsies, are a race of people of Hindi origin. A 2012 study, published in the journal Cell Biology, analyzed genomic data from 13 Romani communities across Europe. The researchers concluded that the Roma people left northern India about 1,500 years ago; those Roma now in Europe migrated through the Balkans starting about 900 years ago. These data confirm written reports of Roma groups arriving in medieval Europe in the 1100s.
Ok, so Tyson is born of an ancient culture that migrated to Europe. So what? Consider this, excerpted from a 2013 article published in Live Science:
“Shortly after arriving in Europe, the Romani were enslaved in many regions, a cultural heritage that continued into the 19th century in countries like Romania. In England, Switzerland and Denmark, the Romani were put to death throughout the medieval era. Many countries, such as Germany, Italy and Portugal, ordered the expulsion of all Romani.
There are countless reports of Roma children being abducted from their parents, women who had their ears cut off, and Romani who were branded with hot irons. In an effort to force assimilation, the use of their native language was forbidden in some countries; other places forbade the Roma to marry among themselves.
Perhaps the most devastating persecution of the Romani occurred during World War II, when they were among the first targets of Nazi atrocities, according to the BBC. An estimated 2 million Romani died in concentration camps and through other means of extermination. In the post-war era, the Romani remained an oppressed group, especially in the Soviet Union. As recently as the 1980s, Roma women in Czechoslovakia were forced to undergo sterilization to limit the Romani population.
Many Romani avoid assimilation with the larger societies of their host countries — this may be a legacy of centuries of persecution. Because of their isolation, many Roma children do not attend school; Romani typically lack access to stable jobs, affordable housing, health care and other social services. As a result, poverty, disease, substance abuse and crime plague many Roma communities. For these and other reasons, the Romani remain a persecuted minority, including those living in affluent European countries with enviable social services.
“This community crosses time and space with its traditions, and we in Europe have trouble to integrate them,” Alain Behr, a lawyer who has defended the Roma, told The New York Times. “Yet they have preserved their tradition, which is one of survival.”
When one is born into a race of people, recipients of persecution going back over a thousand years, a persecution continuing as intensely for the Roma throughout the world today as it did then, do not expect that such a reality will be shoved under the carpet and denied by members of that race whose career catapults them into the public limelight.
Instead, clear the stage and brace yourselves because the world is about to get an earful. Tyson Fury has not even begun and, given the centuries of racist oppression embodied in his very self, who are we to blame him for holding ground?
The Roma have existed for over a thousand years apart from place-based history. Forced to flee from country to country, continent to continent, they do not traditionally identify with any one rule of codified laws. Generations of Roma have come and gone, all residing at the edge of survival, anchored by blood ties and faith alone. To tether a Roma physically, legally, economically is to foolishly pull the tail of a tiger, a hungry one. This is what is in the blood. The fierce protection of this freedom is also in the blood.
In order to survive what those outside view as an anchor-less existence, the Roma rely upon the family structure and the protection of that structure. Tyson is of a line, a breed of gypsy, “much like the various tribes of American Indians”, according to bare-knuckle Champion, the late Bartley Gorman, that include the families Gorman, Wilson, Fury, Kelly, O’Neal, McGuire, and Bryan. In protecting the family structures, traditions non-Roma view as ultra conservative remain in practice.
As with Tyson and his wife Paris, couples are not expected to partake in premarital sex, instead waiting to consummate their relationship on their wedding night. Young Romany girls are expected to remain virgin and continue residing in the parental home until marriage. Once married, traditional gender roles are adhered to, with women in charge of the children and the household, men expected to provide for the family economically. The family is the core social and economic structure, extended family held in close regard, lives woven tight.
We can scapegoat the fact that Tyson is a gypsy and blame his behavior on the perceived wildness of his culture. We can fall yet again into the familiarity of this racist news frame. We can call him biased, prejudiced and attempt to dismiss him as ignorant and uncivilized. But be clear: in reality, who is calling whom biased?
So you find Tyson Fury entertaining? Infuriating? Offensive? No matter the analysis, it would serve the press and fans well to study and understand the root of Tyson’s character, the root of his familial protectionism, the root of his masculine expression, the root of his devotion. In the final analysis, these attributes may indeed prove to be enviable in these times.
Tyson Fury is not only the new heavy weight champion of the world, he is the voice of an Orthodox Catholic, the voice of the Roma, a voice that will now be heard the world over, like it or not.
© 2015 Nancy Kotting All Rights Reserved Reproduction by Permission Only