Scottish Traveller: Would you hire me?
My name is Angel Hendry, I’m 24 and a Scottish Traveller.
I’ve experienced several barriers, trials and tribulations growing up as a young Traveller.
I first experienced discrimination towards my culture when I was three years old. I was crying in my pram as my mum was pushing me around in a shop. A lady approached and leaned over the pram and said, “If you don’t stop crying, then the Gypsies will come and take you away.” My mum was obviously gobsmacked; but accepted it as it wasn’t a new or outrageous thing for a Traveller to hear.
Sadly, discrimination against Gypsy/Travellers doesn’t just belong in the history books, it’s alive and well in Scotland today.
This is one of the reasons why Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month is so important, because if people understand our culture, I think they would be less likely to be so hostile towards our community.
Hiding who I was
I’d say, you learn to hide being a Traveller as soon as you enter primary school. You get asked questions like, “Why do you talk different?” and “Why aren’t we allowed to come over to your house to play?”
From a young age we are told to pretend to be someone we’re not and to change how we speak and act for fear of knowing that if people find out you’re a Traveller it will make life so much more difficult.
I had it a lot easier than my brothers and sisters did. I wasn’t bullied or discriminated at school; maybe because I didn’t attend the same school they did. Or maybe I was just better at hiding being a Traveller than they were. I heard stories about how even teachers picked on my siblings and appeared to encourage the children to join in.
Employment as a young Traveller woman
I began to help my mum at work when I was 14. The same rules applied, don’t let anybody know you are a Traveller, it will ruin everything.
My mum did general housekeeping for a few clients. I remember we were cleaning one of her elderly client’s kitchen. The lady was looking out the window and saw some horses in a field across from her house and then proceeded to angrily rant about how she is sick of bloody Gypsies and their horses everywhere. My mother and I looked at each other, but there was nothing we could say.
This woman had been nothing but lovely to us the entire time we worked for her, but that instance showed how she would have treated us entirely differently if she had known our background, which was deeply upsetting.
At a recent job I had in an amusement arcade, my manager at the time knew I came from a Traveller background, they accepted it and didn’t treat me any differently to other employees.
But one day while me and my boss were chatting, a regular customer joined in our conversation. She used to work in an arcade, but she didn’t like the management there.
She said: “I mean they actually forget they’re Gypsies for God sake.”
Situations like this show us why from a young age we’ve been told to hide who we are simply to protect ourselves. This is an incredibly unhealthy way to live, but unfortunately, it’s the way it had to be.
I really do think a great deal of people just assume that we are the same as how we are portrayed in the media; untrustworthy, unhygienic, and of a lower class.
I do believe because of this stereotyping a lot of young Traveller people don’t work or attend school. There’s a constant fear of confrontation and rejection simply for being who you are. This is something I think needs to be addressed.
The benefits of employing a Traveller
Although I have had some negative experiences from customers when employed, I have built fantastic friendships with some of my colleagues and managers.
The most positive thing that has happened to me in a previous employment was a manager saying, “if only more people were open to hiring from the Traveller community, then they might just find the ideal candidate they are looking for.”
So now that you know more about me, let me ask you again: would you hire me?
In the future I hope
I hope to find ways to end the discrimination that is still going on. The younger generation don’t need to face the same challenges we did when trying to work or get an education. They should be able to lead a healthy and fulfilling life without having to hide who they are.
This is one of the main things I’d like to achieve as a Scottish Traveller activist.
June is Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month and a great time to find out more about our history and culture. If people understood us more, maybe they would be more welcoming and give us a chance to live our lives in the way we choose and to make our contribution to Scotland.