Is multiculturalism really a “failure” in Germany?

by Michelle L.

In our class we came upon the quote of the German chancellor Angela Merkel: “multiculturalism has utterly failed”

Unfortunately we did not discuss about the backgrounds and the deeper meaning of this quote. In this post I would like to take a closer look on this topic.

Germany‘s migration image has been changing tremendously since the end of the second world war. As of 2011, 19.5% of the German population had some sort of immigration background, meaning either being born in a foreign country as a non-German citizen or born to a foreign-born parent in German with or without German citizenship. Nowadays, the largest share belongs to the Turkish community (18.5%), followed by Polish (9.2%).

After the second world war, Germany was in need of labour to rebuild the country. People were encouraged to come to Germany and work there. This applies mostly to Turkish immigrants to former West Germany and Vietnamese immigrants to the former GDR, as for being a fellow communist nation. The government did not invest in language training or did not provide any service to make it easier to adopt for the migrant workers, since they were only seen as temporary cheap labour or so-called Gastarbeiter. Gastarbeiter is a German term for immigrant workers who came to Germany between the end of the war and the 1970s. Literally meaning “guest worker”, it refers to the temporary contracts after which the immigrant workers were supposed to return. In recent times this word got quite a negative connotation.

However, many people stayed and brought their family to Germany or married a German spouse. The government was not prepared for this. Since there literally was no effort in integrating the immigrants, those people were tolerated but not integrated in society. This continued for quite some time and the government somehow missed the turning point of Germany becoming a migration country.

Whereas other cities have a “China Town”, parts of Berlin seem like a Turkish parallel world. Even though some families are staying in Germany for the 3rd or 4th generation, many of them keep close ties to their home country and mixed slangs developed.

However, I do not think that multiculturalism has failed – it is the government who failed in creating opportunities to integrate immigrants into German society. It was only in 2005 that Germany introduced compulsory German language courses to immigrants, in case that the do not have sufficient knowledge of German to work. Moreover bilingual primary education only focusses on languages like French, Spanish and English. Most immigrant children therefore attend a regular school, where teachers are not prepared for them. This creates an environment where it is difficult for them to adopt. Since some districts in Berlin have a very dense immigrant population, people are more likely to stay in there national group.

I see Germany, my home country, as a multicultural society. Growing up in Berlin, I shared my class room with people from many different backgrounds. 24% of Berlin’s residents have a migration background and events in Berlin like “Carneval of Cultures” attract thousands of peoples. This percentage is still quite small compared to cities like Frankfurt (am Main), the heart of Germany’s financial sector and the most important international airport in Germany. The city is home to 42% of residents with immigration background.

Nevertheless, many “native” Germans are hostile towards immigrants. As of 2008, a survey found out that 53% think that “Germany has too many immigrants” and 50% think that immigrants like to stay along their fellows. In recent years, attacks on refugee homes increased and the National Democratic Party of Germany (a far-right German nationalist party) still manages to get many votes by promoting to “send all foreigners home”. Even though they were not able take part in any federal government, they are still active on a local level.

Recently, realizing the problem of demographic change (aging society) and the lack of high-skilled workers marked a shift in Germany’s immigration policies. However, it seems like the government is always only approving of immigration if it is in need. I hope that this attitude will change and Germany’s growing multicultural society will be seen as a benefit of our country.

References:
1) BBC News. “Merkel says German multicultural society has failed”. 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11559451
2) Abalı, Oya. “German Public Opinion on Immigration and Integration”. 2009. http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/tcm-germanpublicopinion.pdf
3) Statistisches Bundesamt. “Bevölkerung mit Migrationshintergrund – Ergebnisse des Mikrozensus”. 2011. https://www.destatis.de/DE/Publikationen/Thematisch/Bevoelkerung/MigrationIntegration/Migrationshintergrund.html

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Not American Enough?

 by Dina Akylbekova

One month ago tabloids headlines were dedicated to the Miss America 2014 winner Nina Davuluri. Davuluri became the first Indian-American, who won Miss America. The next few hours there were thousands of racist and xenophobic comments like “If you’re #Miss America you should have to be American”” or “Even Miss America has been outsourced to India. #NinaDavuluri!” (Syracuse, 2013). People posting comments like this do think that winner of Miss America 2014 represents American culture and values. The important point here is that the girl was born and has lived all her life in the USA. Is she still not American enough? Despite this, Nina said “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.” Why spending her whole life in the US, with American citizenship, American education and self-perception as American are not enough for her to be considered a “real” American? Or is the problem that Davuluri does not look “American”. Do Asian and African descents have a right to view himself/herself as a “true” American, even if they do not look “American”?

The described situation confirms the fail of multiculturalism in America. Today Asian Americans comprise almost 6% of the US population (Pew Research Center, 2010). Almost quarter of all Asian American children were born in the US (Pew Research Center, 2010). Unfortunately, the racist backlash shows that even integrated Asian Americans are not considered “Americans”.

If the reader thinks that this happens only in America, there is a proof that this happens on the other side of the world as well. The next destination is Russia. Elmira Abdrazakova became Miss Russia 2013, the fact that the girl is half-Russian and half-Tatar (ethnic minority in Russia) was a starting point for the racist and nationalist backlash against the winner (The Atlantic, 2013). An additional fact against Abdrazakova was that the she was born in Kazakhstan. Elmira thinks that she fully represents a multiethnic and multicultural Russia (There are 180 ethnicities in Russian federation). However, nationalists probably do not know that Russia is a multiethnic country and continue to resist by saying that Abdrazakova is not Slavic enough.

Both Miss America 2014 and Miss Russia received a huge amount of racist comments concerning their ethnicities. Both the USA and Russia are officially claiming to be multicultural and multiethnic countries, where every ethnicity is respected. The reality shows the fail of tolerance, multiculturalism and multiethnicity in these societies. One can argue that racism in beauty contests is a routine part of these events. But in the reality, beauty contests show whether society is ready to accept other ethnicities beauty on the equal level as the native one. Will the situation change or ethnical minority titleholders would be blamed for being not American or Slavic enough?

The problems caused by ethnic nationalism

by Naoko Yamada

There are 2 kinds of model of nationalism; Ethnic nationalism and Civic nationalism. Ethnic nationalism is principle in which belonging to the nation is rooted in descent, and it is related to race and language.  On the other hand, Civic nationalism is the principle in which belonging is tied to rights and a Universalist, voluntary political membership. Japan is nearly homogeneous nation, so almost Japanese distinguish Japanese and foreigner by their looks and language. Therefore the model of ethnic nationalism describes Japan. Now, conflicts caused language as symbol of ethnic nationalism have happened in the world. I’d like to describe about the problems caused by Ethnic nationalism thinking about 3 cases of EU.

In July 2010, a mass demonstration by self-governing body of Catalonia to advocate independence from Spain was held in Barcelona, Spain. Millions of people took part in this demonstration, and they required protection of their language and their culture. 4 kinds of different languages exist in Spain, especially Catalan was object of persecution and Catalan people are persecuted politically and culturally. They consider themselves as aggregate which has different culture and autonomy, and so they go on with movement of independence.

In 1945 Polish was authorized as the language of Poland, in addition using languages of ethnic minorities as official language was prohibited. Therefore policy of an innate respect for cultural assimilation was adopted in Poland. Then, academic meeting about the language of Polish was held in Poland at its participation to EU. In this meeting main discussion became the topic about cultural exchange, on the other hand, possibility of loss of identity by influence from other language was discussed. Not only language of ethnic minority but also the language of country is facing to the loss of its identity because of affiliation to EU.

From 19th century, a lot of Turkish people have worked in Germany as immigrants. Most of them don’t speak German and live in Germany without German. German people think that Turkish should become familiar with German customs, so needless to say, German people want them to speak German. The point of view likes “If Turkish work in Germany, they should be German” causes this problem.

Multiculturalism has expanded, and the problems of language and citizenship have changed to more complex. The problems Catalonia and Poland show us the importance of language as identity. Moreover the problem between Germany and Turkey show the importance of language as citizenship. Ethnic and Civic nationalism have exclusive aspect.

Bibliography

Kenjiro, S. (2005). 欧州諸国の言語法(欧州統合と多言語主義).Tokyo: Sangensya.

Kouji, O. (2011). エティック国際関係学.Osaka: Toshinsya

Yasuteru, O. (2010). EUの言語教育政策. Tokyo: Kroshio

Ethnic and Civic Nationalism in Japan

by Sakiko Maruyama

In the class, we learned there are two nationalisms; one is the ethnic nationalism and another is the civic nationalism.  While the ethnic one pays attention to the roots or ethnicity, the civic one emphasizes the attitude to obey the law. Then, we link the ethnic one with intolerance, while the civic one with tolerance for immigrants. In this way, both nationalisms seem to be opposite, but in fact, they can be seen in the same nation; there are some nations which their nationalisms change depending on the conditions, even if they have strong biases to one side. Japan is one of those countries which close to ethnic nationalism. We tend to regard the Japanese government as intolerance for immigrants and think the citizen is tolerant. But this matter is more complex than we think. We sometimes take more ethnic attitude than the government. I want to describe this situation by comparing the position of us and the government about two problems surrounding Korean school in Japan.

The first problem is about the compulsory education. Korean school isn’t authorized as the school participates in the system of compulsory education. Even though children graduate from Korean school, that doesn’t mean they meet compulsory education. On the other hand, many Japanese universities accept their applications because they have scholastic ability which is worth to take the entrance examination. In this problem, the government seems to be more ethnic and universities take more civic position.

The second one is the discussion about the free tuition of Korean school in Japan. Comparing to the first problem, we can find the government has different opinion about this discussion. The government seems to think seriously about the adoption of free tuition of Korean school, while some local governments obviously against it. The local governments independently focus on the question whether they give a subsidy to Korean school or not, and the local government which decides to cut it off is caused by ethnic reasons. For example, Osaka prefectural government cut it off because Korean school hold portrait of Kim Jong Il. Most of citizens agree with this policy, and free tuition may be out of the question for them. Therefore, in this case, the citizens support ethnic citizenship and the government sees the matter from the civic perspective.

In conclusion, we citizens sometimes take firm ethnic stance. We generally see the policy of the government as important to solve the question of immigrant. But seeing the above two discussion, I think the later problem is more serious. This is because we citizens seem to have a greater influence in this problem.