Friday, August 2, 2013

Final Research Proposal-Globalization and Identity Grou

Group: Identity and Globalization with Rummi Ganguly and Claire Wickstrom
Name: Jane Wong
ID #: 1227816

ABSTRACT:
            The understanding of the formation of self and national identity on behalf of the individual is important, especially within the context of immigrating to and attempting to gain citizenship to a nation. How an individual perceives themselves, the people around them, as well as a nation as a whole drastically changes with respect to shifting policies, institutions and population dynamic of a nation. Our project focuses on exploring the different aspects of identity within the context of self, perceived race, and religion. We also explore how this perceived identity changes how individuals interact with others in their community. In Berlin, we tracked the formation of identity from these perspectives, starting with Germany’s role in World War Two, and continuing to the more recent increase in immigration to the nation. Berlin proved to be an international city, however with a deep and complicated history that greatly effects their citizens’ perceptions of their self and others. In Leon and Madrid, we tracked this formation of identity starting with the Franco era, through the increase in immigrant population, and finally to the current economic crisis. The current crisis in the EU has put enormous strain on the politics and perceptions of immigrants in both countries, with Germany having the role of a leader and Spain struggling to keep afloat. The future of both these countries will be largely shaped by this crisis, which, through our findings, is reflected in how individuals perceive themselves and others.
            Sheldon Stryker and Roger Brubaker are two social scientists that lay the theoretical groundwork for understanding the term “identity” from a micro and macroscopic scale, respectively. Stryker’s theory of identity outlines the relationship between the formation of an individual’s identity and the social structure in which an individual lives, while Brubaker’s theory of identity states that an “identity” is essentially whatever an individual makes of it, and how much weight they put on that identification in their day-to-day lives. With Spain’s troubling past associated with Franco’s regime, Germany’s past associated with the Holocaust and World War Two, and the immigration patterns resulting in a fluctuating demographic in each nation, it is clear that the resulting fluctuation of social structure will shape how each generation of individuals will identify with their nation, as well as influence the formation of their personal identity.
            Two literature theories have been found applicable to the findings of our research on African immigrant discrimination. Firstly, the resource hypothesis states that as immigration increases, more immigrants will be competing with natives for jobs. This increases economic competition as a source of ill sentiment that the natives may harbor. In Spain, this is particularly evident due to the struggling economy. The ethnic segregation model, however, depicts a situation in which most workers from a minority group are concentrated in one industry, usually one that has little prestige. This can also create negative conceptions and lead to discrimination. In Germany, this model is applicable as many lower-class African immigrants work in lower class occupations and cannot rise further economically.
            With concern to our research on immigrant discrimination based on religion, it is widely accepted that religious discrimination commonly occurs. It is difficult to tell if this discrimination is a result of purely religion, or other factors such as race. However, one theory states that it is easier for people to discriminate based on religion rather than race because religion is a matter of conflicting values. People can validate discriminating against groups’ values easier than they can validate discriminating against a group because of the color of their skin.  In conclusion, we found that the concept of identity, whether it be how one relates to their nation, how a certain type of immigrants identify themselves or how one’s religion works as a marker for you, is important in everyday interactions with one’s family, friends, working relationships, and government.

QUESTION:
The question I will be researching individually is: What are the economic causes of discrimination against African immigrants in Spain and Germany? This question will seek to explore racial discrimination manifested by Spanish and German citizens to legal African immigrants.  This will be discussed in an economical context, related to the European crisis that is currently wracking the European Union.  I chose to study the African immigrant population because it’s a significant minority in Spain, and is also present in Germany, though to a much lesser degree.  Studying the same ethnic group in both countries serves as a control variable in my research of immigrant discrimination.
This question falls under the group theme of globalization and identity.  As with any immigrant community, there is a promotion of globalization as people of different cultures come closer and further understanding develops across nations.  Furthermore, for every immigrant there is always a balance between the old identity and the new after immigrating to a new country.  I believe this struggle can affect an immigrant’s willingness to integrate into a new society, which may result in isolation of an ethnic group or lead to discrimination.  Therefore, one can argue that globalization, identity, and discrimination of an immigrant group are all related to each other, discrimination mostly being a negative result of a lack of globalization and misunderstanding or misinterpretation of identity.
Discrimination extends into many aspects of society.  I believe this topic is related to the program theme of youth unemployment because of the influence of the economic crisis on the perception of minority groups.  As with many national crises in the past, minority groups tend to be targeted by the majority of the population for causing the economic problems.  Now, with the economic crisis wracking the European Union, youth unemployment is at a record high for Spain. However, in Germany, the youth unemployment rate is one of the lowest in all of Europe (Westervelt).  Despite that discrepancy in the economic status of these two countries, African immigrants in both Spain and Germany are still suffering from racial discrimination.  This research project will attempt to explain what factors contribute to the racial profiling and how it’s affected Africans in Spain and Germany in light of the economic crisis.

BACKGROUND
Before analyzing discrimination against immigration, it’s important to have background knowledge concerning history of immigrants in Spain and Germany.  Both Spain and Germany owned colonies in Africa, which was likely the beginning of the widespread exposure and interactions that the Europeans had with the native Africans.  Despite this common colonial background, due to the different political situation in Spain and Germany, the immigrant experience in the two countries has been very different.
In regards to Spain, the end of the Franco regime prompted widespread beliefs of acceptance and tolerance of all cultures.  Furthermore, since the 1990s, the Spanish government has committed itself to immigrant integration as an important aspect of their immigration policy.  It seems that there had not been an obvious, public backlash against immigration (Arango).  However, within the past ten years, immigration to the Spain has boomed.  Many of the Latin American illegal immigrants come as ‘tourists’, who do not return home after their travels.  There are also vast numbers of African immigrants, many of whom sail from the northern parts of Africa (such as Morocco) to the southern border of Spain in boats.  Other routes of immigration, for example, through the Canary Islands, continue to be in use and bring a large influx of African immigrants to Spain every year (Gonzalez).  The known percentage of Latin American immigrants living in Spain is 3.32% of the population, and the percentage of Africans is 1.55% of the population.  Of course, these are known percentages and the actual amount, including illegal immigrants, is likely much higher (Peoples).  However, legalization has been successful due to several amnesty programs implemented by the Spanish government to meet the low skilled worker shortage.  In the past 25 years, Spain has passed 6 programs that have legalized over one million refugees.  In one amnesty program alone, from 2001, more than 232,000 illegal immigrants were legalized (Gonzalez).
Concerning the economic crisis, Spain is suffering greatly from high rates of unemployment.  This is particularly true for the young generation, which we can see from the graph below: (click on image for larger picture)



From the above graph it’s clear that the unemployment rate has been steadily increasing in recent years.  In times of such crisis, public opinion of immigrants is likely to have changed from the very open and tolerant mindset immediately following Franco’s rule.  Perhaps due to the pressure of the recent crisis, part of the Spanish population is becoming more anti-immigrant and has developed negative perceptions of African Spaniards.  This is one of the questions that I hope to investigate in my research.
Unlike Spain, Germany has had a longer history of immigrants, particularly of immigrant workers.  In the 1960s, Germany implemented a guest worker program that saw enormous floods of immigrant workers to bolster the country’s economy.  The largest share of these immigrant workers were Turks, but also included other ethnicities.  When recruiting guest workers was banned in 1973, many of those workers remained in Germany instead of returning to their home countries, and set up permanent residence (Clark).  Unfortunately, in World War II, during Nazi Germany, African Germans were an ethnic group that was also targeted by the Nazis.  Many were killed or sent to concentration camps with Jews and other minority groups (Blacks). 
Since the end of the Second World War, Germany has had one of the most generous asylum policies.  This is likely a result of the nature of the divided nation, and West Germany’s sympathetic nature of fleeing political oppression and Communism.  However, after the reunion of East and West Germany, the number of asylum seekers in Germany escalated at an astonishing rate.  In just one year, the number of asylum seekers in Germany rose from 256,000 in 1991 to 438,000 in 1992.  The Bundestag eventually passed a law in 1993, raising the qualifications necessary for refugees to be granted asylum, which effectively cut down the number of immigrants (Clark).  Today, the African German population comprises a very small percentage of the German population, the exact number being unknown.  They are not listed as an ethnic minority group under several international databases, including the CIA World Factbook (CIA).
There have been various studies that have previously sought to explain native hostility towards immigrants.  From an economic standpoint, two main literature theories have emerged, and have been summarized well in a study done by Martinez and Duval-Hernandez.  The first theory, known as the ‘resource hypothesis’ deals with the economic threat that native workers feel when more immigrants are competing with them for limited jobs.  This threat is due to the overlap in the job market, and becomes worse when there’s an overlap in the same economic niche.  For example, if lower class native Spanish workers were competing with African immigrants for the same construction jobs.  This results in a negative attitude towards immigrants, and because a large percentage of Spain’s immigrants are African, this is applicable to my research.  The second theory is the ethnic segregation model, where the majority of immigrants from a particular ethnic group work in an occupation with low prestige.  They concentrate their labor force in one particular industry, which renders them somewhat immobile in the economic ladder.  It also creates and spreads stereotypes associated with lower class citizens (Martinez).  In my research I kept in mind these two theories as a hypothesis for the trends that I might find.
The second theory is the ethnic segregation model, where the majority of immigrants from a particular ethnic group work in an occupation with low prestige.  They concentrate their labor force in one particular industry, which renders them somewhat immobile in the economic ladder.  It also creates and spreads stereotypes associated with lower class citizens (Martinez).  In my research I kept in mind these two theories as a hypothesis for the trends that I might find.

METHODOLOGY:
In the case of my research, I decided after some initial interviews that the survey method would not be very accurate for this topic.  In surveys it’s too easy for responses to be biased, or at least, the interviewees will want to present themselves in a way that seems socially acceptable.  It’s likely that they would rather make it seem as though themselves, and the people around them, perhaps, don’t display discriminatory tendencies against African immigrants.  This wouldn’t reflect the reality of the people’s mentality in Spain and Germany.  I found that it’s most effective to speak with people individually, seeing as discrimination and racism is a rather delicate and personal topic.
            Most of the data gathered in my research was qualitative, that is, based on textual and verbal information from interviews and readings.  I interviewed people both from Spain and Germany, both genders included in the sample.  All subjects were either of native Spanish or native German descent, as well as African German immigrants.  I was unable to personally speak with any African Spanish immigrants, partly due to the lack of African immigrant presence in Leon and Madrid.  The quantitative data I found consisted of statistics concerning the population of African immigrants in Spain and Germany, and economic information related to unemployment.
            The strengths of the interview method were that I was able to adjust the questions I asked the people I was talking to, based on their previous answers.  In this way, within a short amount of time, I was able to get lengthier and more detailed explanations on their thoughts.  I think this is very important because I was able to have a thoughtful conversation with each person instead of just gathering generic statements from an internet poll or a survey.  Also, because each interview was individual based, there was little chance of the interviewees to be pressured by the people around them or feel the need to change their answers to fit what everyone else was saying.
            The weaknesses of my interview method were that I wasn’t able to interview as many people, because I had to personally go and talk to each person.  Also, while all the interviews were one-on-one, that also made it difficult for me to get opinions from multiple people in one sitting.  Therefore, data gathering was a little slow.  Also, it was hard for me to get the opinions of people on the streets, because few people would want to talk to a foreign stranger about a sensitive subject unless they trusted them.

FINDINGS:
            Spain may have been applauded by human rights activists for their previously generous amnesty programs to refugees.  However, from the findings of my research, it’s possible that the welcome of large waves of immigrants has finally started to result in negative repercussions, from the perspective of some native Spaniards.  It’s undeniable that most African immigrants, refugees and legal immigrants alike, do not have a formal education and thus work in low-skilled manual labor industries.  This was reminiscent of the Mexican worker situation in the United States, where many laborers are willing to work for less pay and worse conditions.  Furthermore, the population of African immigrants in particular are highly concentrated in the southern areas of Spain, the entryway through which boats from Africa arrive.  Ultimately this results in a large number of African immigrants in the same areas, looking for jobs in a struggling economy, and being willing to work longer for less pay and benefits than their native Spanish counterparts (Martinez).  It’s clear that this job competition could easily cause some southern Spanish natives to develop anti-immigrant and eventually, discriminatory sentiment.  A young Spanish woman I interviewed claimed that in the southern part of Spain, there's an unspoken belief that “African immigrants are stealing our jobs, and we as native Spanish people should have the priority in our own job market.” (Park).  Again, due to the economic crisis, many native Spanish people are unemployed, which likely has exacerbated this ill feeling.  Of course this reasoning cannot be applied to all Spanish people, and it is naturally more common in the south where there’s a greater African immigrant presence.  However, this evidence supports the resource hypothesis, where some natives may feel threatened by a large presence of immigrants in the job market.
Because job competition was such a large component to the discrimination factor of African immigrants in Spain, I expected there to also be protests against the government spending money on its welfare state that benefits immigrants.  However, in my interviews, the reactions were somewhat mixed.  Some of the interviewees, both from the younger and older generation, believed that the government needed to prioritize and focus on unemployment instead of providing a broad range of services to African immigrants.  A statement by Sebastian Rinken, an employee of the Migrant Observatory institution in Andalusia, supplements this idea: “There is a growing resentment, both of immigrants possibly threatening native people's jobs, working conditions and government services and of the government failing to get its priorities right, as many would see it.” (Gonzalez).  On the other hand, a few of the people I interviewed stated that the government was doing a good job in making sure all immigrants had basic rights (Street).  At first I thought this was just the select beliefs a few people, but in the study by Martinez and Hernandez, their larger-scale survey sample also concluded that the majority of the subjects believed immigrants deserved access to public services (Martinez).  This was a surprising result, as I expected the public opinion to be mostly dissatisfied with having to pay more taxes so the government could include immigrants in the public services they provided.  I couldn’t find any economical explanation for this finding, the people I interviewed merely stated they believed public services were a human right and they didn’t mind contributing to that cause.  As such I was unable to ultimately conclude the opinion of native Spaniards regarding the welfare state benefits to immigrants.
In Germany, the economy is in a considerably better situation than in Spain, with one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in the entire Eurozone (Westervelt).  As a result, I didn’t find quite as much evidence for the resource hypothesis there.  Instead, I discovered that the major contributing factor to the discriminatory behavior was the economic standing of the African immigrants.  One African German social activist I spoke with asserted that many African Germans with low economic status hope to better their lives with the help of the German job market, but with no formal education (at least, education that is recognized by Germany), many of them resort to starting their own small shops (Otoo).  One native German I spoke to mentioned that while he didn’t know what the exact percentages were, “a lot of people in Germany believe that most African German immigrants worked in low-skilled manual labor industries” (German).  Another African German artist added that sometimes when he walked down the street, a few Germans would call out to him asking if he had weed.  These were people he’d never talked to or met before, and yet they automatically assumed he was a drug dealer or some other lower class citizen (Thindi).  With this information, I concluded that the ethnic segregation model could be applied to the African German immigrants.  After this initial conclusion, however, I wanted to probe deeper into the German situation.  While the ethnic segregation model can clearly be applied to Spain as well, seeing as many African Spaniards work in construction or agriculture, there’s still a major difference between Spain and Germany.  With Germany being in a much better economic position, I wondered how it could be that African Germans, with sufficient economic potential waiting for them, were not moving upwards in the economic ladder.
After more interviews and text reading, I found that African Germans face clear discrimination in the job selection process when it comes to skilled labor.  The African German artist I interviewed claimed that even if an African German has the same qualifications as a native German applying for the same job, it’s likely that the native German will be selected for the position (Thindi).  It would be easy for employers to claim that they’re not as qualified as other candidates, while that may or may not have a different reason for rejecting them.  Personal motives that employers have for rejecting African German candidates for a job may vary, and I was not able to investigate this topic during my time in Germany.  Of course, there is no way to prove there is racism against African Germans in the job market, and as of yet no assertions accusing employers of racism can be proved.  One German worker at a German employment center I spoke to stated that all clients are treated equally, including African immigrants.  He hadn’t seen any instances of racial prejudice or discrimination against African immigrants in his experience with employers (Matthias).  However, it appears that the problem of African Germans without medium or high-skilled work still exists, and is so widespread that it was addressed by a European Commission Report, regarding Germany in 2004: “Lack of access to employment has been identified as one of the greatest barriers to integration.” (Communication).  Indeed, according to one African German artist, the African German population is still fighting for economic rights and equality (Thindi).  In the context of my research, I interpreted that a “great barrier to integration” has the potential to become a major factor in discrimination against an immigrant group.  While there seems to be some conflicting opinions about it from the perspective of native Germans, I think it can be recognized that African immigrants with low economic status suffer from discrimination in the German job market.  This also contributes to keep the minority economically segregated from the rest of German society, leading to further discrimination of the ethnic group.

CONCLUSION:
In summary, from my research, I’ve found evidence to support resource hypothesis in Spain.  In the southern parts of Spain where African immigration is greatest, some native Spanish people feel threatened by the large African influx and the heightened competition for jobs.  This perhaps is augmented by the current crisis and high number of unemployed Spaniards.  Because responses were mixed, I was unable to make any definite conclusions about the Spanish opinion on having to pay more taxes for the government to provide expanded public services to accommodate the high number of immigrants.  Perhaps the ethnic segregation model discussed earlier can also be applied to Spain.  However, no one I interviewed in Spain mentioned that as an issue, so it seems the economic crisis has exacerbated the struggle for jobs so much that people’s mindset for the ethnic segregation model got pushed to the side.
In Germany, I discovered that the ethnic segregation model is more applicable to discrimination of African immigrants.  Despite the economy being in a better situation, African Germans still do not have equal economic standing with their native counterparts, and as a result stereotypes of African Germans as second-class citizens have been created.  Furthermore, it seems as though many of them are stuck in the low-skilled labor market, which prevents them from moving upwards economically.  This is in part caused by discrimination against African Germans in the job market, which cuts back on greater economic opportunities for those immigrants.  In turn, this leads to a more difficult integration process.
Indeed, the lack of integration is a common issue that many minority groups are faced with, living in another country.  As a recurrent theme correlated with racism, integration relates my topic of discrimination back to the group theme of identity and globalization.  Immigrants always have to balance between their old identity and their new identity as they adjust to life in a new country.  Striking an optimal balance between these two identities can allow an immigrant to educate the majority population about the minority culture and maintain a tie to their home country.  Furthermore, it’s also an opportunity for the immigrant to gain new cultural perspectives and benefit from being a part of a new society.  However, in my research, the African immigrants I’ve interviewed have all implied that the host country was not doing enough to accommodate for them.  An African German artist quoted: “Germans don’t know how to deal with our differences, so they choose not to deal with them at all.” He claimed that African immigrants already “spread their culture, bringing awareness to the German majority people”, and that this should be preventing German people from misunderstanding African (Thindi).  One African activist claimed that African Germans are not assimilated, because they’re not even recognized as equal citizens yet by the rest of the community (Otoo).
While this may be the case, I personally think the most effective integration is a mutual exchange of cultures.  It’s undeniable that Spain and Germany have a long ways to go in overcoming discrimination towards African immigrants.  In the meantime, however, perhaps these immigrants could become more open to the identity change that comes with immigration.  It would be embracing an ‘African-Spanish’ or ‘African-German’ identity, instead of just being an ‘African that lives in Spain/Germany’.  I think there’s a slight shift in identity that needs to occur when an immigrant has been truly integrated into a society.  It doesn’t mean that the minority needs to throw away their old culture and identity, just that they are willing to assimilate their new identity with their old.
            I believe the topic of discrimination against African immigrants will continue to be relevant in the future as long as immigration to Europe remains an important consideration for the EU government.  One large demographic of the African immigrants in Spain is the refugee population, which I did not include in my research.  However, I think it would be fascinating to investigate what factors, both social and political, prevent refugees in Spain from gaining asylum and becoming legal immigrants.  As mentioned earlier, Spain has had generous amnesty programs in the past, so what has changed between then and now? What has prompted the harsh restrictions on immigration now? In regards to Germany, I think it’d be very interesting to investigate how economically and socially effective are the current cultural integration methods and policies implemented by the government.  Finally, for the future of both countries, I think it’s important to research how current immigrant policies can be improved to create economic integration of immigrant minorities.
            Through our research we have found that how one perceives themself, and how one perceives others is extremely important in everyday life. It is important for one’s ability to successfully navigate society. It is important for governments to make cohesive and successful policy. And it is even important for the preservation of peace. Sweeping generalizations on the power of identity aside, we believe that understanding the identity of those around you can lead to better strategies, in both policy and on a cultural level, to integrate different groups and prevent the political and cultural conflict that plagues much of the world.

CULTURAL SENSITIVITY:

 Beginning this research project, I believed I didn’t have a strong bias for or against immigration into a country.  I wasn’t very knowledgeable about immigration policy and laws, and didn’t have a strong position on these topics.  However, something that I supported, and continued to support throughout my research project, is integration of immigrants into the country that they're entering into.  Growing up in a family of immigrants, I've experienced that integration into a new culture doesn't necessarily mean throwing away your old culture.  However, that seems to be what a lot of these immigrants are afraid of, or they want to remain exclusive to their people.  My bias is that I think that's an unnecessary attitude to have, and one that will only hinder immigrants from being successful in their new country.
As students from the United States, the topic of cultural identity has always been a highly relevant topic.  After all, our country has been made up of immigrants, and continues to receive immigrants from around the world.  I noticed a parallel between the United States, Spain, and Germany, in that their culture has been shaped by the influence of other ethnic groups.  For me personally, the interactions between ethnic groups and the majority population has always interesting to observe.  I myself am part of a minority group, so I’ve grown up seeing that dynamic my entire life.  I think learning about and achieving an understanding of the viewpoint of other groups of people is very valuable to creating a strong community.  On a global scale, this knowledge can help bridge cultural differences and bring people closer together instead of isolating them.
One major surprises that I found doing my research was the amount of denial that some of Spanish people have towards discrimination.  According to several interviews I had talking to students at the Leon Center and people in the park, some of them did not think that there was really a sentiment of racism amongst the people, and they thought that Spanish people in general are liberal and tolerant (Student).  At first, I thought this was just them downplaying the situation.  However, after reading other news articles about racial conflicts in Spain, I started to notice that despite what appeared to be blatantly racist situations, many of the supposed offenders and bystanders interviewed didn’t think this could be considered an incident of racism.  For example, the chairman of the soccer RFEF organization claimed that there was no racism in Spain against African soccer players, despite recent racist remarks made by a prominent Spanish coach concerning an African soccer player from an opposing team.  In other games, fans held up seemingly anti-African posters yet claimed that their actions were not racist and they had no intention of mocking anyone for their skin color (Racism).
This situation was an enormous surprise for me.  Of course, I was raised in the U.S, where racial sensitivity is a huge issue.  In fact, it’s so sensitive that sometimes, things I never would’ve perceived as racist get picked apart by other people and somehow the accusation of racism comes up.  It automatically becomes an enormous issue and spreads like wildfire, especially if that person is in a position of authority.  Certainly, it was an enormous cultural clash for me to learn that in Spain there are many people who have a much different threshold line of what constitutes as racist.  It was a very valuable learning experience for me to try and understand their mindset, as well as getting to know other cultures and the Spanish perspective on society in general.
One of the obvious struggles that I encountered while working on this research project was the language barrier.  It was really fortunate that I had taken Spanish classes previously, otherwise communication would have been much more difficult.  I think that if I’d been even more familiar with the language and culture, I would have been able to gather more information.  Another struggle in this project was determining how to organize the information I received from personal interviews.  Some of the people I interviewed had strong opinions about the topic, and others were a little less biased, but either way it was difficult for me to be able to view my information objectively.  Initially I felt overwhelmed by the amount of contradicting statements that I’d heard from different people, but I think it’s been a great learning process to be able to take what you hear from other people and how their opinion is affected by their environment and circumstances.
Finally, the locations in which I conducted my research in Spain (Leon and Madrid) were not known for their African immigrant population.  There were few African immigrants living there, and as a result the people I interviewed there didn’t perceive any discrimination of the minority group in the streets.  However, they were able to postulate that there was more of it in the south where many African immigrants were, and what that kind of discrimination looked like.  While this was valuable information, I think it would have also been beneficial if I’d been able to get more firsthand information from people in the south and observed more African Spaniards as they went about their life in Spain.
I came into this research project on discrimination with an "outsider's" view on a topic that normally "insiders", such as African immigrants or Spanish/German natives, discuss.  While I successfully managed to speak with African immigrants in Germany and somewhat reach the community there, that was a more difficult task in Spain.  I remember attempting to approach a group of African immigrants on the street in Spain.  It was the perfect opportunity to do some insider research, but as I got closer to them, I started to feel more intimidated.  They had closed themselves off from the other Spanish people in the plaza, clumped in a close space together with most of their backs turned.  I had the impression they wanted to be left alone, whether or not that was the case.  I think this is one of the difficulties of researching a small community that is still trying to integrate into their new environment. They may be wary of foreigners, or perhaps they are still seeking solidarity within their own people.  It requires a willingness to open up on the community's part, and also for a researcher to be respectful of the group they're studying.








REFERENCES:



Arango, Joaquin. “Exceptional in Europe? Spain’s Experience with Immigration and
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Clark, John A. and Jerome S. Legge, Jr. “Economics, Racism, and Attitudes toward Immigration
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Fraczek, Jennifer. “Germany tries warmer welcome mat for immigrants.” Dw. N.p. 4 Feb 2013.
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German Interviewee.  Personal interview. 28 June 2013.

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Matthias. Personal interview.  26 June 2013.

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Otoo, Sharon. Personal interview. 18 July 2013.

Park Interviewee, Spain.  Personal interview. 20 July 2013.

"Peoples." World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous People. Minority Rights Group International. n.d.
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Thindi, Thabo.  Personal interview.  3 July 2013.

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Street Interviewee, Spain.  Personal interview.  19 July 2013.

Student Interviewee, Spain.  Personal interview.  20 July 2013.

Westervelt, Eric. “The Secret to Germany’s Low Youth Unemployment.” NPR. N.p. 4 April
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Image link:

http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/01/04/business/20100101_JOBLESSclr_GRAPHIC.html?ref=global

Friday, July 19, 2013

Interview Assignment

Experience/process of these interviews:

Thankfully I took a few years of Spanish in high school and Spanish 203 at UW, otherwise I would've had a really difficult time communicating.  The people I spoke to talked pretty fast, but they would clarify any questions that I had regarding something that they said, which was very helpful.  I was able to speak with dorm staff, people in the park, and a student at the Leon language center to get their opinions on my topic of discrimination against African immigrants in Spain.  In the process of interviewing people, there was one rather large accidental discrepancy.  An older lady told me she thought the 'romanos' were a bit dangerous, with their mafia and guns.  I thought romanos meant 'Romans', because during one of our lectures at the Leon Center, I thought I'd heard someone refer to 'romanos' as people living in Italy.  Besides, she mentioned they were known for mafia and crime, which is a stereotype of Italian people.  So, I mentioned that in Chicago and New York there was mafia presence, too.  And she got really upset, used vocabulary I didn't know, and kept on saying she meant 'romanos', but I still wasn't sure what that was.  Then she finally said they were people from Romania.  I thought Romanians were called 'Romianos', which I was confused about whether they were the same thing as the Roma/Romani people we'd encountered in Germany because our guide told us they spoke Romanian, so it was all a big confusing mess.  But we got it sorted out, so it went well after that.  The student I interviewed at the Leon Center was actually training to be an English teacher, and we actually had part of the conversation in English.  She said she really wanted to take any opportunity to talk with a native speaker.  This is an interesting trend I've found in a few of the people that I've met in Spain.  I'd think everyone would want to learn German, since it has the best economy right now.  English speaking countries like the U.S and the U.K aren't doing that great.

Findings:

Older generation

The woman I talked to stated that she didn't agree with discrimination and thinks it shouldn't exist.  She believes that the main reason is poverty and doesn't think it has anything to do with phenotype/physical differences.  She thought that in the north of Spain, there isn't much and she hasn't seen much of it in Leon, if at all.  However, she knows that there are lots of people who think differently than her.  Interestingly enough, she thought that the Romanian people were the ones that we needed to watch out for.  She talked about how they're involved with the mafia, lots of crime, and how we should keep our distance from them.  However, she doesn't feel that way about Africans.  Which I thought was really very interesting, because in the U.S a lot of people talk about the high crime rates of African Americans.  She went on about how she knew people who went into the homes of some Romanian people in Spain and the whole wall would be lined with guns.

Youth/University students:

The student I talked to mentioned that she didn't see much discrimination on the streets in a small city like Leon.  She added that people her age didn't really harbor negative connotations and were more accepting of the African immigrants.  It's likely, however, that the older generation is more reluctant to be accepting of these people.  She said that she wouldn't call them 'racist', because in their time a lot of them had been encouraged to study abroad, so they're at least somewhat familiar of other cultures.  In general, she thinks that Spanish people are relatively kind and welcoming towards all cultures.

Family/parents with kids

The young mother that I talked to told me that she also hasn't seen any discrimination here in Leon and again mentioned that in the south of Spain, which is the entryway into the country, there is more.  She also thought that most of the discrimination that exists is usually not viewable on the streets, that is, it's not immediately visible.  Spain has gotten to the point where it's mostly just in people's minds or subconscious now.  The woman said that she knows many people who believe that the many African immigrants are stealing low skilled jobs from other Spanish people.  The ill feeling has increased since the economic crisis because now there are lots of ethnic Spanish people who have no job at all.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Daily Diary: July 11-12

Thursday was our first day here in the lovely city of Leon! We went to orientation, where we got some helpful information and our student cards for the University of Leon.  And the staff showed us a really cool Macaw exhibit being put on by the Leon Center, containing displays of various Macaw handicrafts.  I thought it was really great that the Leon Center was able to create such a strong relationship with the Macaw people given the past history of Spanish conquistadors.  I also enjoyed the stories that went with several of the crafts, which gave us some insight into the religion and view of life that the Macaw people had.

After our orientation, we got to have a lunch break and returned to the Center for our language classes.  I thought we'd have a class on the Spanish language, since it was a language class, but instead we had a class about the economy and the crisis in Spain.  Our professor talked to us in Spanish, and we all responded in Spanish, which was difficult because sometimes I couldn't catch quite what she said.  It might have been because she was talking fast, or as a native speaker she slurred some of her words.  I took a few years of Spanish in high school and Spanish 203 at UW, but it was still difficult for me to understand the videos that she showed us as during class.  Everyone in the videos talked really fast so it was hard to comprehend at first, but our professor helped explain what was going on, so we all still learned a lot!

On Friday, our day started with a lecture from Miguel Albin, a young man who talked to us about youth unemployment and some of the current political issues in Spain.  It was a very engaging talk, and I enjoyed all the videos and articles that he showed us.  I found the evictions topic and the diferentes scandal to be particularly interesting.  Both of those are situations that I couldn't really imagine lasting for a long time in the U.S.  For example, if someone didn't pay their mortgage, they were legally evicted from their homes.  I never would have imagined that people would protest this on the streets to get media attention and call the police! I remember we saw an instance on this the first day we arrived in Madrid, and I was really surprised that there was even a possibility for the home owner to not be evicted.  It was a really interesting contrast to how the government works in Spain.

After the lecture and another lunch break, we went to visit the Sierra Pambley Foundation, and listened to a talk about the Foundation and it's work in the community.  The discussion also developed more broadly in regards to the economic situation in Spain.  Afterwards, we were given a tour of building, which was really fascinating due to it's long history.  We had the opportunity to enter the main library, which had changed ownership a couple times due to Franco's dictatorship.  It was great to hear that despite all the conflict and turmoil of the past, the culture and knowledge within the books were maintained.  Below is a picture of the shelves and tables in the library:



After our tour of the Foundation building, we were taken the Sierra Pambley museum, where the home of a former owner was now available for public viewing.  The museum had several floors, and our charming tour guide took us through the entire place.  It was really amazing to be able to see furniture and other home items from so many years ago.  The story of the man who planned out the whole house before his wedding, but didn't actually get married, was really depressing when we saw how detailed he was with his planning.  There were even rooms for the future children and toys for them to play with! I didn't know we weren't allowed to take pictures, so I snapped a few shots of the fine china and decor that was in the home before the tour guide reminded us.



It was really a shame that was the case, because I really wished I could've taken some pictures of the beautiful 'French palace' room on the next floor.  It was well decorated, painstakingly restored, and when I stepped in there I really felt like I'd been teleported back to 18th century France.  It was absolutely amazing, and I REALLY wanted to take pictures! Alas, I couldn't, and soon afterwards our tour came to an end.

Outside of the museum was a beautiful cathedral across the street, and just from looking at it, it also made me feel like I'd been teleported hundreds of years back in time.  I thought it looked like a very typical cathedral, made sometime in the Middle Ages.  It made me wonder what it looked like to the people who were living in Spain back then.  The structure must have had a much different aura to it than it does now, a building in a busy street.  I don't necessarily think that it's been diminished due to modernization, but I think it would've been truly outstanding in medieval Spain.  I feel very fortunate to have had an opportunity to see it myself.



Friday ended with our return to the dorms and a student group dinner in the dining hall.  It was a busy couple of days, packed full with a lot of activity, but I think we all learned a lot from.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reflective Post: Leaving Berlin

Coming to Berlin, I wasn't sure at all what I expected.  I had thought we'd be in a super fancy location with expensive flats lining the streets.  Kind of like downtown New York, or something.  I thought that's what everyone talked about when they mentioned capital cities in Europe.  In my mind, it was a wealthy and glamorous place.  It's interesting, because that contrasted strongly with what I was hearing in class.  The graffiti part, at least.  I couldn't imagine how a glitzy area could also be full of graffiti covered walls.  In fact, generally speaking when I got to Berlin, I was surprised in many ways.  These surprises have helped to change my misconceptions about another culture, as well as my personal mindset about taking risks and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

The first experience was spread out for a couple days, actually, when we arrived in Berlin and I looked around observing our new surroundings.  I hadn't expected the place we were staying at, Kreuzberg, to be so reminiscent of, from my experience, some of the more dubious locations in New York.  There was a lot of graffiti, a lot of broken beer bottles, lots of people that looked like they'd been unemployed for some time (essentially, not the fancy dressed up European businessmen I thought I'd see).  I can say for sure that just from the places and people that I've seen in the area of Kreuzberg, my preconceptions and dramatic notions of Berlin and Germany were shattered.  That is not to say, there weren't places fitting the stereotypes I'd come up with (like the downtown shopping areas that sold tiny, 200 Euro bottles of designer perfume).  However, it was interesting because I think perhaps in the U.S, we tend to glorify Europe, that is, a lot of young people that I know tend to glorify Europe as this fabulous place that everyone has to go to, or they're missing out on life.  I wonder if that has anything to do with perpetuated ideas of Britain and Europe superiority, obviously diluted and altered, but still some sort of admiration present that Americans hold towards Europe?

I'm certainly one of those people who thought Europe was going to be the 2nd best place to live, other than the U.S, and that it would be even more exciting and flashy.  It was quite an interesting and revealing experience to go there and find out that it's not all like that.  I'm really grateful for this opportunity that I was able to break out of some of the old models that I had towards other countries.  I think it's important to keep a more open and curious mindset in the future when learning about other countries/cultures, to prevent myself from labelling or writing them off as something automatically without having experienced it firsthand.

Another experience that helped change my perspectives was getting lost in Berlin.  The experience of getting lost in a foreign country is something that I was really afraid of, and as a result, I was constantly asking for directions to make sure that I wouldn't end up on the other side of town with no knowledge on how to get back.  And one day, I realized I was behind on souvenir shopping, and needed to do my shopping right away.  So, I went down to Alexanderplatz from the Waffelhaus with some other people, and that wasn't too bad.  What was confusing was how to get back from Alexanderplatz to Friedrichstrasse.  I still didn't completely understand how the buses worked, I didn't know which U Bahn station to get off at, because they all said U Bahn, but I thought they went to different places, so I was starting to get really worried.  Eventually I just picked one station and went down.  But none of the U lines said anything about Friedrichstrasse, and after wandering around the station in circles, I got really worried.

Finally I asked one of the guards a German phrase that Sven so kindly taught me: 'Entschuldigen, sprechen sie Englisch?' and thankfully, the guard was able to tell me to go upstairs and take a left to get to the S Bahn.  I still got a little lost trying to decide where I should turn left from all the staircases, but I eventually went up the stairs.  Then the challenge of deciding which line to take came.  I let a few buses pass because I still wasn't sure which way to go, but I finally deciphered the map and hopped on the right train.  That whole experience, of figuring out where to go, was worrisome, made it feel as though I had to grow up really fast.  Usually I always know where I'm going, or plan it out ahead of time.  This time, having to do it on my own and planning the route (which really isn't a big deal, but it felt like a big deal for me with my terrible sense of direction) was responsibility that I hadn't had to do very often.  And being placed in a foreign country context, that just made it all the more challenging.

Overall, it was very worrisome at the time, but I think it will definitely help me in the future and during our stay in Spain.  Due to scheduling conflicts, I might end up having to take a 5 hour, 3am train from Leon to Madrid on my own, and fly out of Madrid back to the U.S on my own.  The very idea terrifies me.  But after getting lost a few times in Berlin (the one detailed above was just one of several), I feel a bit less scared and more willing to analyze maps/trains and travel on my own now.  I think this will be beneficial in the future and help me to be more willing to try and overcome many different kinds of obstacles.

Despite the fact that as a group, we've learned from many different kinds of people and organizations, I think there are some common trends that they've been talking about.  One of them is regarding change that needs to happen in the system.  I felt like almost every talk that we've gone to, or listened to, has always included some kind of discontent with the way things are.  I don't think that's a bad thing, but it just really emphasized to me how the economic crisis in Europe can be related to many other things, too.  For example, the Neukolln situation reminded me about how the community needs to continue to reach out to kids who need help in the area.  In the Roma dwellings, minority people are still feeling ostracized and discriminated from the other Germans.  The Turkish soccer club still struggled with being recognized and fighting against discrimination against the Turkish minority.  There were many other instances like this, but the biggest trend that I saw was that even though Germany is not suffering as much as the other countries from the EU crisis, there still needs to be a lot of work done in the community to secure rights for everyone.

I think the fact that there is still a large racism discrepancy was one of the most surprising themes and statements that I'd heard.  Of course, racial profiling is the topic of my project, and I knew that in every country with a large immigrant population, there must be some kind of racial profiling that occurs.  I think I had underestimated the extent of the racism and how much of it there is.  In developed countries like Germany and Spain, I thought that they'd be similar to the U.S in their discrimination: it exists, but it's still somewhat discreet.  So the things we heard about at the Turkish soccer club were really very surprising to me.  Recently I'd also read an article about racism in England against people of Asian background, and that it's still alive.  I think learning about this has changed my perspective in that I'd been taking the privileges and understanding of minorities that we have in the U.S for granted.  Certainly I know that in other places (in Asia, for example, where most of my relatives live) the racial profiling is pretty bad because I've been there and heard them talk about it.  But it was really illuminating to hear about it in Germany, a place where I thought wouldn't have very blatant cases of racial profiling.

In conclusion, the time that I've spent in Germany has been an extremely educational and beneficial experience for me.  I think I've learned a lot about the world around me, and gotten lots of opportunities to push myself and try new things.  I enjoy adventuring, and all the excursions that I was privileged enough to go on were very adventuresome and exciting, even if they were somewhat terrifying at first.  I hope that in future I'll be able to return to Berlin and learn even more about the culture and the country.  It was really sad for me to leave the place, just as I thought I was getting used to the pace of life and the metro and everything about it.  Spain is much different, surprisingly, but I'm looking forward to gaining new perspectives in Leon and applying what I've learned from Germany to Spain as well.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Reflection on Holocaust Memorial

Going to the Holocaust Memorial, I had a few different expectations.  First I thought it'd be an enormous building, with lots of different floors and layers and exhibits and things like that.  After going to the one in DC a couple summers ago, I expected the memorial in Berlin to be much grander and more extensive.  I was completely surprised by what I found when I got there, however.  The simple design and plain gray boxes seemed really underwhelming, because I thought it'd be enormous.  I remember thinking 'this can't be it'.

The design itself is really quite interesting.  The idea was to induce a sense of anxiety, and confusion, because you can't quite see the end.  Also the ground is uneven, supposedly to add to the disorientation.  It's a really good idea, and I'm really impressed by the architect who came up with that idea.  I think it does a good job of emphasizing the main points and characteristics of the Holocaust, to a certain degree.  It's good, but I think they could've done more to drive those points home even further.

If they wanted to really emphasize that feeling of confusion and disorientation, why did they make it so that all the blocks were aligned? You could see straight from one end of the blocks all the way to the other with no problem.  If you walked straight, you could walk straight out, with an obvious path.  I think that disturbed the confusion a bit, because in the Holocaust the 'road out', so to speak, was not that simple.  I think if they rearranged it so that the blocks weren't systematically spread out, it would really make the place a maze.  People could still get out, as long as they walk backwards.  On the other hand, people might not want to bring their small children there, because they would probably actually get lost.  In all honesty, maybe the city's current layout of the memorial might be better.


Additionally, I saw some guy hiding and scaring his friends as they walked past, because where you're standing in the maze, you can't see past much.  You won't know what's around the corner until you round that corner, and I actually think that's a good symbolic reference to the real Holocaust (ignoring the fact that this boy probably shouldn't have been doing that).  No one there knew what was going to happen to them until it actually did happen to them, and by that time it was too late to do anything about it.  It sounds a little scary, which is a good descriptor as to what the Holocaust was.

Despite the fact that this memorial was nothing like I thought it'd be, I thought the symbolism of the architecture was a really good and thoughtful representation.  Personally, I think it would've been better to have had an actual display and museum, but in this quiet way it's a good commemoration as well.  It reminded me a lot of the Jewish student memorial in the pavement in front of Humboldt University, also.  The golden plates were there, visible, but not obstructive or in the way.  Just a quiet reminder of the history of the area.  Maybe there's a difference culturally, between the U.S and Berlin, in how they make memorials and commemorations.

Reflection on Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

The train ride to Sachsenhausen was pretty long, and the scenery was pretty interesting.  There was this really random open plain, and also a forest full of anorexic trees that were super tall and skinny and spread out.  We really did go QUITE a ways and silly me, I didn't realize the significance of that.  Of course, when Hitler brought out all the prisoners and Jews, well, they really went to the outskirts didn't they? Far away from people? I didn't know until later that we went the same route that the inmates did when they first arrived at the camp.  If I'd known then, I wonder what kind of thoughts I would've had if I'd been going there as an inmate myself.  I'd probably be terrified, getting carried farther and farther away from home.

Having watched Schindler's List, I already expected a certain amount of discomfort, and having watched a very graphic documentary about the Holocaust in history class in high school, I thought I was well prepared.  There were still some surprises though.  The barracks were still smaller than I thought, the gas chamber was tiny.  It was pretty horrifying to me that the inspectorate was testing the method out here.  TESTING THE KILLING METHOD.  Who does that? And the human experimentation just really chilled me to the bone.  There's something I find extremely disturbing about it.  I'm of the firm belief that medical knowledge should never be used for ill purposes, though I'm aware that it has a lot of potential in that sort of area.  Our tour guide told us a lot of stories about the people who went through the camp, some who found ways of surviving and others who died.  That was really a bit terrifying, especially all the photographs.  The main strategy, hide and don't stand out, sounds reasonable.  I just can't imagine actually constantly living with that sort of paranoia.  I remember there was a scene in Schindler's List where a young Jewish engineering student told the Nazis that the building they were constructing was completely wrong and would collapse if they didn't rebuild it.  And of course, they shot her, and then did as she said.  I still remember that scene, it was horrifying, but it really speaks to that mentality of 'don't attract attention no matter what, and then they might just forget about you'.

Additionally, the crematorium remains were haunting.  The oven grill openings are smaller than I thought...what kind of emaciated corpses went in there, I don't want to think.  I know people back then were probably skinnier than they are now, but still, it was really terrible.  I also noticed the barbed wire fence that went around the area.  I think it was well preserved on top of the concrete walls, and looked very much like it hadn't been changed at all.  It was interesting and thought provoking, looking up at them.  They were tall, no one could've jumped over them or anything.  And it really was barbed wire.  It took me a while, but eventually I realized that I really was standing inside a real concentration camp, where a lot of people had died terrible deaths.  Looking up at that barbed wire fence, it made me wonder how many unfortunate souls had looked up at the same thing, trapped inside with no way out.  It was absolutely haunting.


Overall, I thought this was a really good experience, and I was really looking forward to it during the study abroad.  I'm really glad that we went, not that I'm glad it ever existed, but I'm glad we got to see it while we were here.  Personally, I would've liked to go to Auschwitz, too, but Sachsenhausen was also a very good representation of the remains of the Holocaust.  It's made everything I read about in history class a lot more real, and I think a part of me still refuses to process the fact that we really visited one of those death camps and we really walked around inside.  The deaths seem too tragic to even have been real, so I think a section of my brain is pushing it aside and doesn't want to deal with it.  But I'm really glad we went, and I think this experience will be something that I remember for the rest of the trip.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reflection on the Reichstag

Reflection on the Reichstag

I thought the Reichstag would be a bit more ancient in terms of architecture, but it was pleasant to see it so nicely refurbished.  The security was a little surprising, although I guess I should've expected it if it was the center of Parliament still.  Throughout the tour, a few things surprised me about it.  I didn't realize that it was so open to the public, and that anyone could just come and listen in on the meetings.  I was also surprised by the simplicity.  I thought the inside would've been a lot more complicated, but it all seemed pretty straightforward.

The entire time I was there, I was really just thinking about the way it had been during Hitler and the Nazi Reign of Terror.  In high school I did an important history project on Nazi propaganda, and the Reichstag fire definitely played a role in that.  As a result, I was actually pretty excited to go see the building myself, and I thought the first thing the tour guide would talk about was the Reichstag fire and it's significance for the Nazi and Communist parties in Germany.  She didn't say anything about it, although in the back of my head I kept looking around thinking 'I wonder which part of this was set on fire' and 'I wonder if anyone's come up with newer evidence or suggestions as to who did it for sure and why they would've done it'.