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