Saturday, May 14

Immigration and Portable Ghettoization

I wrote the following in October 2010 in reply to a reader's comments about a Pundita post titled "The British don't know who they are, so they can't teach us how to adapt." Then I sat on my reply when I came to suspect that the reader, Iftikhar Ahmad of the London School of Islamics, had sent pre-written remarks he inserted at any blog or media platform that even remotely touched on his agenda. However, after reviewing the discussion I think it's worthy of publication. See the comment section for the above post to read Ahmad's entire comment.

Dear Sir: Thank you for your comments in response to my post about the failures of multiculturalism and the problems of immigrant assimilation in Europe. Yet I do find myself in disagreement with some of your observations. Regarding your remark:
I set up the first Muslim school in 1981 and now there are 166 Muslim schools and only 11 schools are state funded. There are four Sikh state funded schools. Hindu state funded school was set up in Harrow last year and next year a Hindu state funded school would emerge in Leicester. Even Black community is thinking of setting up its own schools for black children with black teachers.
You're to be commended for a solution to an ad hoc problem but don't you see where this solution will lead, if carried to its logical conclusion?

With all due respect what you're proposing, when extended to all faiths and types of cultures, is 'portable ghettoization.' The term is not in the dictionary; I just made it up, in the attempt to describe the gestalt of the ethno-religious schools you describe.

I am sure that major transnational corporations have no problem with the idea of portable ghettoization; they simply want an efficient, docile work force. But portable ghettoization would substitute a highly tribal mindset for the civilizational one.

The desire to be surrounded by the customs of one's homeland runs counter to the most enduring reason for immigration. It's perfectly fine to want to remember one's homeland and its history, but why immigrate if one wants to haul the homeland along to the new land?

If all that one wants from another country is a job or bigger paycheck, or if one is simply fleeing intolerable conditions in one's home country, the impetus is not there to adopt the new country and its culture as one's own. When that impetus is lacking, ghettoization becomes a permanent condition.

New York City, once the major portal city in the USA for European immigrants, used to be carved into 'ghettos' that were formed from the major different immigrant populations. There was the Mittel European-Jewish quarter, the Italian quarter, the Irish quarter, then later the Puerto Rican, Vietnamese, and Korean quarters, and so on. Such quarters also existed in Boston and other major port cities in the USA.

If the children from those ghettos hadn't integrated into the larger American society via the public school system; the rise of the trade unions; the upward mobility provided by a free, pro-capitalist society; and the strong pressure that American Jewish and Christian houses of worship exerted on their flocks to integrate, the great American immigrant experiment, not to mention the American union, would have collapsed.

Another huge factor in the success of America's acceptance of large numbers of immigrants was the slowness with which the immigrants moved into the 'heartland.' The immigrants that arrived in waves in the era before the rise of aviation and cheap air fares generally stayed in the port cities where the ships that brought them to America berthed.

In those days it might have been as long as a generation before immigrant families moved from the port cities to cities and towns in USA that were outside the port regions and their suburbs. This gave the immigrants time to learn about the American society before moving to regions in the USA that were unfamiliar with the immigrants' ethnic/religious backgrounds.

With regard to your statement about segregation in some schools in England -- here I will tread carefully in my reply because I am not familiar with the specific situation you mention. However, based on what I know about the problems of immigration, I venture you're being simplistic to term the segregation you note in various parts of England as 'racism."

This is not to say there isn't racism and other kinds of bigotry in England (and in virtually every other society) but the term "racism" is increasingly being stretched to cover situations that do not arise from racism.

If the segregation you cite wasn't in force during earlier eras in England that saw non-English children going to English schools, as you suggest by noting that the situation is worsening, then one must look to factors other than racism (or religious bigotry) to understand the reasons for the segregation.

I would guess that one problem the English are facing is that while they were used to arrivals from former British colonies (many of whom were fluent English speakers who had great familiarity with the British 'culture' before arriving in England), they have been dealing with increasingly large influxes of people who are not from the former colonies and have no shared history with the British. That, combined with increasingly large refugee populations from former colonies that have repressive regimes and great economic problems, is putting a small island nation in the position of a grain of sugar set near a big ant colony.

At some point the people living in England are going to be overwhelmed by the huge influx of newcomers, and they are feeling this. I think one sign of the feeling is that reportedly many Britons of non-English ancestry have clamored to join the BNP -- a 'racist' political party that excludes people of non-British ancestry! Many U.K. citizens who do not have a English ethnic heritage see themselves as British, and don't want to be overrun by foreigners any more than those of 'native' English (or Scottish, Irish, or Welsh) ancestry do.

The fear of being overrun is not racism. It's a sign that assimilation is not keeping up with the pace of immigration from cultures that are unfamiliar to the citizens of a country. One or two unfamiliar cultures flooding in, okay, but when one is getting it from many regions of the world, it's easy to feel overwhelmed.

It's all very well and good for Americans to act superior about this situation -- the USA covers much of a huge continent! The size of the entire of Europe can be fit two and half times into the United States. So here in the USA we can absorb many more newcomers than a small country.

Another point I would make is that many of the immigrants that Europe is seeing today aren't really a globalized workforce, they're a 'fleeing force.' This force is comprised of people who are fleeing conditions in their own country, and who can only perform the most menial labor when they arrive in the new country. Many such people end up on welfare when they arrive in a country with a large welfare state, which does not contribute to the society; it drains it.

One must also make a clear distinction between a globalized work force and massive immigrations facilitated by ease of travel and immigrant-friendly national policies.

Only a minority of skilled workers is truly globalized; i.e., working in one country while claiming their primary residence and nationality in another. These expats, or nomadic 'internationals' as they're called, can be excused for wanting to live in enclaves, send their children to schools for expats, and not mingle overmuch with the citizens of the country where they're working. That's because they don't plan to put down roots in the country where they're working.

An extreme example of the unwillingness to mingle with the natives is found among Chinese expats working in African countries and several other world regions.

Thus, I am not sure the example you cite about the British in Spain not wanting to learn Spanish is a sign of bigotry although again, I'm not knowledgeable about the specific situation.

Of course there is the opposite problem: the famous 'brain drain,' where the best educated and the most ambitious flee repressive conditions in their country, which only makes conditions in the country worse! This creates a vicious cycle, where the poorest and least educated become a majority force in the country, which leads to an even greater brain drain.

There is also the situation where the wealthier immigrants don't want to mix with the poorer ones and don't want their children educated with them. This isn't racism, any more than President Barack Obama's refusal to send his daughters to a majority black Washington, DC public school is racism on his part.

Obama is not being entirely frank when he cites the lower academic standards in those public schools as his reason for wanting them to attend an exclusive private school. He also doesn't want his daughters to pick up 'gangsta' English lingo, or to be exposed to gangs and the 'drug culture' that is rampant in many Washington, DC public schools. In short, he doesn't want his daughters influenced by the underclass. The desire to protect one's offspring from the influence of the underclass is not bigotry, racism, or snobbery; it's human nature.

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