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A Plea by Second-Generation Immigrants for Mutual Acceptance (May 13, 1982)

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For the second generation of foreigners, on the other hand, the following applies: A sharp break from the cultural and social life of their own people would further intensify the social and psychological problems of these young people, because they can find no substitute for it, no support, and no acceptance in German society. They should not be forced to reject their background. Only then will the integration process become self-perpetuating, because the foreign youths who manage a social breakthrough can then act as problem-solvers and integration leaders: as social workers for other foreigners, training supervisors in the workplace, etc.

Developing and introducing measures and institutions aimed at forging a new identity in this sense, however, is our problem, and it demands our initiative as foreigners, and not the initiative of Germans. I regard the types of schools that pursue the dual goal of facilitating integration into German society and reintegration into Turkish society as unrealistic and misleading.

What is it that we foreigners have failed to do up to now? We have failed to develop proactive community-based initiatives and to find solutions on our own.

• We have failed to organize ourselves within major institutions that function as educational facilities in the broadest sense and to compensate for the shortcomings in existing German institutions, to resolve conflicts with the environment around us, to mobilize the Turkish population, and to attempt to forge a new identity.

• We have set the wrong course for political action. Activists in the Turkish community have created a political scene comprised of countless political, religious, and ethnic splinter groups that are oriented almost exclusively toward the patterns of Turkish political culture, that deal with political problems in Turkey, and that tend to hinder integration, if anything.

To be sure, one of the most significant causes of a development of this sort is the exclusion of foreigners from political participation, political decision-making processes, and societal decisions.

The majority of our intellectuals and well-to-do compatriots, who could have played an important role in self-organization and integration solely on the basis of the social and educational status they have achieved, have failed to pay attention to the problems of their own people. It is with great bitterness that I have to admit that they are more concerned with distancing themselves from their compatriots and having nothing more to do with them.

The way I see it, only after we have created suitable conditions within our population group will we have good prospects for cooperation with and support from progressive German groups.

In the face of growing economic difficulties and unemployment within a complex economic system that is incomprehensible to ordinary citizens, a segment of the German population is looking for someone to blame, “scapegoats” so to speak, at whom they can direct their aggressions. In terms of numbers, Turks are the largest minority in Germany, and they are also the most different in terms of culture; for this they have become the target of attacks. Neo-fascist groups see this as their great opportunity to regain a foothold and to thrive by manipulating people’s fear of losing their livelihood.

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