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

In this text, second-generation immigrant and political activist Elçin Kürsat calls for further efforts at integration. He argues that immigrants should try harder to learn the German language and that Germans should show more tolerance and acceptance.

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Xenophobia Destroys our Domestic Peace
“Integration” is an educational issue and the goal for second-generation immigrants who grow up here.

Experience has already shown that weaknesses in social policy do not become apparent until years later. But politicians only react once a crisis has occurred. Suddenly, premature and ill-considered decisions are made under intense time pressure and insufficient and unsuitable solutions are pursued. Social policies pertaining to foreigners are a by-product of practical economic constraints, and they are subordinated to the needs of economic crisis management, where the problems arose in the first place.

Starting in the mid-1960s, the pressing labor shortage in German industry made it necessary to import foreign workers at breakneck speed. The German labor administration even set up branch offices in Turkey. Turkish recruits were examined right then and there to determine the state of their health, their physical strength, even the state of their teeth; then they were sent in droves to the Federal Republic. In the process, no one gave much thought to mid-range – much less long-term – plans to satisfy the basic needs of these hastily imported workers. For example: Where and how should these people live? How should they interact with their social surroundings? What consequences would arise in the area of family and education policies, etc., if they asserted their basic right to have a family life?

When the “foreign bodies” started attracting negative attention in German society, the magic formula of “integration” was invented, though it was never defined realistically or concretely. The adaptation of a minority to the majority by the majority is a long and laborious educational process for both sides. And it does not take place automatically or overnight.

Integration Must Take Place on an Emotional Level

It is illusionary and unfair to expect that the Turks – the majority of whom come from the rural areas of Anatolia and who are used to a level of social and economic development that is about 200 years behind that of a major industrial city – will adapt to the point that they act and think like Germans within 10 to 15 years. The living conditions in Turkey were no secret. It is just as unfair to make sweeping claims that Turks do not want to integrate, simply because the magic formula did not work.

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