CONNECTING EUROPEAN INTERCULTURAL YOUTH - Rayse EU Project, maggio 2020


FOREWORD

This book is one of the outcomes of the RAYSE project, funded by the European Commission to promote a better understanding of the challenges faced by second-generation migrants in the E.U. The RAYSE project focused on young people, who look at their parents as a crucial bridge connecting them with their culture of origin and, at the same time, at Europe as their homeland. Their stories are stories of overcoming prejudices, often on both sides. All European secular constitutions promote equality and recognize every person’s dignity. However, actual social behavior is sometime is driven by widespread misperceptions. So far, vast sectors of the European Union have failed to fully integrate residents or citizens (the difference between these two status is a matter of national regulations and one of the issues of this book) of Asian or African origin. Many of them still struggle to be accepted in our open society of opportunities and freedoms. In the year 2020, this is not simply a mistake, yet it is a collective tragedy. This is the contradictory society where second-generation migrants, “former migrants”, live in: a society that combines liberal principles with tribal prejudices. We, as the European Union, are still evolving democratic societies. If we want to continue building a progressive and wealthy environment, we can’t ignore our ideological enemies that want to spoil it – or destroy it. Some of those enemies can attack our democracy with terror and violence; others undermine mutual respect by spreading fundamentalism and religious extremism or by practicing in their communities retrograde and restrictive policies that make young people, especially women, victims. Other enemies undermine our societies by creating double standards for citizens and by promoting a disgraceful and ill-grounded concept of the supremacy of the European ethnical identity. They can do it at different levels, different but somehow inter-connected and all detrimental to our fabric of the society. Each of the young women and men that were part of the RAYSE project was ready to share something about their challenges - something based on their experience, not from an academic debate. They are young, they are Europeans, yet still they can be considered “others”. A part of our society is still reluctant in engaging with them and discriminates them when. For instance, when it comes to employment or renting an apartment. A second-generation migrant can still be perceived as a captivating person, but get treated as a second choice employee or tenant. Yet, those second-generation migrants, regardless whether they are residents or citizens, are subject to the same laws and equally responsible for the fate of our EU society. Member States apply different procedures to grant nationality despite of the fundamental EU principle of non-discrimination. Imagine those absurd situations when children, who are raised in a European country, speak its language and identify themselves as Europeans, get treated differently from their pears because of their foreign nationality. Such situations are caused by cultural prejudices, which consider “the others” as “the representatives of separate species” and “the he most crucial point is that we treat them as a threat”, as described by Ryszard Kapuściński. But to the contrary: the threat is the poor culture of excluding them. The real dangers looming on our world are rather different: lack of ethical responsibility, ignorance, prevailing cynicism, so many forms of individual and collective alienation. I have travelled for years through the world and I experienced or witness issues at the borders, but nothing looks more conflictive than the problems within internalborders. They might be internal physical borders, as for instance between Palestine and Israel or the two sides of Cyprus - the very same lands (and somehow the same peoples). Or they might be internal psychological and social borders, as the ones between the old comers and the new comers in Europe.Borders are always tricky and we all should go nomadic. My mother’s family lived as a group of migrants, or rather political exiles, in France, in Spain during the bloody civil war, in Portugal, until the fall of fascism. It was a family that experienced the somehow joyful vocation to nomadism and the lesson that we know what we are because we know another is. The dynamic of a plural project is the basic ingredient to generate dialogue and creativity. Persisting legislative and social obstacles undermine the very idea of Europe, by definition a plural project. How can we overcome those obstacles, those prejudices? I would suggest three ways. First, we should all refuse the otherwise wise saying “never complain” when it comes to fight such prejudices. Always explain and fight prejudices, whether small or heavy, at every single occasion – at school, at work, at home, on the media. Second, second generation migrants should personally engage in the political field. Democratic institutions, political parties and civic associations lack fair representation of European ethnic, religious and cultural richness. Third, each of those young “ambassadors” should try to achieve the best professional and social standard – being outstanding always pays. If one of those young people becomes a teacher, he or she will have to be the best teacher. And each of them can, believe it. Niccolò RinaldiFormer member of the European Parliament


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