Denmark announced in March that it plans to limit the number of “non-Western” residents in neighborhoods to a maximum of 30%. The plan is to avoid the emergence of parallel societies and ghettos. This unexpectedly was a great opportunity for the sensational media to formulate attention grabbing headlines. However, in this article I want distance myself from attention grabbing headlines and talk about how quotas might actually establish a more equal and fair society – especially for immigrants.
Denmark has always been one of Europe’s more conservative and restrictive countries when it comes to immigration policies. While Denmark until now openly used the word ghetto to describe disadvantaged neighborhoods, the word ghetto will now be replaced by “non-Western” neighborhoods. A perfect example for political correctness. I believe we shouldn’t whitewash real-world problems by giving problem-districts new names. That’s why I’ll stick with the word ghetto.
But what is a ghetto in the first place? A ghetto has different cultural meanings in the United States versus in Germany, Denmark or Italy. In the U.S. a ghetto is deeply rooted in terms of segregation and refers to mostly inner-city neighborhoods that are mainly African American, poor and criminal. During the Holocaust, hundreds of Nazi ghettos were established to hold Jews. The term originates from the Venetian Ghetto, a neighborhood where Jews were forced to live.
Denmark defines a “non-Western” neighborhood (aka Ghetto) as follows:
“More than 40% of residents unemployed; more than 60% of 39-50 year-olds with no upper secondary education; crime rates three times higher than the national average; residents having a gross income 55% lower than the regional average.” (The Guardian, 2021)
I think it is therefore important to point out that ghettos are not about the skin-color, religion or nationality of the people living in ghettos. Ghettos are neighborhoods where less fortunate people live. This will in the end be a mix of immigrants and less fortunate and less educated blue-collar workers. Let’s define ghettos not as neighborhoods for a certain race or religion but as neighborhoods of the less fortunate.
To limit the emergence of ghettos, Denmark wants to introduce certain quotas of how many “non-Western” people can live in certain neighborhoods. Even though the term “non-Western” has been chosen for political correctness, we should go one step further. We must bury the notion of “Western” and “non-Western”.
To find solutions the “ghettoization” we must leave out all notions of skin-color, race or nationality. Policies to avoid the emergence of ghettos are not about that in the first place. We should think of it more as: rich-poor, educated-unedcuated, or integrated-unintegrated.
What happens when you don’t have quotas? This can be observed all around the world from South Los Angeles to Duisburg. If you just let it run without a quota, you’ll unavoidably see ghettos emerge.
Ghettos in Renaissance Venice were designed to contain Jews. Today’s ghettos emerged out of different reasons. First, humans want to surround themselves with people who are alike. People want to surround themselves with people who come from an equal socio-economic background, speak the same language, or have the same religion. But that is not all.
So, why do ghettos emerge? They also emerge because those who are less fortunate will look for affordable neighborhoods to live in. This way, neighborhoods which have previously been regular neighborhoods will soon transform themselves into hot spots for people who are less fortunate.
As a result, people who are less fortunate are all by themselves. They don’t even have the chance to integrate themselves into the society. Schools in the district are full of children of less fortunate families. Well, paying jobs are further away. Gangs and shadow economies will form, as people find themselves living in parallel societies. Voilà, over a long enough time period you have a hot spot aka ghetto.
With a quota, you can limit the emergence of such parallel societies because children of less fortunate families can actually become friends with children of more fortunate families. Schools are evolving into a place where children of less fortunate families can get to know those of more fortunate families. Rich and poor families, integrated and unintegrated families will mix which leads to one unified society.
In the short term, this might lead to a harder situation for some. For example, new arriving immigrants cannot build upon the experience of immigrants who arrived earlier. However, I believe it must be the #1 priority of every society to avoid the emergence of ghettos and parallel societies. People, no matter their skin color, religion, and race must feel at home. Anywhere and regardless of the neighborhood, city and country.
A quota will read “racist” at first, but I think it is a powerful policy to give less fortunate children the same chances everyone else in society has by not letting them grow up in ghettos.
China is a good example that quotas work. Since the early Zhou dynasty China has quotas which end up mixing the rich and poor people, the immigrants and non immigrants, the fortunate and less fortunate people. That’s why there basically are no ghettos or slums in China as we know them from South Los Angeles, South Side Chicago, or Duisburg Marxloh.
What do you think? Are quotas a solution worth trying to avoid the emergence of ghettos?