I’m a “second generation immigrant”

In countries with a history of immigration – like the United States – you’re a citizen if you’re born in the country. Norway has a very short history of immigration. Thirty years ago, there were almost no immigrants – although now about 8% of the population are immigrants. Probably, though, a portion of that 8% was actually born in Norway – like me.

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(This image is actually relevant – just keep reading…)

See, Norway actually has this bizarre word for people like me who have lived in Norway almost our entire lives (I was born here, but lived in Australia for four years as a kid – the remaining 31.5 years of my life were spent in Norway) and who have gone to Norwegian schools, have Norwegian jobs and speak Norwegian flawlessly. We’re “second generation immigrants”. Well, actually, I would rarely get called that, because I’m white. My name is the only thing that screams FOREIGNER, but it’s not scary foreigner: Norwegians understand English.

Finally, it seems, the government has decided that this isn’t really a very good way of making people who have always lived in this country feel at home. The minister for Labour and Social Inclusion (sic), Bjarne Haakon Hanssen, wrote a kronikk today about the effects of calling people like me second generation immigrants, or calling teenagers who were born in Norway “foreign cultural” (that doesn’t translate well, does it). Apparently the “second generation immigrant” term was introduced by the Bureau of Statistics and they actually stopped using it seven years ago, but now of course, it’s everywhere. The department for Labour and Social Inclusion has prepared a booklet about how language that many Norwegians use without thinking – like “foreign cultural” or “second generation immigrant” – can actually increase cultural differences.

So far so good – but then you read the debate below the fold, where readers have added their usually vitriolic comments. So much hatred! Reading the reader discussions in Dagbladet is an unbelievably depressing thing to do. There were NO comments in favour of the article when I read it. I was going to surf on but decided I had to leave a comment, honestly. I assume what happens is that people who are more or less cool-headed simply avoid the discussions, as I usually do, they’re so toxic.

Of course, you could certainly make the case that Dagbladet invites this kind of agressive, onesided discussion. Look at the image they use to advertise discussions started by readers, which I pasted in above.

This is hardly an invitation to a calm, level-headed, rational discussion, though Drusilla notes that at least there’s something refreshingly honest about it.

27. August 2007 by Jill

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