The Words of Öz | What does it take to make someone Danish?

Enough is enough, I’ve had it. I am part of a generation that is called ‘second-generation immigrants’, and ‘we’ are often judged by how well we are integrated into Danish society. Each time one of ‘us’ gets in trouble, politicians and others point fingers saying that he (or she) must be poorly integrated. I don’t believe this any longer makes sense.

‘We’ do not need to integrate! You would think that we were some kind of alien from outer space who needs to learn what it is to be human. We are human beings! We are Danish citizens! DANISH CITIZENS! How are you going to integrate a generation of young people into their own society? We were born here, we are part of society, our thoughts are usually in Danish and we go to Danish schools. There may be some elements of our heritage that are different, but that does not mean we are not also fully-fledged participants in Danish culture.

Denmark is a democratic and liberal country (last time I checked at least). In Denmark, we are allowed to belong to the culture of our choosing! I would prefer that we completely leave out the term ‘second-generation immigrant’, since it labels us as people who are not from Denmark, even though we were born here. I would prefer it to be called first-generation Danes, since ‘we’ are the first generation to have the best of both worlds. It is simply a new culture.

It is better to focus on what we are now, and not what we used to be.

When I was growing up, I did not know that I was a second-generation immigrant. I only found out after I started watching TV and began following the news. It is often forgotten in the debate in Denmark that my generation is a part of this society too. ‘We’ are part of Denmark. What pushes ‘us’ away, is the way other people talk about ‘us’. As if ‘we’ are some kind of outsiders who need to be integrated into an exclusive community. Some will of course say: “Well you people make a lot of trouble, so that must mean you aren’t a part of our society?” And it is on this point, we just have to make ourselves clear.

Let me paint an example for you: A young boy is having some problems in school and is getting into trouble in his community. He gets kicked out of several schools and has a criminal record. The boy is a minor. If this boy is named Jesper and living in Nørrebro, then this is a social problem. But if the boy’s name is Ahmed instead, then it’s not a social problem, but a cultural one, and the root of it will be that he and his family aren’t very well integrated.

If you constantly have to point your finger and tell ‘us’ that we need to be integrated, you immediately pressure ‘us’ with your expectations. For many of ‘us’, it will be the same as society saying: “You should be like this!” This only leads to ‘us’ rebelling and doing the exact opposite of what you say. It may also be the reason why, for someone living in Nørrebro, being ‘integrated’ is an insult.

Think about it this way: if I go out and steal a car, then I’m just another unintegrated immigrant. But if I go on to become a big-time tennis superstar, then suddenly I am a Dane. Disagree? Ever heard of Caroline Wozniacki? She is a ‘second-generation immigrant’, she belongs to my generation, and she is one of the best tennis players in the world. She has never been mentioned as an immigrant before. The difference between the car thief and the tennis player? Success. Maybe that’s the secret to being Danish?