“You can’t integrate people who don’t want to be integrated.”
The article below is from the September 22nd edition of Jyllands-Posten (subscription required). It describes a Danish woman’s well-meaning but fruitless efforts to alleviate the problems caused by cultural enrichment in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen.
Michelle Hviid’s failure demonstrates that the standard leftist assumption concerning immigration — that integration is just a matter of showing good will and “openness” — crumbles with cruel results when attempted in the real world.
The woman described in the article is not particularly a public person — just a private individual who tried to do something active to deal with problems that others were only talking about, and expected that her friendliness and openness would be returned by the “poor excluded immigrants”.
Her experience shows that in spite of all the sweet talk and initial good impressions, reciprocity is not the usual the outcome — and in particular that immigrants are unable and/or unwilling to control what their children actually do.
Many thanks to Anne-Kit of Perth, Australia, for the translation:
Integration: Michelle Hviid, 37, achieved nationwide fame four years ago when she created “Michelle’s Mission” — an integration project to encourage immigrants and native Danes to have dinner together. Now she is deeply frustrated at living in Nørrebro, one of North West Copenhagen’s ghetto areas.
This spring was the third time Michelle Hviid’s 12-year old son Benjamin was attacked by a gang of immigrant boys.
He and a friend were on their way home from school and were walking up Nørrebrogade [major thoroughfare] when 12-14 immigrant boys began circling them. Benjamin had seen a couple of the boys previously at a Tae Kwon Do club.
The group of immigrant boys managed to separate Benjamin and his friend so that each boy was surrounded by 6-7 immigrants. They started pushing the two Danish boys between them as if they were balls in a game. Slowly the boys were forced out onto the street. The traffic stopped and Benjamin made eye contact with some of the cyclists and drivers, silently pleading for help while being pushed around. No one came to his aid.
His friend was hit and kicked so severely that he ended up at the hospital emergency room. Benjamin escaped onto a bus, but his assailants followed. He had to jump off the bus and seek refuge in a shop before anyone helped him.
Benjamin has been attacked twice before by different immigrant boys in Nørrebro — the first time he was 10 years old, the second he was 11. In both cases the attackers were local immigrant boys. Now he takes a massive detour to avoid certain streets when riding his bike to and from school.
His mother, Michelle Hviid, lives with her husband and children on Thoravej in Copenhagen’s North West where they own their own apartment close to several ghetto areas. She is deeply frustrated about the attacks on her son. It has caused her faith in integration to crumble.
In 2006 she sought to make a contribution towards integration by trying to get 1,500 Danes and 1,500 immigrants together to share a meal. Danmarks Radio [State TV] ran five programs covering “Michelle’s Mission”, which created a lot of attention.
It proved easy to get Danes to take part but only 513 immigrants turned up.
Attacked in Kindergarten
Michelle Hviid’s faith in better integration also compelled her to enrol her three-year old daughter in the local kindergarten. It is situated close to some of the residential areas of Nørrebro which have been designated ghetto areas. But now she has withdrawn her daughter from this kindergarten.
“The staff were competent, but it seemed they were operating in pure survival mode with far too many children from low-income, disadvantaged and violent families — both Danes and immigrants. I don’t think my daughter learned or sang a single song during the year she spent at that kindergarten. My frustration peaked when one of the mothers attacked a teacher. My daughter witnessed the other teachers’ intervention to stop the attack, and she experienced the adults being very violent. I removed my daughter immediately and kept her at home until we could be offered an alternative placement.”
Only a day later Michelle was offered a place for her daughter in another kindergarten for children from Nørrebro. Here the children are picked up by bus and taken to the Deer Park [a large recreational park] north of Copenhagen — an offer which the family is very grateful for.
Too afraid to honk
Michelle herself is often frustrated when going about the neighbourhood.
“Often when I drive my car I find three or four 10-12 year old boys standing in the middle of the road, and they don’t get out of the way for a car, so I have to stop and wait. I am too afraid to honk my horn at them because I’m worried they will wreck my car or find out where I park when I get home. Normally I am a strong woman who can speak up for myself, but I choose not to honk at them.”
She mentions several other frustrating examples of how immigrants don’t live up to Danish standards — like throwing rubbish in the street and noisy behaviour.
“You have to watch your mouth, though. I don’t want to be accused of being a racist. But I live in a neighbourhood with a problematic mixture of inhabitants. There are ghettos in a lot of ways. When I get annoyed at young people running around and causing trouble I tell myself that it is not because they are immigrants. I’m annoyed by them because they cause trouble. But at the same time I have to say that 90 percent of the people who frustrate me because they don’t behave decently, … they are not Danes. I’m not annoyed by them because they are not Danes, but because they don’t behave like decent people.”
For the time being Michelle Hviid intends to stay put.
“I love my apartment and my neighbours on the same stairway. Six or seven couples who are our very best friends live on our stairway, and we often eat together. We have our own successful “collective” surrounded by the ghetto. I also really love my 180 sq.m. apartment which I have decorated myself. It has three balconies and a roof terrace. It’s also not a good time to sell; we would lose a lot of money if we sold right now,” she says.
Michelle Hviid finds it hard to suggest ways to limit the formation of ghettos. She thinks more should be done to engage the mothers of immigrant families in order to get through to the rest of the family, and to encourage the children and young people to adhere to Danish standards for decent behaviour.
Worried about integration
She is concerned about what will happen to integration:
“You can’t integrate people who don’t want to be integrated. What about all those who have built up this huge inner anger and who already feel rejected and ostracized? How do we pick them up? I do so want to be part of a good integration. I would like to open my door to almost everyone. That’s what I tried to do with ‘Michelle’s Mission’ a couple of years ago. I am sad to say that now I feel powerless. I don’t know what to do, or if I can be bothered to do anything at all now that I have taken care of my own.”